With the explosion of the internet and social media, it seems players are comparing themselves to others at a concerning rate. Players search through elite prospects, hunting down player statistics and defining them by how many goals or PIMs they had last year.
“This guy had 30 goals but only five assists, so he must be selfish.” “This guy had a 100 PIMs, he must be a fighter.”
What’s even worse is online training platforms offer things like “skate like McDavid in six weeks” or “shoot like [Input NHL scorer]”.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself, haven’t you done that in the past? And you would be correct. I used to think it was the right approach to getting young players to work on new, innovative techniques to improve their game.
The problem is this new obsession of being like other NHL players has taken away from players working on their own authentic skill blends. A great example on how you should think about yourself as a player is Jamie Tar from the show, Ted Lasso. The coach questioned: “who would you rather be, a lion or a panda?”
His response, “I’m ME, why would I want to be anyone else?”
He hit the nail on the head with that one.
Discovering your strengths
The big issue here is players aren’t taught to understand their own game. They rarely sit down and think of what they’re best at or what leads to their success. They are just told they need to get stronger, skate faster, and shoot more pucks — basic/general answers that lead players further away from their authentic skills and creating specific niches in the game for themselves.
Ask yourself these questions and really think about what makes you successful:
- What do you think are your three biggest strengths in your game?
- Ask your coach and a couple players on your team what they think your biggest strengths are? Pick players you trust or will give you an honest answer.
- How can you constantly develop these areas of your game?
- What situations in a game do you best excel at and how can you put yourself in that situation more often to yield more consistent results? Example would be Joe Pavelski, who is great at tipping pucks, so he finds himself at the net as much as possible when the puck is in the offensive zone.
The three-year player study (2016-2019)
In this player study I performed a couple years ago, I tracked how top players scored goals through a 12-skill goal criteria list. The results were very interesting.