Important to learn from the best. Simone Biles is the best. A champion on every stage and an incredible role model for young athletes everywhere. This tweet following the 2018 World Championships shows how committed Simone is to her own version of excellence. Her goals are organized, well established, and not swayed by the bright lights and big stage.
Self-recognition of self-determined success is what builds confidence. Knowing your standard of excellence, one that takes into account the reality of your situation (team role, injury, etc.) will help you feel successful and build your confidence every day, instead of relying on medals, championships, wins, or goals.
How do you measure your own success? Do you give yourself a chance to be successful everyday?
I recently came across this article from Costco Magazine (of all places) on a very appealing topic making its way through the world of sport and performance. The work of Dr. Angela Duckworth on the construct of "grit", a person's ability to persevere through challenges and maintain a strong connection to the long-term objective, hits the mark on motivational ideals, especially in sporting culture. Delayed gratification, persistence in the face of failure, commitment to the very end; all characteristics that describe a coach's dream athlete. As a society, we worship grit, and gritty people. We are raised looking up to heros who strived for success, worked hard, and defeated their challenges. We dream of being knights that slay the dragon.
As Duckworth Describes, however, grit is not simply the result of working hard, or setting lofty goals. For one to be gritty, the conditions have to be just right for the meaningful connection (to the goal) to take root. We want our athletes to fall in love with the process, with the fight, so that they feel like each rep, or each performance is a clear rung in the ladder towards their dream. This can be elusive as the inconvenience of the present can push certain goals out of sight.
And so we search for balance. between where we are and where we want to be. The present and the future. Losing sight of either for too long will most certainly lead to failure. Coaches and parents should be reminded that children are incredible observers and terrible interpreters (one of my favorite quotes), and that they are always learning from their engagement in a sport. Engage with them on their process. Help them find words to what they do and why they do it. Show them what it looks like to be eager to learn from each rep, even if done for the thousandth time.
There are many great lessons to be found on the topic of Grit. Grit helps raise important, personal questions with athletes, and anything that works towards uncovering the almighty "why" is a winner in my book.
In line with our theme; here is the Philadelphia Flyer's new mascot.... GRITTY.
Junior hockey leagues are constantly analyzing and lauding their abilities to move players to the next level. Obviously for Major Juniors, this means professional contracts and in the USHL, they are referencing NCAA scholarships. (This entry only references the "highest" levels of junior hockey; the pointy end of the stick). Here's the article I am discussing for this blog post:
Highlights: Executive Director of College Hockey Inc., MIke Snee uses a clever analogy involving player development and pizza. It reads something along the lines of "don't try and cook a 20 minute pizza in 10 minutes by cranking up the temperature." This concept has been the warcry of the American Development Model since its implementation, and has had a positive impact in prolonging meaningful development for players by helping them R-E-L-A-X. This is also a great message for parents who sometimes need a reminder that good things take time and to trust the process. But I didn't start writing this to stick with cliche hockey development speak.
Purpose: The primary message of this article is that junior hockey can be great HOCKEY decision for many players who are hoping to play at higher levels of the sport. What the article is really saying is that elite level players with options at their disposal should consider the USHL and NCAA college hockey because of its "longer runway" of development. As College Hockey Inc. is the marketing arm of the NCAA, this is not surprising. Promote the brand and trust OUR process for elite development.
Critique: There is not much here for the casual hockey family. Of course every kid wants to play in the USHL and to earn a college scholarship, but the majority of junior hockey players never come close to that level of success. There is not enough "pizza" to go around. Furthermore, the statistic of 95% of USHL players play at the NCAA D1 level is a sensational number, if true. I would like to see that statistic backed up with a reference, or a link to where more information can be found.
The article references the developmental benefits of playing junior hockey and also college hockey, but only briefly touches on developmental practices outside of hockey. As will always be the case, this writer will always want to more about what role junior hockey is playing in the long-term development of these athletes as they transition to the next level, whether that is to play hockey or not.
“A lot of cases, they’re living away from home for the first time, with a billet family, sometimes they’re going to a new high school, so socially, they have to adapt and meet a whole new set of friends and teammates and families.
Overall, this article provides a look at the machinery and marketing of elite-level American junior hockey (and its relationship with the NCAA). But to promote a league for how many players were moving on the NCAA is a bit misleading. Where else would the NCAA be getting its top players? The USHL has a guaranteed success rate as long as we only measure success through "NCAA opportunities". And while 95% is an impressive number to display, the top "amateur" American development league would be in big trouble if it was not biggest producer of college talent. Look beyond the numbers. Find the development. Study where it is actually occurring (vs. where they say it is occurring), and don't burn your pizza. Until next time.
Today marks the beginning of a project aimed at improving player and parent education surrounding the junior hockey experience. Having been a researcher on the topic for the past two years and working closely with individuals directly impacted by this process, I feel that it is time to take a step forward in how we inform junior hockey participants (and their families) on what they can realistically expect from their time within the system, and what obstacles they should be ready to face.
While objective measures of success (recruitment, scholarships, goals, draft ranking) are the driving reasons for junior hockey to exist, that will not be the focus of this project. Rather, my goal is make a broader survey of the developmental process taking place within junior hockey, and what that could potentially mean for you or your athlete. Junior hockey is unique from other (major) sport development systems in North America in that it is relies on a series of developmentally disruptive norms that are remnants of its professional roots. No other sport (specifically, i the "popular team sport category) openly expects participants to move away from home at such a young age in order to succeed. No other sport has such an established and lucrative youth development infrastructure that promotes the performance of amateur athletes as junior hockey does.
That beings said, very little credible information exists for those unfamiliar with the hockey world who are interested in learning more. Without guidance, mistakes can be made, and a sporting experience can be harmed. Therefore, the purpose of this series is to engage with established pieces of junior hockey "literature" (identified as such in the loosest of terms) and to provide critique, reinforcement, and balance to their message. My hope is that my contribution can improve a person's understanding of the experience, which may then improve the junior hockey experience itself.
As always, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, comments, or to discuss performance consulting services!