It’s All About the Process or Is it?
Trust the process. We have all heard it time and time again, hell it was my moto for the longest time, but trusting the process is hard to process.
It’s difficult to process for many parents and players alike because of their experiences in the game. You see their process is completely different than others. It’s hard to repeatedly say “trust the process” when in their minds they have been screwed over time and time again. Have they really been screwed over or is that just their perception?
Countless players and hockey parents are constantly fixated in the past. Good, bad or ugly they are living in the past instead of looking at the moment. Obviously, no one can go back and change things, but in the minds of hockey parents and players they either want to relive it, question it, or totally forget about it. This exact moment in time or in the process is somehow clouded by all of the other bull shit that comes with the hockey world.
From entitlement, to comparisons, to ice time, to line combinations, to past successes and failures, many young aspiring players and hockey parents want answers to all the questions. Some want all those answers with the snap of their fingers.
One hockey lifer reached out to me a few weeks back in response to one of my articles.
“I like to help people, but if the advice doesn’t make their child a star or get them drafted or them a scholarship or make a AAA team then some hold it against you thus holding “us” accountable. Therefore, like many knowledgeable hockey people they tend to hold their tongue rather than give advice.”
Thanks so much for this, I replied. I cherish your advice so much, I said.
“Just giving my perspective. Over the years I have been very generous with my time and opinion. It sometimes wasn’t appreciated when the child didn’t become what the parent “wanted,”” they said.
“That’s awful,” I replied.
“I agree, but that’s why so many stay silent,” they concluded.
That conversation shed new light on my perspective, but it also got me thinking.
How can I help give back to the game, I love and that has given me so much over the years and help as many young players as I can? and How could some hockey parents hold a grudge with a person that just wanted to help their child?
At the end of the day, it all comes back to wanting the best for their kid, but at what cost?
Do hockey parents want it more than the kid?
Are all high-level hockey players and their parents so entitled now that they believe their child deserves it or as earned it without going through and experiencing the entire process?
This is where the past comes in. Some are so fixated or hung up on the past they believe their child deserves an opportunity or deserves exposure just because. It shouldn’t work that way, but sometimes it does.
Some believe that where the kid is playing both from a line combination or organizational standpoint should ultimately open doors for them just because. It shouldn’t work that way, but sometimes it does.
You see this is where all of the confusion and controversy sets in.
This is where hockey parents see the perceived injustices against their kid.
At this point “the process” for them becomes the real problem. Some hockey families want to skip over or avoid the challenging adverse parts of the journey because in many ways they feel they have already experienced them in the past so why should they have to go through all that again. It doesn’t work that way, but unfortunately sometimes it does.
Embracing the grind or trusting the process is extremely difficult to confront time and time again, but if you want to go where you want to go in the game you have to do it. Is it fair, hell no, but it is what it is.
I’ve been brutally criticized in the past for writing so much about “the journey.”
Each player has their own unique path in the game, their journey. Obviously, some paths are similar, some paths are radically different.
You see some hockey parents and perhaps players are sick and tired of all the cliché’s like “control what you can control,” or “stay in the moment.” To them that’s all bullshit, it’s the same bullshit they have been fed all along. Obviously, that only complicates matters, but perhaps the player doesn’t fully know their identity or role on the team or perhaps they haven’t accepted their role either.
Over the years I’ve seen my share of draft eligible kids get buried by coaches. Trust me it happens, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road or journey.
For that particular player it becomes their process. Clearly, one would think it doesn’t help things when it comes to the draft, but if scouts and teams have done their homework they will identify that players true worth or value.
Hockey Parents are adamant about exposure. They want to know what the scouts think, but at the end of the day it all comes down to exposure, exposure is everything. They what their child to be showcased, they want their kid to shine on the best and brightest stage. What happens if that doesn’t happen, what happens if it does?
That’s where the “control what you can control” mantra has to take full effect and let’s face it that’s hard for many hockey parents to accept. That’s when the “comparison effect” comes into play, especially when scouting reports, lists or draft rankings are made public.
Making comparisons can be extremely detrimental for any young player and can drastically derail significant progress. Full exposure can be a great thing or it can be a young players worst enemy. Be careful what you wish for, full exposure has a way of highlighting weaknesses or flaws in any young players repertoire.
“Control What You Can Control”
I had a young QMJHL draft eligible prospect reach out last week. The second question they asked me is a great indication of the pressure and the unknown they are experiencing when it comes to the scouting process. This particular player is a very solid prospect, but they asked if playing on their team’s second unit power player would hurt their draft stock. I reassured him that some scouts wouldn’t give two shits about his statistics or power play time. You see draft eligible players have no clue what to expect when it comes to the scouting process and in a way that’s a good thing, but it’s sad really because they are so worried and anxious about the entire process. It all comes back to control what you can control, but one can imagine the stress that these young players are under especially if they feel they are not being showcased or set up to have success, grow and develop.
Countless programs out there are making promises to showcase kids and are promoting player development, and some do a terrific job, but some are struggling to stay afloat when it comes to that. Unfortunately in many cases the lines of communication between the player and their families aren’t the greatest which in turn causes even more confusion when it comes to the process.
One hockey parent reached out recently and had this to say earlier this week.
“So, he just needs to leave the past behind and look toward the future.”
“Yes, don’t worry about the last game or Bantam for that matter,” I said.
“Now, right now, each shift, each day, that’s the focus, each practice, not the Q or Jr A draft, each day.”
