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Pursuing Your Passions with Perspective

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A nice mention about my advice in a column by fellow Hockey USA writer, Dennis Chighisola, asking how many players actually try to put our words into action got me thinking. As someone who has been coaching for 20+ years and has seen a marked increase in the desire of parents and players to focus on winning or staying on a perceived fast track to a college scholarship or pro career in lieu of having a "real life", I feel the need to wax philosophically about what should be important in your life. Hockey has been a passion of mine since I discovered the sport as a late-blooming athlete in my mid-teens. As an overweight, shy, nerdy kind of kid, hockey gave me an outlet to develop confidence in myself. The passion I felt, and continue to feel, for ice hockey has allowed me to meet many wonderful people over the years and has let me visit all sorts of places I might not normally get to visit except on vacation. The sport of ice hockey has given meaning to my life and a sense of purpose as to why I was put on this planet. While I am as competitive as the next person when it comes to wanting success or wins, I have always been aware of the "Big Picture" when it comes to ice hockey. As much as I love hockey, there is more to life than the game. Hockey is a vehicle in which we can learn a lot about our strengths and weaknesses as a human being and learn values that will carry over into our life away from the rink.

One of my favorite hockey quotes comes from the late, great NHL coach Fred Shero. He wrote: " We know that hockey is where we live, where we can best meet and overcome pain and wrong and death. Life is just a place where we spend time between games." Now that may sound totally opposite of the tone of this article, but I always felt a kinship with those words. At the age of 18, my mother was killed in an automobile accident. Five years later, my Dad died of cancer and my girlfriend was killed in an automobile accident. Hockey helped lift the burden of grief from me and gave me the strength to carry on. Hockey fueled my passion and gave me time and space to meet and overcome the pain and death that Shero had written about. The values of perseverance and courage I learned from hockey helped me to deal with personal grief.

Finding passion in life is so crucial in our development as human beings. There are many people who live day to day with no excitement and nothing to look forward to. That is very sad. As important as having a passion in your life is, you must also have perspective in order for your passions to remain healthy. If you are reading Promasque, you have a passion for the great sport of ice hockey. The sacrifices you have made with travel, crazy ice-times and the costs to play puts you in a very close-knit group of people who know those sacrifices were worth it for the joy they received from playing and sharing time with their hockey family. The sacrifices made in the pursuit of our passion for ice hockey teaches us how to meet and overcome obstacles in life that we all must deal with on a daily basis. Through defeats and setbacks we learn to be resilient and to keep trying. We learn how to savor success that came from hard work and to excitedly prepare for our next goal. We learn the value of human companionship for the time spent with teammates, opponents and fans. By being on time for practices and games we learn commitment and responsibility.

It is my hope that each person reading this article has passions in their life besides hockey. Being a well-rounded person who is not totally defined by ice hockey will make for a more enjoyable life. If hockey is the only passion that defines you and something happens where you cannot participate any more, you will be devastated. However, if hockey is just one part of your life that is very important to you, but you also have other passions, you will have a better perspective. I have heard many former players say to me that they wish they had other passions in their lives so the end of their competitive hockey careers would not hurt so much. With the focus of many parents and players on winning, it is only a matter of time for the competitive part of their lives to be over. How will they deal with that disappointment? Some of you may only play competitive youth hockey. Some of you will be fortunate to play competitive high school or junior hockey. Some of you will be able to make the transition to college hockey. A very small percentage of you will play pro hockey. What passions will drive you once you move to the recreational level of your hockey career?

As I stated earlier, I was a late-blooming athlete. I worked extremely hard to catch up on the years of experience other goalies had on me when I went to college. I only had about a year and a half of organized hockey experience before attending college. I played for a junior college team while working at an arena for extra ice time. I transferred to a small Division III college where I knew I would have a well-rounded academic, athletic and social life. My passion for hockey led me to become a coach. I found my passion for learning to play hockey was surpassed by a passion for teaching others and seeing them move closer to achieving their dreams. Now having been a professional coach for two decades, I see how easily one can get caught up in the drive for wins or the best recruits or the desire for fame. Having the perspective to not let your passion become obsession is so important in these stressful times.

The tragic terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 drove home how unimportant winning hockey games is in relation to the devastating blow these victims and families were dealt. We all realize how precious life is and how quickly our lives can pass by. I have become more aware about complementing my hockey life with other non-hockey passions so I can appreciate ever day I am blessed with. Those of you who know me know of my passion for Jimmy Buffett music (and the Parrothead lifestyle), the Maine coast and Key West. I have rekindled my love of reading, especially tongue-in-cheek murder mysteries by Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen and John D. MacDonald. I have been re-learning the acoustic guitar (something I was made to do by my parents when I was younger and am now glad they did!) so I can entertain myself with Buffett tunes. I enjoy spending time with my St. Bernard, Daisey, who was rescued from an abusive environment. Seeing her sleep with contented sighs knowing she feels safe makes me smile. I also enjoy surfing, kayaking and inline skating along nearby rivers, lakes or the ocean to appreciate the beauty of our country. I am also trying hard not to let hockey dominate my conversations with other people, but to learn about their interests and passions.

I guess the whole purpose of this article folks is to make you think and take stock of how you pursue your hockey passions. Keep them in perspective. Do the best you can every day but take the time to appreciate the little things in life. Enjoy those moments you have on the ice. Cherish the time you spend with your teammates and coaches. If you don't win 80 games this season or make the All-Star Showcase team that gets to travel to a tournament in Siberia, trust me, you will get over it. All you can do is give your best every day so when you look in the mirror, you will be proud of the person looking back. I wish you all the best as you define and pursue the passions that are close to your heart.

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training.

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