I’ve been involved in the game of hockey for 20 years now. Throughout that time I’ve played the roles of diverse player, power skating and skills clinic instructor, coach, athletic development coach, and injury consultant. Within each one of these roles, I’ve worn many hats. I’ve been a forward and defenseman, a leader and a follower, a head instructor and a puck pusher, a boss and an intern/volunteer. I’ve played with, coached, and worked alongside countless players and coaches.

When I reflect back on my path to get to where I am today, there are a few landmark achievements that I’m really proud of. Things like making my Middle School A team in 6th grade and leading the team in assists. Getting called up to the Bantam A team mid-year and leading the team in scoring for the second half of the season. Making Varsity as a Freshman. Taking our HS team to their first Flyers Cup (despite losing in tragic fashion this was still a positive memory). Being named Team MVP my junior year at Delaware. Being named captain my Senior year, winning the Lifetime Achievement Award (which had never been given to a player), and helping to lead the team to the 2nd best finish in school history. And more recently, having opportunities to work with the San Jose Sharks, US Women’s National Team, and publishing my first book Ultimate Hockey Training. While these things may not seem very glamorous for some people, they were all highlights for me.

The truth is, nothing has ever come very easily to me, ever. As you may recall from reading the two interviews I did with Tony Gentilcore and Brian St. Pierre (Ultimate Hockey Training Interview & Ultimate Hockey Training-The Interview), I wasn’t exactly blessed with the “natural athleticism” you hear some people talk about. I think I was more genetically primed for sundae eating contests than I was elite level hockey.

With every achievement I’ve ever had, there was ALWAYS a crowd of people that were ready to tell me why it wasn’t possible. This is kind of interesting actually, especially because I know I’m not unique in this feeling. EVERYONE experiences this. From a psychological perspective, it’s somewhat disheartening to realize that the overwhelming majority of the people around us are more apt to tell us why things aren’t possible than why they are or how they could be. Many of these people don’t have evil intentions, but are simply trying to protect you from the pain of failure, the agony of defeat.

This isn’t all bad, per se. The effect of this negativity depends on your attitude. Sometimes players are motivated by it. I remember Eric Tangradi telling me a couple Summers ago about the head coach of a youth select team that said he would never amount to anything in hockey.

“Sorry kid. Hockey is just not for you.”

“You’ll never make it in this game”

Eric currently plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Turns out the guy was wrong, but Eric interpreted his words (and those of other naysayers) as more of a challenge. In other words, it fueled his fire.

Turns out that players develop over time…

Unfortunately, this interpretation of negativity is the minority. More often than not, people are, either consciously or subconsciously, defeated by it and stop taking the extra steps to make their dreams comes true.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan

This isn’t a story about me. It’s not a story about Tangradi. The reality is that this happens to almost every athlete at one point in their career (and just about everyone throughout their life). More than anything else, the one thing that sticks out in my mind with every achievement I’ve ever had is that there was always at least ONE PERSON that pushed me along. Sometimes it was a family member. Sometimes a friend. Sometimes a teammate. Sometimes a coach. Sometimes a co-worker, colleague, or mentor. In other words, it wasn’t always the same person, nor the same “category” of person. But there was always someone and frankly, I’m not sure I would have accomplished any of the things I have if I didn’t have that person, at that time.

Reflecting back on all my experiences in hockey has taught me a lot about what kind of coach I want to be. The world is filled with people that will put up walls between you and your goals, tell you that you can’t do it, to “be realistic.”

“Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.” – Will Smith

I don’t want to be another one of those people, not as a coach, not as a co-worker, and not as a person in general. I’d rather be the ONE PERSON that says you can, that pushes you along when you’re thinking of quitting, that catapults you over the walls that others have built in front of you.

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

Even if their goals AREN’T “realistic”. Who cares! Why do we discourage people from aspiring for greatness? What great thing was ever accomplished by someone dreaming realistically? It’s important not to overlook the fact that setting and passionately chasing goals is inherently valuable, regardless of their attainment. This process builds character. It builds heart. It builds resiliency. And in the long run, it will ALWAYS build success.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

Whether you’re a player, parent, or coach, think about what kind of person you want to be. Do you want to be one member of the discouraging masses, or do you want to be the ONE source of encouragement. Do you want to be the wall or the catapult?

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

Over two years ago, Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor, gave what was known as “The Last Lecture”. If you were living under a rock during that time period and missed his lecture, set aside 75 minutes to watch the video below. It may be the most powerful thing you’ve ever seen:

Recently, I received an email from Hockey Parent of the Year (whom I announced last week!) Cristi Landrigan with another very powerful video…from an extremely unexpected source. Cristi’s message (because the email was also sent to her children, amongst others) said:

“Guys….if you have time to poison your brain with Jersey Shore, you have time to watch this.”

Having poisoned my mind on several occassions throughout this season of the Jersey Shore, I felt an obligation to heed Cristi’s recommendation. Take another 10 minutes to absorb some of Will Smith’s wisdom.

These are two videos that I think every person should watch. The latter is especially pertinent to aspiring athletes.

When I hear how many people respond to watching Randy Pausch’s video with “he was so brave”, I’m concerned that they may have missed his point. I’m not discounting his bravery. To come face to face with inevitable death and not lose your smile is an incredible act of bravery. With that said, he never claimed to be a symbol of bravery. In fact, his point was quite the opposite. He did not succumb to fear and sadness because he CHOSE not to. He acknowledged that he had the power to decide how he wanted to respond to the situation and he chose to respond by maintaining his happiness. This power of choosing an interpretation to a situation is one that EVERYONE possesses, but few choose to accept/practice. Frankly, it’s easier to blame circumstances than to accept the responsibility of being able to choose your reaction.

Will Smith had a similar, but slightly different message. He repeatedly alluded to the fact that we’re capable of anything we want. The only time that wasn’t true was when we didn’t think it could be. The X-factor in achieving seemingly lofty goals, is an unwavering focus and drive to make consistent progress toward their achievement.

The big take home message:

Where you are now isn’t where you need to stay. You can achieve anything you want if you believe you can and work toward it consistently. Regardless of your current situation, your happiness is a choice you make, a responsibility you have, a power you possess.

I come across countless youth players (and their parents) who are ready to throw in the towel at anywhere from 11 (yes, 11!) to 14 years of age because they didn’t make a certain team or aren’t getting a ton of ice time on that team. Unfortunately the hockey world isn’t always the most supportive, and early talent development in certain players can be discouraging for players that develop later. If there’s one thing I wish I could convince every youth player it’s that you are far from fulfilling your full potential. The road to elite level hockey is paved for some athletes and covered in 4ft of snow for others. Your work ethic, determination, focus, and dedication to skill development will determine your future, not the insults of a teammate or misinformed youth coach. I still think back to a conversation I had with Eric Tangradi several months ago where he referenced an individual I won’t name telling him he would never be anything in hockey when he was younger. This was/is a well-respected coach. Eric scored his first NHL goal a couple weeks back. Turns out Eric’s dreams and determination were more powerful than that coaches interpretation of his abilities as a young player.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. “Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.” -Will Smith

Finally, the Secrets of Elite Level Hockey Development are Revealed!

Click the image below to discover how you can benefit from over 150 years of collective hockey development experience from 14 of the world’s top experts!

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!