This page was inspired by several conversations that I have had with parents and players over the past couple of weeks. Most are preparing for summer training and are indecisive about what direction to take. Some of the kids want to take a couple of months off then get to work, some are asking me to "really push them" this spring and summer and just want to take a month off and others want to get started right away. Some want a really hard program and others want to take it easy.

These discussions led to questions of "what, when, why, how and where" which in turn led to a lot of different answers depending on the individual. 

Finally, this week, I started asking one simple question: Why are you playing hockey. Answers varied;  "I love the game, the game is fun, I just like playing the game, I like  being with my friends, I want a college scholarship, I want to play in the NHL, I don't know I just do......."  However, I never got the answer that I thought would ultimately determine whether or the not the player would actually succeed at the game which came from a former coach of mine.

 "Ron, there are two types of hockey players, those that play the game and those that compete it".

Let's expand on that thought...and how about a couple of quotes to start:

It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

 Theodore Roosevelt

 Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

 Calvin Coolidge


“The most important single ingredient to success in athletics or life is discipline. The definition of the word is as follows: 1. Do what has to be done: 2. When it has to be done: 3. As well as it can be done: and 4. Do it that way all the time.”

“There’s no such thing as luck. Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.”

“The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in a man’s determination.”

“Some men may be bigger, faster, or stronger, but no one man has a corner on dreams, desire, or ambition.”

“You don’t ask for respect. You earn it.”


 "Its not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog"


Competing...I have found that some have it and others don't. For example, take a look at a hockey practice. How many players always try to go against the best player on the ice.  How many players blame others for their failed attempts, how many players step down when others step up. How many players seek approval not improvement. How many players seek excuses to failures not answers. 


Over the many years that I have coached I have seen very few "pure" competitors. You know, the guy in practice that is going to beat you to the puck no matter what, win the battle in the corner for the puck every time. Hates going half speed. Finishes his checks in practice. Bitches when guys slack off. Pushes the vets to the max all the time. The guys I remember that were like this pissed off far too many people and kind of got alienated. I guess one could say that they were respected but not always liked.  Still friends with a couple....they always have to win, yeah even at cards. So I suppose that you can go too far. Competing at all cost (and I mean at all cost) would be pushing the limit just a little too much. 


I feel that players can more or less be broken down into one of or a combination of; Skill, Intelligence, Competitiveness. However, I feel that the correct order should be:

1 - Competitiveness

2 - Intelligence

3 - Skill


I like to think of a hockey player as the following:


A competitor that found out that he loved hockey because of the endless ways to compete, learned the game so that he would understand when and how to compete better within a team environment and searched constantly for ways to develop more skill so as to win more individual competitions. 


However, there are so many coaches, scouts, agents that are enamored by a players skill, not competitiveness. Do you know how many skilled players that I have seen rise up through the ranks of hockey as if some bright shining star yet fail to reach their potential because they forgot or did not want to compete.


I ask players to pick a 4 sport challenge with one of their friends of comparable or greater skill. It make be basketball one on one, perimeter shooting, swimming, tennis, bowling, a foot race, a game of NHL hockey on PS2, etc. and then bring me the results. 


I want to know how they felt. Did they win, how did they feel. Did they lose, how did they feel, if they lost did they want a second chance. Why did they lose. If they won; how easy was the win, what were the scores, etc.


I then asked them how they viewed themselves as hockey players:  Skilled, Smart, Competitive.


After they have completed their Q and As, I then ask them how many forms of competition are there in the game of hockey;

1 - race for the puck

2 - face-off

3 - corner battle

4 - shooting on GT

5 - checking someone

6 - beating a player one on one with the puck

7 - intimidating a player through physical force and presence.



Then they are asked as to how many of the above situations did they win in their last game (you know, the one that I went and watched). Did it bother them and how. What they do about it the next time?


Feed back at this point was pretty interesting. A pretty clear picture started to develop. All that I have talked to realized that they were more player than competitor.


How do you view yourself or your son or daughter. The competitive spirit drives the intellect which in turn drives the search for more and better answers. As a teacher, it is always easier to teach the student who asks the question.


The Competitors Verse


Winning is not everything but the quest for it defines me.

Losing is acceptable only if one has given everything. 

In losing do not look without, look within. To know oneself is omnipotent. 

To win means that someone else has to lose. 

Honor your opponent for without him you cannot know the sense of accomplishment.

Respect  your opponent for the true competitor now knows his weakness. 

Discipline is your best friend for without him you will never achieve greatness.

Remember the will to win is almost as important the will to prepare to win.

Your tools are your body and my mind. Keep them sharp and do not mistreat them for without them you are nothing.

Give praise when you can. It is a sign of intelligence and understanding.



Copyright © 1996 by Ron Johnson. All rights reserved.