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GOALTENDING:  Barriers To Success

It is always disappointing to me to come in contact with athletes of all ages who have the potential to be good hockey players, but don't achieve it because they are their own worst enemy. Very often, if the athlete makes a small adjustment in his or her game, success would follow. However, they let poor mental or physical habits get in the way. These barriers to success will also prevent them from enjoying success in the "real world" when their competitive hockey careers end. Take a few moments to contemplate the following barriers and see if you can change your way of thinking.

1. Frustration

I worked with a youth hockey goalie this summer who was coming off a bad tournament. It was obvious to me that he was backing into the net too quickly to allow his saves to work. He was making the right choices as far as the saves went, but he was so mad at himself that the frustration of the previous weekend got in the way of what I was trying to point out to him. He couldn't focus on the real problem so he was useless during the practice. I just skated away for a while and left him alone since I wasn't going to be able to get through to him during the practice. While it is understandable to be frustrated, all that emotion does is get in the way of the real cause of the problems. If that goalie had put half the energy into working on his patience, he would have had a great practice and would have learned why he didn't play well in the previous weekend. The mind needs to be focused on what you have control over --namely, your present performance. All the anger in the world won't change what you did, but proper focus and preparation will prevent those mistakes from occurring again.

2. A Closed Mind

There are many players who believe they know all there is to know about hockey and need no additional instruction. Well, those of us who have made careers in hockey are always learning. The game is constantly evolving and little tips along the way make all the difference in the world in our progress as players and coaches. When you choose not to listen to people who are offering constructive criticism, you lose a valuable opportunity to grow as a person. Sure it is normal to feel a little defensive if someone makes an observation that you may not want to hear, but once that little bit of defensiveness wears off, you will have another view of your game. As long as the criticism is discussed professionally, you should consider the information and make the choice on whether to act on it or not.

3. Poor Time Management Skills

Whether you are a student or a working professional who still plays adult league hockey, you must have good time management skills to focus on hockey when you are in the rink and to focus on school or work when you are there. Athletes must know how to plan their days so they can give their full attention to the task at hand. If you are going onto the ice for practice while thinking about a bad test, a chewing out from your boss or an argument at home, how can you be focused on practice? Don't you think Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan had distractions away from the limelight that would affect their performances? Of course they did. However, when people were paying hard-earned money to see them play, a sore throat or bad day is not an excuse they want to hear for a sub par performance. They learned to keep other parts of their life off the playing field so they can focus on the game or practice at hand. If they were home with their families, then their home life was the primary focus so the family knows where the priorities lie. Again it is learning how to live in the present so you can be focused. Being organized with your time will work wonders on your concentration level.

4. Poor Goal Setting

So you want to play college hockey, make a travel team or win the old-timers tournament. It is easy to say what you want to do, but difficult to achieve the goals if you don't have a plan. What are the little things necessary to have a successful journey towards your goal? Maybe you need more muscle to be stronger so you don't get tired too soon in your games. Maybe you need to be eating a better diet so you have the nutrition to get the most out of your workouts. Maybe you need to work on stopping breakaways. Whatever you need to work at, you need a step by step goal setting plan which will ultimately put you in position to achieve your long range goal. If you don't have a plan to reach attainable goals, your major goal will not happen.

5. Lack of Discipline

Achieving athletic success is the culmination of a lot of discipline off the ice. You can have the greatest hockey skills in the world and still not achieve your potential because of your off-ice habits. If you don't get enough rest, have a proper fitness program, eat right and be prompt for all commitments, you won't be as good as you could be. Character counts for a lot in life. If you don't have the work ethic to match your physical skills, a harder working person with lesser skills than you will beat you out. This happens in the workplace as well. There may be people who have incredible talent, but never use it. Many successful people have good talent, but a great work ethic so they blow by those people they have no right getting by. You must take care of your body as an athlete. You must learn how to eat so your body is fueled correctly for competition. If you think you can party all the time and still perform at a championship caliber, you are only fooling yourself. If you are chronically late for appointments, practices or games, you will be known as a loser. Winners know that it is the discipline that separates the champions from the mediocre masses. Do you have the winning habits of a champion?

6. No Eye Of The Tiger

If you are hungry or passionate about what you want in hockey or in life, you will probably achieve some level of success. Passion is an ingredient missing in may peoples lives. Whether hockey is your passion or painting, sailing, music, or reading -- pursue it with a vengeance. It is okay to really love something and want to be good at it. The world is filled with people who are content to just live life on cruise control with no risk. Is that really living? Life is full of passions! Whether it is the joy of a top shelf glove save, a wave crashing on the shore or your favorite song being performed live in concert, the world is full of exciting things. Find your passion and pursue it for the rest of your life so you know what true joy is.

Success means different things to different people. Whatever success you are trying to achieve, be aware of any barriers you are unwittingly putting in the way of your progress. Your hockey life and "real life" is a journey filled with ups and downs. The most successful people expect setbacks along the way and learn from them so they can stay on course on their destination towards their dreams. Good luck!

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

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