COMMENT PAGE - just some thoughts


Success or failure while being self-determined, can sometimes just be the result of a bounce of a puck, or better known as the "upset". However, in most cases, as an old saying states "the harder I work the luckier I seem to get" personifies most playoff hockey. We know that playoff hockey is different than regular season play. This is in most part of the "do or die" philosophy so the level of intensity or, level of desperation is much higher. How players perform under pressure in either one on one situations (personal interactive skills) or in team concepts ultimately dictates personal and team success.


Coaches and players in most cases underestimate critical performance training. Critical performance training pertains to personal or team skills and tactics performed under the highest possible pressure and intensity. Identifying a team's weakness and/or strength as well as an opponent's becomes an integral part of a coach's practice plan. The question is how much, or what skills and, how much, or what system should a coach practice. 


When a player performs under extreme pressure, habits (good or bad) play a critical role in success. I like to say that a team performs under high pressure to the ultimate level of personal stupidity. Not to be-little any player and this is only a saying but the concept that I am trying to get across is that a team is just the sum of many parts; big and small, slow and fast, aggressive and passive, etc. How each part performs is essential to overall success. The "team" is only as strong as the sum of its collective parts.


However, during a game there are only so many things that we as coaches can take into consideration and try to cover in practice. And, how many situations that we can cover is directly linked to a player/s ability to learn. For example: How many repetitions does it take a player to learn a new tactic, a new move? How long does it take a player to use that tactic or skill in a high pressure environment? How many times can I depend on that player to execute that skill or tactic successfully? What happens to the confidence of that player if he/she should make a mistake using that skill or tactic? Is that player willing to use that skill or tactic again after failure? 


Basically, a player has two basic mental functions; conscious and subconscious (thinking on one's feet and reacting without thinking). So....., there you have it. Now what can we do about it. 


Some factors to consider from a coaching stand point.


1 - What type of team do you have

- fast

- aggressive

- skilled

- role (combination of the above)


2 - How do they learn best?

- visual (seeing)

- audio (hearing)

- kinesthetic (feeling and doing)


3 - How much practice time do you have?

- once per week

- twice per week

- three per week

- four +


From a players stand point:


1 - What type of coaching staff do you have?

- bench coach (bench managers - use players well on ice)

- teachers (tactical) like to teach systems

- teachers (skill) like to work on skill development

- motivators (talk the talk and you walk the walk)

- just happy to be there!


2 -  What type of team mates do you have?

- competitive (hate losing)

- players (like to have fun)

- role players (players that you can use or that you can benefit)

- quick learners

- intimidating

- intimidated

- selfish


3 - What are your personal goals?

- make the next level

- be the best player you can be

- don't care as long as the team wins

- just take life as it comes - just keep working hard

- I want....

- mom or dad would like......


Enough said.


So what the heck am I getting so long winded for and what does this all mean? Good question. Just venting....just kidding.


I like to think that a player can be placed into one of several categories relative to his ability to contribute to a hockey team's success:


1 - Passion - drives a player's desire to play the game

2 - Competitiveness - drives a player's desire to win 

3 - Personal goals - drives a player's desire to learn

4 - Learning speed - drives a player's ability to apply new skills, tactics, etc in game play

5 - Acceptance - knowing one's limitations and willingness to play within those parameters.

6 - Mental toughness - ability to handle failure, fear, pain, ice time.

7 - Realism - how good am I really? (I know that this is everyone's favorite).

(you could probably add a few....)


I could devote pages on passion, competitiveness and working out one's personal goals, however, for my purposes, I would like to focus on Learning. 

1 - Learning or better yet;  what am I learning, how does this benefit me, how does this benefit the team, where can I use this, etc.  Learning speed; can I use this, why should I use this, how often am I going to use this, how often am I going to practice this (on my own) how often is the coach going to let me practice this, how good is my teacher (how is the information presented to me). 



- quality of information

- simplified and understood

- progressive and sequential 

- "user friendly"

- perfect practice environment (attention to detail)

- high perfect repetition per minute practice

- introduction of pressure 

- increase pressure

- complete game integration and deployment


Learning speed:

- positive re-enforcement

- rewarded for effort (score on new learned shot)

- pressure to learn (do it or sit, being cut, being punished)

- how information is presented (based on your particular learning style)

- your natural learning ability (short term memory, retention, etc)


Remember the saying: "old habits die hard", why?


1 - Lack of motivation:

- I don't need to improve

- I am already at the (WHL, NHL, etc)

- I play all the time anyway

- never get any ice time anyway

- nobody likes me

- I am the leading scorer

- My agent tells me how good I am

- My parents / coach are always telling me how good I am.

- I'm getting points

- blah, blah, blah.

- impotent goals (picks goals easy to attain)

- skills come naturally


2 - Motivation

- I want to make the team

- I am not getting much ice time

- scouts say that I must improve in _______ area

- nobody thinks I can do it

- I have a bonus clause in my contract

- I will get recognition if I accomplish ________.

- blah, blah, blah.


What ever the case, when you watch players over the course of a season, you can see which player falls into what category. When you watch a player over the course of a couple of seasons you can really see where they fall. Unfortunately, some players never improve because of the coaches or teachers that they have no control over. Where do you as a player fall?


The most important point and last one at that is that a player must be willing to face their weakness and be proud of their strengths. I have asked some of the player that I work with to provide me with the following:


Contact 10 people that you respect in the hockey world (not your parents or best buddy), coaches, scouts, agents, opposing players, etc and get the answers to the following questions (demand honest answers no matter is they hurt your feelings):


1 - What is the worst criticism that you have of me as a player?

2 - What is my best attribute?

3 - What role do you feel that fits me the most?

4 - Why?

5 - What is the most important skating skill that you think that I need to work on?

6 - What other skill do you think that I need to work on that would benefit me the most?

7 - What are my chances of getting to the next level?

8 - Why? (positive or negative)

9 - What do I have to do to get to the next level?

10 - Would you let me know next season if you feel that I have improved in the areas that you commented on?


I have always remembered another saying; " the will to win is almost as important as the will to prepare to win"


If 3 or more of these people have the same criticism, you had better change, if only one has a particular criticism, listen well but don't dwell on it. Search out the people who can help you correct these problems. Learn and learn fast. Be the best that you can be. Remember the choice is yours.


Thank you.



Copyright 1996 Ron Johnson All Rights Reserved