“Can’t have a count down to the draft, it’s counterintuitive, it’s not productive,” I added.
“Ok, live for the now, practice and play for the now,” they replied.
“Exactly, that’s why constant feedback from the coach is so important,” I said.
“It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what the player and the coach think.”
“True,” they said.
“That’s the control factor, I can only comment on what I see,” I said.
“I’ve been right on players, and I’ve been wrong on players, it’s the intangibles, I can’t get in their heads.”
“But your advice is working for him,” they said.
“Perhaps yes, perhaps not. I spoke to him for 15 mins, I gave him confidence, that’s all, and confidence comes from within.”
Parents are just looking out for what’s best for the kids, but they don’t know who to trust, because they feel they can’t even trust the process anymore.
The draft eligible player has all this self-imposed pressure and expectations from every conceivable angle so they don’t know what to think or how to play anymore. They have no idea what scouts are looking for, so trusting the process for them changes every time they lace them up.
Every aspect of the game is coming at them at warp speed and they don’t have any idea what the hell to do.
What does the coach want?
What are the scouts looking for?
What does the coach expect?
What do scouts expect?
Gone in all of this is what the player wants and expects from themselves.
That’s why the three foundational questions are so important for young players to answer.
1) What does the game really mean to me?
2) Where do I want the game to take me?
3) What am I doing every day to get better?
If the player can honestly answer and reflect on these three questions and set up a plan of action than that would in essence become their process.
I think a lot of young draft eligible players might need to read this now more than ever.
Dear Draft Eligible Player,
Don’t worry I see you. I see your natural talent. I see your skill.
I know it’s an important year for you and your family, nevertheless, try not to put too much pressure on yourself, it’s only going to hurt you. Why sabotage yourself by trying to be something you’re not, by adding undue pressure when it’s not warranted.
Just play the game. Play to your identity, play to your strengthens, dedicate time to your weaknesses.
Have fun playing the game, challenge yourself to get better, challenge yourself to be the best you can be on and off the ice.
I see you when you are at your highest. I see you at your lowest. I see you when you’re down and out.
I see your shaken confidence. I see how you handle adversity and I learn more about you when you’re struggling than when you are having success.
I’ve seen how you practice. I’ve seen your mistakes. Mistakes happen, it’s how you deal with them that reveal your character and resiliency.
Don’t get down, mistakes happen it’s part the game, it’s part of the process. Sometimes your mistakes, were the right play to make, just at the wrong time. Embrace the process, embrace the journey.
Do all the little things it takes to develop, take pride in that aspect of the game, take pride in the opportunity.
Be a good teammate. Be a good leader. Be a good person on and off the ice.
Control what you can control. At times your draft year could become a whirlwind of distractions. Don’t let the “shitshow” that surrounds the draft year process bring you down or derail your dreams and intentions in the game. Obviously, every shift counts, every practice matters, every situation you play in reveals more than you can imagine about your potential and your will to compete. Adapt, excel and develop.
It takes courage to lace them up.
It takes courage to go through the process.
Embrace the process, embrace the journey.
I don’t see all the extra work you put in behind the scenes, but I will see the results.
I don’t see you at school, but people will want to know.
I don’t see how you interact with your family and friends, but people will want to know.
I don’t see your personality and ego off the ice, but I sure as hell see it on the ice. Stay humble, stay composed. Be strong, be tough to play against, but don’t cross the line, that’s not toughness, that’s being undisciplined.
Respect the game; respect your place in it.
To respect the game is to love the game.
Respect the process.
Trust the process.
Embrace the grind and journey.
Don’t concern yourself with all the noise from a far. Trust your natural talent, trust your skill. Control what you can control. Play to your identity; don’t try to be something you’re not.
Rankings are rankings, they are important, but they aren’t everything.
There are hundreds of examples of players that go undrafted in their draft year and excel at the next level a year or two down the road.
Remember you don’t have to be flashy to get noticed. Work on your skating, move the puck and think the game even quicker. Don’t worry, I see you and others will see you as well.
Play to your identity and play with passion, have a great year,
See you at the rink,
Very helpful information. My son is moving into midget next year and these conversation’s are had almost everyday with my son. The boys seem to all create pressure on themselves and also hearing the hockey parents talk also creates anxiety within them. It’s nice to hear someone communicating that they need to trust process and stay the course. Thanks
You are right on. If coaches are going to use these phrases, then like you say, actually communicate and develop the player so they can better understand why you are making the game time decisions you are making. This, in turn, can help the coaches’ process…. especially if coaching is how you put food on the table. Because let’s face it, they too have a process and sometimes their process stresses them out and is passes along.
Parents get it, it quickly becomes a business once you leave youth hockey for those determining our kids “process… enjoyable, growth focused, or negative”. Shouldn’t a similar message go out to coaches at all levels? “Why did you get into coaching?” Hopefully the answer is to help kids develop. And many likely THINK they are but the message needs not to be subliminal. Second, the pressure is tremendous for these kids as you state. The communication is these phrases in many cases vs a real explanation verbal or video of why. As a parent, I’d like to see teams provide, at a minimum, access to a mental health professional all season – especially at the levels of hockey that have full time, only job paid coaches. The stress is so high…even if already committed with the new transfer portal and fifth free yr. Can we help these kids navigate the mental side before it becomes an issue? And heck, maybe our coaches need it too?