I had a special coaching experience last week.
Over two weeks ago I took over as head coach of a junior team. There were 8 games left in the regular season and the team was in last place in their division. That was the bad news. The good news was the GM had put together a talented team-something he has done consistently over his career in junior hockey.
It came down to winning the final game of the season, on the road, and against the team we needed to beat out for the final playoff stop.
The deal was simple. Win and make the playoffs—lose and the season was over.
What needed to happen? Our best players had to be our best players, we had to at least match the effort of the other team, every player had to do their part, and we had to have fun.
What actually happened? All of the above; top line scored three goals, we worked hard all game, and every player tried to fulfill their individual roles. Winning the game was a lot of fun.
And did I mention that their goaltender was great—and our guy was a little bit better!
Got to go. First playoff game tonight.
Last post I mentioned the great hockey week I was having last week. And, it was a great week. The last paragraph made reference to players starting to worry about what they would be doing next season…
This is where players answer the question—what about next year? Your performance this year will be the biggest indicator of what will be available to you for next season. Play hard and be a difference maker and good things will be available for next season.
Focus on now, and next year will have more good options available to you.
So, what about next year?
The first place to look is at your goals for hockey. Sure, you can keep that NHL dream as the big goal. Just put it up on the top shelf and out of sight for now—unless you are in the AHL and knocking on the NHL door.
The second is to establish what your realistic options are. I also like to also establish a ‘worst case scenario’. This will help keep things in perspective. For example, you may be able to play for the same team next year and continue what you are doing. You may already be in a good situation.
Third is to recognize what actions and strategies have to be put in place to meet the goals you have set. Include such things as summer off ice training, special positional training like going to a goalie camp, and making sure educational goals don’t get left behind.
Get all the help you need for each step of the process. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.
And step four, put a monitoring system in place to check your progress. This might mean having your coach or agent follow each step along the way and give input on your progress.
Finally, remember that how you finish this season off will have a significant influence on what will happen next season. Finish strong.