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- Listen: It may sound simple, but those who listen and pay attention to the small details will get better faster. When a coach is trying to help you, they can only do that if you’re listening to them.
- Focus: Be 100% in the present moment. This is a very difficult mental practice, but it is one of the greatest skill advantages you can give yourself. If you’re on the ice for an hour, don’t allow your mind to wander off and think about homework or Fortnite or anything else. Be in the moment and get a full hour of training in. Not 45 minutes. Not 30 minutes. But 60 minutes of focussed practice.
- Get out of your comfort zone:
The only way to get better is to take our current abilities and push past them. It’s very easy to get caught staying in the comfort zone because it’s exactly that, comfortable! But comfort is the enemy when it comes to development. Identify your current level, and push just to the edge of what you can already do. We don’t want to go too fast because we need to be able to process the information in order to get feedback from our failures and successes.
- Redefine failure: Failure is an awful word. In school, an F means we flunked, and we need to go to summer school. However, there is positive failure, and negative failure. Positive failure is failure that we can learn from and build on. Where we listen, work hard, and focus deeply, and make a mistake, identify the area we made the mistake, and address it. Then there is negative failure where we are either not listening or not focussed, and we make a mistake. The issue here is we don’t get much if any feedback if the focus and effort isn’t there. A good way to look at positive failure to redefine it in a way that contributes to development is: I didn’t fail 9 times out of 10, I found 9 ways that didn’t work.
- Use slow motion video capture: I can’t overstate how important slow motion video capture is. I would have killed to have this technology on my phone as a kid. Slow motion picks up on things that we often overlook when we look at video in real time. It is a great tool to offer awareness in areas where we are often moving very quickly. Especially in skills where we are working on a very small detail in a skill set we’re trying to attain.
- Put in the work off the ice: These hours add up. And you don’t need much. Whether it’s a carpet floor and a golf ball, a backyard stickhandling zone, a driveway, and outdoor rink or a parking lot… you can get a lot done off the ice to supplement your on-ice skills. I didn’t have much money growing up, and the only way for me to get my hours of deep focussed practice in was to stickhandle at home, and stickhandle at an outdoor rink near my house. In your shoes is great, but adding rollerblades is a great way to take your skills and challenge them at speed and with edge work.
- Read: There are so many books to compliment your development and help make you aware of all the competitive advantages you can use to gain skill faster. You’ll notice most of my advice above is about mental skill rather than physical. This is because the quality of the physical skill you perform will be influenced by the mindset you have going into that training session. A few great reads are: “The Talent Code”, “Mind Gym”, “The Power of Now”, “The Cellestine Prophecy” and “The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari.”
- Have fun: This point is painfully overlooked. When we’re training there is a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of expectations. When it comes down to it, we want to be the best we can be and do the best with what we have. In order to put in the ungodly amount of deep, focussed hours needed to be the best we can be, we have to fall in love with the game. Over and over. We need to have a positive relationship with training. It needs to be fun. We all love fun. When we have free time, we seek fun activities to do. When we enjoy it, it’s easier to stay in the present moment for longer, and we will undoubtedly train more if we love doing it.
- Focus on yourself: It’s easy to get distracted by what others are doing, especially when they are better than us. Sometimes that leads to us feeling insecure, and that’s ok. We all learn at different paces, and we need to understand that the only way to get better at the fastest rate possible is to focus on ourselves. We are constantly in competition with our former selves. That means we aren’t looking at how fast someone beside us in line is going through a drill and trying to go as fast as them even if it means disregarding the skill we are working on. What you’ll find is that when learning a new skill, going slower will actually get you to learn the skill faster. Focus on your own development. Use every tool at your disposal, and do your very best with what you have.
- Use a notebook: Those with more awareness will build skill at a faster rate. We all know those moments where we’ve been working so hard on a skill, and we make one small tweak and it finally clicks. I would get so excited as a kid when these moments happened that I would need to write down the details in a notebook. This way I would never forget that small point which made me successful with that skill when I struggled next. To get truly great at something you have to immerse yourself in the trial and error process. The failures and the disappointment will actually be the glue that will allow these points to stick so you won’t forget. Capture these moments, enjoy them, and continue to build.