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How to go from good to great: in hockey and beyond

September has arrived and it always signifies a new start.  School is back in full swing, the summer dwindles away to a beautiful new landscape bathed in oranges and auburns, and the new sporting season is edging its way closer. We are looking for new kit, new sticks, new fitness regimes, new recipes and we’re subconsciously preparing ourselves for a better life ahead of us.  Maybe you’ve not thought about this, but every day is a new opportunity to build on how great you already are.  Personally, this is something I’m going to be doing, especially with the new season ahead; I want to better each technical skill, run a little harder, beat even more (when I write even more, I mean like at least one) players to the ball – but it all starts with the mind.

Where the mind goes, the man follows.

I have a quote for everything.  Every problem, every dream, every idea – there’s already several interesting outlooks on them by some of the world’s past and present revolutionists.  I like to collate and reiterate, and injecting them into everything I do.

Here are some of my favourites and how it can be applied to hockey.

I challenge you to take one, or maybe all, of the ideas below and apply them to your personal ambitions for the upcoming season and see just how your game changes.  Faith and belief are powerful things; you just need to tap into it. No more ‘I can’t’ and a load of ‘I’m going to’ and you’ll see a dramatic change.

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Push through to break through

Have you ever thought about the physics of change? I tend to try and ignore physics at every given opportunity; we didn’t bode well at school.  However, when you really think about it, in order to see change you need energy or force behind it in order to turn it into something else.  Think about being stuck in a glass cube (not an every day occurrence, granted) but in order to escape you’ll need to smash through.  That energy burning in your muscles applies pressure to the window, obliterating it into tiny shards and you’re through to the next level. Random analogy but this is how I visualise obstacles in my life.  Yes, we all have mountains to climb, what characterises us is ‘how’ we climb them. So, in order for any changes to be made, effort is needed.

Apply to hockey: fitness. I used to just turn up to hockey training and games, play and then feel deflated because my hits were weak and I wanted to be strong.  The only way I was going to get there was by investing countless ‘secret’ hours in the gym.  Secret because during this time no one sees you, but you see the results on the pitch.  It’s important to remember to put in the effort to see the changes in your game.

Small achievements lead to big successes

This is an idea you’ve probably heard a lot.  We live in a society where we want instant results, instant gratifications, instant likes, instant coffee, instant everything.  The fundamental achievements hasn’t caught up with the 21st century, and I’m thankful for that.  We have to work hard, remain focus and build towards your big achievements.  They’re big because they’re special and only happen once in a while.  What we need to start celebrating is that each step we take is a step closer to reaching that goal.  We need to actually consciously tell ourselves that the work and effort made, even if it’s mastering trapping the ball after 3 weeks of practice, that we’ve done the work and now we can evolve to the next level. Stop being so hard on yourself because you’re not there yet… that idea of ‘yet’ is powerful, you’ll get there, when the time is right.  What you need to do is not give up. If you get off the bus, you’re stuck in the same place.

Apply to hockey: technical skills.  It can be infuriating that some technical skills in the game is difficult to master.  That’s one of the best things about our sport.  However, you need to be resilient and carry on putting the hours in and each time you improve a skill, move onto the next and the next and you’ll see your whole game improve in time.

Listen to your elders

A very important one. Some people chat, and that’s all they have.  But you need to still listen because sometimes there are hidden gems hidden beneath that will impact you.  Our elders have been through a lot, and we can learn so much from it. Experience is the best teacher in life, so if you’re a youngster or new to the game, listen up and shape up, because the ones with experience are invaluable to you.  Take what applies to your game and apply it! See how you can learn from the best and mould your game around their wisdom.

Apply to hockey: listen to the umpire.  Leave your ego on the sideline before heading onto the pitch and communicate in a polite and mature fashion with the officials that are there to ensure you enjoy your play.  They understand the game inside out, and you can learn a lot from them.  Maybe at the end of the game go and speak to them and find out what they think of your team’s performance and how you can improve.  People on the outside are in the best position to give advice.

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Go into everything with an open mind

This is probably linked to all of the above.  If you go into life being close minded and arrogant, you’ll miss out on a whole world of things you don’t even know exists (thanks Grasshopper from James and the Giant Peach for this one!).  In your game there is always ways of improving, whether it’s what you eat before your game to recovery, or when to keep possession and when to release.  There is always room for improvement, but if you aren’t open to all the ideas the world has to offer, you’re really losing out.  Another ‘leave your ego on the sideline’ moment here.

Apply to hockey: try new tactics.  If your team really isn’t performing to its best, why not be brave and suggest changing things around? New positions, new formations and even new coaches can revolutionise play.  Don’t be scared of taking risks.  You might even find yourself saying ‘why didn’t we try this before?!’ What have you got to lose?

The only constant in life is change

Not really sure if anyone said this or if it’s a famous tid bit of wisdom, but it came to me over the past few days.  Things change, and we need to accept that.  People come and go from teams, injuries happen, we get older and have to admit to ourselves that we need to change the way we play our game to fit in with that.  What society tends to think is that ‘change is bad’, but why? Embrace change as a new beginning, a better and improved version of you.  You, as a person, will always have the essence of you – but building and improving can only be good, right?!

Apply to hockey: new beginnings.  This can be either a new team, new team structures, playing a different position on the committee or maybe even a new club?! Scary, but you might thrive in the new role you give yourself.  If you have faith and belief, you’re already on your way to a new improved hockey season.

Onward and upward – here’s to you and your awesome new season.

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