Fragile, But Not Broken

Preface to “A Profound Effect” Fragile, But Not Broken

I’ve been scouting now for almost four years, I have loved every minute of it, even freezing my arse off, in cold rinks however, there’s one aspect of the job that really effects me personally. 

I’ve seen countless players over that time play fragile. You see I know exactly how they feel. 

I was that player. I was that person.  As a young player I fought my confidence at every turn. 

I was fragile, but I didn’t break due in large part to an amazing coach who took the time to help me. 

I was fragile, but I didn’t break, I regained my confidence due in large part to his confidence in me. 

A Profound Effect: Fragile, But Not Broken

When a young hockey player “plays fragile” you might as well say they are bound to break. 

I know full well because I was that player.  

From a young age I hated making mistakes as a defencemen, so I got it in my mind that I was going to be perfect or play mistake free. 

I instantly failed.  

I was trying so hard not to make a mistake or glaring error that it caused me to lose my edge.  A player’s edge is the intangible asset that is often underestimated. 

In the moment, when push comes to shove a player’s edge is the only thing that protects or galvanizes them in order to play effectively in any situation.  

As a young player this aspect of my game was haunting me, my parents and long-time coach and mentor both realized it.  

In an effort to play mistake free I became passive, hesitate and began to second guess my ability, instincts and skill. 

The edge that I’m referring to is ultimately your confidence.  

As a young player, I wasn’t confident in my ability to play and I felt the entire rink realized it.  Instead of being aggressive and stepping up to the challenge I backed down allowing my confidence to be affected in every aspect of the game.  If it wasn’t for my long time mentor and coach the late Dale Turner pulling me aside in Atom A Prov. 

I would have probably stopped playing the game.

I will never forget fighting back the tears as a 9 year old that day, I literally got lite up by one of the most skilled players I have ever played against.  I realized the minute I walked out of the room that day that my coach was upset and concerned.  Instead of yelling at me during the game, he pulled me aside put his arm around me and said

Craiger, you are allowed to respect him as a player, and he’s a great player, but you can’t play the game like that anymore.”  

 “You gave him way too much respect and room out there. He’s a great player, but you have to challenge him.” 

Fighting back tears, because I had thought I let him and the entire team down, I muttered “thanks Dale”, as I turned to walk away he said “you will be alright Craiger, we will get them next time”.

 At my lowest point in the game to that point I learned so much in that ten-minute conversation.  

That conversation had a profound effect on the direction of my career in the game. 

I learned that my coach and hero believed in me, even when I didn’t.  

I learned to respect my opponent for their skill set, however not to let them take advantage of me.  

As a former coach and I know I felt this way a lot, but I really think some coaches demand so much from players, that they are very quick to point out their flaws.  Sometimes the biggest flaws aren’t physical in nature they are mental.  

Knowing the pulse of your hockey team is vital, but knowing the pulse of each individual will guarantee overall success and enhance player development. 

That’s what it’s all about. 

Throughout my playing career it was an ongoing battle to find that edge and play with that type of confidence that Dale alluded to. 

At every level, those negative thoughts came creeping back into my game until I realized that I didn’t have to be perfect, I just had to be solid.  

As a former coach, analyst and scout I think the greatest compliment, you can pay a player is by saying they had a solid game. Solid in all three zones, playing to their identity, not trying to do too much just playing the game the right way. 

It’s amazing that a ten-minute conversation 33 years ago had such a profound effect on my journey in the game.

I may have been fragile as a player, but I wasn’t broken, because Dale Turner built me back up. 

You see that’s the impact and influence that an amazing coach can have. 

I miss Dale so much, but I will never forget what he taught me about the game and myself. 

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