In A Devilish Mood: To have on-ice success, believe and you will achieve
We all know that any team can win on any given night in a one-game scenario. A slew of things can happen that can lead to the underdog team winning: penalties, letting in a few bad goals, a hot goaltender, you name it. One underdog winning a game is one thing, but the most impressive stories are those when the underdog makes a run through a tournament or upsets a few teams in the playoffs and gets them in a position to do what nobody thought they could do – win a championship.
There are countless examples of this happening in the hockey world with one of the most famous ones being the “Miracle on Ice” when Herb Brooks led his team onto the ice against the heavily-favored Russians and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
Some people refer to these feats as “lucky wins” or “hot streaks.” While luck may have played a role, there is one factor prevalent in all these that is probably the toughest for any coach to get – belief!
The players on these teams believed they could win. I know that seems like a simple comment, but I am telling you that it is not as simple as just saying “I believe we can win.” Speaking the words is easy, but truly deep down believing it is another. These players bought into the coach’s system and truly believed that if they played the game a certain way and gave 110 percent that they could actually win.
Without this belief, most likely that team would have lost. There is a saying that winning teams find ways to win and losing teams find ways to lose. This is absolutely true.
When you are playing in a one-goal game with five minutes left, winning teams believe that they are going to win, whereas losing teams HOPE they win. The New England Patriots are a great example of this. They could be down by 17 points with four minutes left, but you are waiting to see how they will complete this comeback. How does New England do this? Belief plays a major role.
While that belief is hard to achieve at the professional level, it is much harder at the youth sports level. It is very easy these days for kids to say, “I can’t do that” or “We can’t beat them.” Kids see things in black and white – either they are better than the other team or they are not. This is the easiest way out for our kids these days. It is easier to create an excuse than it is to dig deep down, give everything you have, play a certain way and find a way to win the game.
It is pretty to watch when you see a team that has figured out its identity, come together as a team, and play the game in a way that gives them a chance to beat a more physically-talented team. These players are doing the little things that win hockey games like backchecking, blocking shots, not allowing outnumbered situations while being patient and taking advantage of their scoring opportunities when they get them. They frustrate their opponent by playing solid defensive hockey.
In a sport that seems to be dominated by talent, especially at the younger ages, hard work and belief can tilt the scales. As a coach or parent, getting your kids to “buy in to the system” can be the most rewarding thing you have ever done. Oh, and by the way, it could also be the hardest thing you have ever done.
So for those of you that have figured it out, please let me know the secret!
Brad McCaughey is the director of hockey operations and coach-in-chief for DYHA.
(May 9, 2018)