High-level, high-achieving athletes are pretty selfish. They have to be. A large part of their life revolves around their training, nutrition, mental game and performances. You’ve got to be pretty self-absorbed in all the fine details of your mental and physical game in order to get to, and excel at, the elite level of any sport.
So, you make choices that not every athlete makes. You skip a party on a Friday night and go to train instead. You stay up very late to get your homework done because you were at tournament and just couldn’t get the work done. Your friends that don’t play hockey wonder where you’ve disappeared to from October to March.
I don’t call these things “sacrifices”. It really annoys me when I hear elite athletes saying they’ve “sacrificed” so much to get where they are. Because it’s simply not true. No one is forcing them to be an elite athlete. They’ve made a choice to compete on the highest level. So, they have to make choices that match their desire to be the best. No one really wants to do hill sprints at 6am or miss their high school prom for a hockey tournament.
If you’ve made a BIG choice to be the best – a choice that most athletes simply aren’t willing to make – you’ve got to make a lot of SMALLER choices to help you get there. And those smaller choices to do what’s best for YOU are a little selfish. Nothing wrong with that. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
::: To truly be an elite hockey player, you can’t be selfish. :::
Let me clarify – you’ll still need to have a ridiculously high level of focus, desire and determination as it relates to your own level of performance and you’re going to have to make those tough choices.
::: But the best players in hockey are the ones who make their teammates better. :::
It doesn’t really matter what position you play – at some point, to move yourself from being good to great, you’ve got to become a team player. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in all of the things you need to improve on personally as a player in order to reach the next level. But I can guarantee you that scouts and coaches want and need players who can make the players around them better.
So, while it may be easy to be selfish and stay “me” focused, you need to shift your focus to making the rest of the team better in order to excel. I remember when I made this shift when I was playing college hockey. Instead of worrying about all the things that were frustrating me at practice, I focused on making my line mates better. I communicated with them more and I helped them play to their strengths. One was extremely fast and the other was unbelievably good at winning battles along the boards. So, I thought about what I could do to highlight those strengths. My strengths as a very aggressive player with strong play-making skills made us an extremely effective line. But it wasn’t until I shifted my focus away from “me” to “we” that we all took our game to the next level.
You’ve got to be a little selfish (or self-focused) to become an elite athlete, but you’ve got to be team- focused in order to become a great team player.
Work Hard. Dream BIG. Your friend and coach,
A true love for sports