In A Devilish Mood: Practice makes perfect in sports, especially in hockey
The proverb has been traced back to the 1500s, when its form was “Use makes perfect.” The Latin version is “Uses promptos facit.” It was first attested in the United States in “Diary and Autobiography of John Adams.”
I start this article that way for no other reason than to make me appear more intelligent in your eyes. The truth of the matter is that it took me 15 seconds and an internet connection to find that juicy tidbit. Where the saying came from is irrelevant – the saying itself is gold.
It is true for everything in life and also easy to say, but hard to get kids to truly buy into. As a coach, the No. 1 priority I strive to instill in kids is work ethic. I have been telling anyone who will listen for the past several years that kids these days do not understand what work ethic means as it relates to hockey. In this digital age we live in, kids spend more time plopped on the couch playing video games.
As a parent, I hear things like, “I can’t do that” or “We can’t beat that team” or “It’s too hard” and as any good parents do, we respond with, “You can achieve anything you set your mind to” or “You just need to practice; practice makes perfect,” only to be countered with, “Whatever!”
What REALLY drives me crazy is when they come home with a new video game, start playing and getting mad and screaming that “this game is too hard” and after 27 hours of consecutive playing, they are asking to make in-game purchases because they have reached “Super War Lord” status and need to purchase the flying carpet in order achieve the “Upper Echelon” status and beat the level-27 Mega Monster. The only difference between what they did there and applying the “practice makes perfect” concept to sports is that in most cases, their achievement did not require actual physical effort.
As this relates to hockey, or sports in general, good coaches tell their teams that they play like they practice and that they should not be afraid of making mistakes. After all, we learn from mistakes. Trying to get kids to understand what hard work in hockey means is, in my opinion, the toughest job a youth coach has.
There are pressures from everywhere to win in today’s society and in a lot of parents’ eyes, if your team wins, you are a great coach. The question I have is, “Have you taught the kids to work hard and how to play the game? Or have you just taught them to get the puck to little Johnny because he is the best player in the state and will go coast to coast and score four goals a game?”
Being tough and consistent in practice and demanding hard work, while still making the game fun for your team and keeping all the parents happy, is a tough thing to pull off. I will be the first one to tell you that I, by no means, have mastered this feat. I just know that that is what we, as youth coaches, need to strive to master. There is a fine line between you being perceived as a “tyrant” coach and being perceived as a good coach who demands hard work.
Let me conclude with a tip for all you parents out there: Pay less attention to how many goals or assists your child has and how long his/her shifts are and more attention to other things like if your child works hard in practice and games. This is a team game and everyone has a job to do. The common denominator is a solid work ethic and a commitment to “practice makes perfect.”
Brad McCaughey is the director of hockey operations and coach-in-chief for DYHA.
(April 17, 2018)