College Hockey Truths – Part 5 - Advice for Young Athletes
In the final article of this five-part series will offer advice and important questions to ponder when beginning the college hockey process.
Advice for Players Pursuing NCAA College Hockey
What should players do to go through this process? Here is some advice that has worked for players in the past.
1) Play the most hockey you can at the highest level you can. Players need experience. Skill comes from practice and playing. You need it to get better. Get on the ice as much as you can. Maximize financial resources to meet this need.
2) Players must have FOCUSED PRACTICE EVERY DAY. Showing up is not enough to get to the next level. Every rep, every stride, every drill, every shift must be completed with high levels of focus. We only improve when we are tunnel-focused on the task at hand. Practicing skills does not require being on the ice. Use off-ice training to improve.
3) Build Your Body. Athletes need to hit the gym. There are great players that do not make it because they lack strength. Strength in the body builds confidence. You will skate faster, shoot harder, battle tougher, and be more imposing to play against. There are tons of online programs now. Gym memberships do not cost as much these days (and are supplemented by insurance). There are no excuses.
4) Play where you will develop. This is called the “Goldilocks Rule”. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. You do not want to be the best player all of the time, but you cannot be the weakest either. You need that balance where you can succeed and fail simultaneously. This pushes focused development.
5) Pick programs that fit your philosophy. The program should meet financial needs, have a coach that cares, and continues hockey passion. Not everything about Hockey is fun, let’s face it. But the process should have relative enjoyment to the commitment that is made. Frankly, a player needs to want to go to the rink every day, not be dragged there.
6) Be the strongest you can academically and socially. Great players take everything seriously. They are “yes sir, no sir” people. They show up to class, they handle their business. They are well-spoken. They embrace the fact that they are their own business card, and to be taken seriously, they need to take themselves seriously every day.
7) Listen to all options. Players need to be willing to listen to all advice. Now, that does not mean follow it all. Listening to multiple perspectives will give a player clarity to what is best for him.
8) Be active in recruiting. Send emails to coaches, follow up on emails. This gets your name out there that you are serious about the next level. Be sure that your on-ice focus matches your recruitment activity. A coach may only come watch you once, so make it count. Once you have done this, you will know when a coach is severely interested in you. “A player cannot make a coach choose them, but they can sure make it hard for a coach not to.”
9) Have a personal philosophy of sports. It cannot simply be to play in college, because once its over you will be left lost. Instead, play sports because you want to be committed to something greater than oneself, you want to promote physical fitness, you want to improve social skills and gain friendships, you want to have a purpose, you want to learn applicable life skills, and ultimately you want to have fun. Playing hockey and accomplishing that every day will lead to greater success than being college-only focused.
10) Enjoy the Journey. Players and parents may not agree with the length of the College Hockey process or how old they may be when they enter, but that is how it is in today’s era. The greatest factor in making it to college hockey is continued development, grit, and perseverance when others begin to quit. It is about longevity. If a player begins to love the process and enjoy the journey of the day to day, the goal will be attainable. There is no problem prolonging the beginning of an adult life. Players will not be behind their peers. We only get so long to play the game competitively, and then boom, it’s over. Enjoy it as long as you can and stay committed to it!