Outwork Everyone

A couple weeks ago, I had an opportunity to talk to the Comcast U16 National team about nutrition. Well, I should say that the talk was intended to be about nutrition, but spawned very quickly into a discussion on what it’s going to take for them to be successful in the future.

Most players are only familiar with their own experience, and while this is valuable information, they simply don’t have the wisdom to understand what it’s going to take to continue developing and excelling beyond the competition. How could they? The assumption that doing what they’ve done to be successful up to that point is harshly misguided. As Tony Robbins once said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” This is more true of behaviors, as I strongly believe that an optimal mindset WILL help a player continue progressing throughout their career.

With that said, there are a couple things that I think players at every sub-pro level should be aware of:

  1. Success at any given level is NOT in any way predictive of success at a higher level. This is especially true in youth hockey where certain players excel initially because of a more rapid development in physical stature or neuromuscular proficiency compared to their peers. Anyone that has been around hockey for any appreciable amount of time has seen STUD peewees that go on to be mediocre midgets; STUD midgets that go on to be mediocre junior players; and STUD junior players that go on to be mediocre college players. I could go on. Don’t get comfortable with your success; be inspired by it.
  2. You’re not alone in the race. The U.S. has nearly 300,000 registered youth and junior players. Canada has nearly 500,000. Regardless of your goal, there is a TON of competition. One of the things I tried to get across to the 16U team, which is a Tier I youth team, is that they aren’t just competing against the other 16U National teams. There are kids at the 16U American level that will progress significantly this year and fight them for a job as early as the next season. There are kids from other organizations that will transfer in and fight them for a job. And the most overlooked of all, there are COUNTLESS Tier II youth players that are infuriated that they were cut from the Tier I program and are working their assess off to make sure that the coach that cut them, and EVERYONE else involved, knows that they made a huge mistake. They’re at an age of equalizing. The kids that grew faster than the others will level out. Being big simply won’t be enough. Other kids will hit huge growth spurts and suddenly be more viewed as more able. The same is true of those that developed neurologically faster than others. Everything begins to level out and those with long-term potential begin to emerge.

Defining Hard Work
The thing I like most about this particular group, is that they’re about as cohesive and well-intentioned a team as I’ve ever worked with. As a group, they show up on time, work hard, push each other, and maintain a relatively positive demeanor (especially impressive given their age).  I have no doubt that they work as hard on the ice as they do off. In speaking with them, however, I tried to get them to understand that working hard in front of the coach is the easy part. Anyone can do it. In fact, it should be looked at as the bare minimum expectation to participate in any competitive team sport.

TRUE hard work, is doing the right thing AWAY from the coaches, when no one is around to reward or punish you for your behavior.

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vince Lombardi

In other words, working hard means, among other things:

  1. Being willing to wake up 10-15 minutes earlier to eat a quality breakfast, consistently
  2. Taking some time throughout the week to prepare snacks and meals
  3. Eat frequently if you need to put on weight, even if you aren’t hungry
  4. Take supplements like Greens+ and Fish Oil, even if they don’t taste the best
  5. Drink Generation UCAN instead of Gatorade, even though it’s mildly less convenient to have it order it online
  6. Consume plentiful amounts of the world’s most powerful supplement, water!
  7. Foam roll and stretch daily
  8. Go to bed at night and wake up in the morning within an hour of the same times everyday
  9. Do the “homework” that your strength coach assigns you
  10. If available, review game film
  11. Take time to watch higher levels of hockey and take note of the habits of peak performers
  12. Study the habits of peak performers at your level. What makes them successful?

This is really just a quick glimpse of a handful of things that come to mind immediately. The idea here is to understand that no ONE thing is going to make a tremendous impact on a player’s long-term development, but doing all of the little things right over time certainly will. You want to stack the deck in your favor, do everything you can to ENSURE your success. Don’t hope for it, make it happen. Dr. Colleen Hacker, who spoke to the U.S. Women’s National Program while I was at their camp in Minnesota, calls this “controlling the controllables”. There are a lot of parts of the game that are outside of your control. The refs will probably be bad. Your coach may not like your style of play. You might not be on the line you like. The list goes on and on. But how you PREPARE and how you RESPOND to adversity are ALWAYS within your control.

The best athletes in the world are absolutely meticulous about their preparation…

Example 1: Peyton Manning

Example 2: Michael Phelps

Example 3: Sidney Crosby

None of the things I listed above will earn you any appreciable praise, at least not directly. But don’t do it for the praise. Do it because you care about fulfilling your potential, about pushing the outer boundaries of your genetic gifts. Do it for your teammates. Do it because you’ll reflect on your experiences playing the game for the rest of your life, and it would be tragic to do so with feelings of regret of what could have been. Do it because you want to push the game itself to new heights.

You never know when a game, rather, when a season will come down to one final effort: an inspired back check to prevent an opponent’s scoring chance, winning a battle in the corner to create a game-winning scoring opportunity, having the mental clarity to make a quality breakout pass instead of throwing the puck up the wall. Teams progress through the playoffs or on to the golf courses every year based on a single play like the ones I described above. Do the right things on and off the ice, consistently, to make sure that you’re in a position to come out on the winning end of these battles. THAT is what it means to outwork everyone, and that is what it will take to truly reach your potential.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Don’t forget you can save 25% on all Generation UCAN products until January 31st by using the code “competehard” here: Generation UCAN

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