There’s always a reason why a person or young athlete acts, behaves or performs the way they do. There’s always a reason, we just have to ask the right questions at the right times or go deeper in order to help the player and person.
In many cases the hockey world have to change the question from why to what. Why is the player acting like that to what has happened to them to act that way on or off the ice? There’s a massive difference between those two questions.
We all know player development and growth at every level is essential, it’s everything, but how many elite level programs and coaches are choosing to go deeper to help their player’s psyche and perhaps mental health and mental performance? How many teams and coaches are sitting down with their players on a personal level to discuss these issues or to gauge their head space?
With so much technology and film being used in the game, there’s no shortage of feedback being delivered from a playing perspective, but in some cases, we need to go deeper. You see there’s always a reason. One of my first observations from watching a few U-18 AAA Major games this season was that more and more players seem timid and are reluctant to engage. Obviously, it’s early and there’s a lot of first year players amongst those that seemed uncomfortable out there, which is perfectly normal, but were they taken aside and spoken to? Were they provided feedback or is it just a given that they will figure it out on their own?
It’s easy to call players out in front of others for not being “tough enough” or make statements in team video sessions like “right there you don’t need to bail out” or “take a F@#king hit to make a play.”
Feedback like that especially in a group setting can have devastating consequences. There’s always a reason, we just need to go deeper and find out the root cause or what the player is feeling or potentially experienced in the past that is impacting their current performance.
Player development is everything these days, I just hope everyone considers that player development isn’t always physical skill or performance based that the mental side of the game is vital for every player.
There’s always a reason, we just have to ask the right questions at the right time and go deeper.