The Whyte Stuff: In sports and life, attitude and effort are everything
I recently had a player come to me after practice to apologize for his lack of effort this season.
He is an excellent player and has great potential to not only make it far in hockey, but also succeed in life.
I thanked him for his honesty and asked why he thought he was not giving everything he had. His response was valid, in the sense he felt he should be playing at a higher level and he got passed over for reasons beyond his control. I couldn’t disagree with him, so instead I helped shed some light on his position.
I conveyed to him a similar story that involved me back in my playing days. While with the Phoenix Roadrunners (then an LA Kings farm team), I worked very hard every day to get the chance to play in the NHL. Finally, that time came and I made it to the show. During my stay in LA, I did what I was told and worked my butt off every chance I got. Eventually, I was sent back to Phoenix, with the message from the coach that I would be called back up.
That never happened, and in fact the next season, I found myself playing even further in the minors. I was devastated and furious, not to mention dumbfounded on how I could be playing on a team with Wayne Gretzky one season, and the next qualifying for food stamps. The year before, not only did my agent tell me Los Angeles wanted to renew my contract, but that he had been contacted by three other NHL teams that wanted to sign me. Needless to say, my attitude went into a tailspin and my effort was just enough to get by.
The first seven games of that season, I had a whopping one assist, and while traveling back to our hometown, I did some serious soul searching. I was in such a deep pity party that I didn’t even realize how poorly I was playing.
Although not quite an epiphany, while staring out of the bus window into the darkness, I came to the realization the only one that was going to change my situation was me. I had to deal with the now, and pull myself back to a place I knew I belonged.
With a new attitude and a rejuvenated passion, I scored 42 goals in the next 43 games, and was called up to the Quebec Nordiques farm team to finish the season. I scored eight more there and finished strong.
There will be times in life where those around you don’t believe in you, or don’t feel you have what it takes to succeed. It can be damaging to your soul and your self-esteem. It is then that you must discover the greater power from within to prove them wrong, and more importantly, prove you right.
In sports and in life, attitude and effort mean everything. I wrote the following quote many years ago, and just recently came across it. I feel that it is quite fitting for the given situation:
“The most powerful word in the English language is ‘TRY.’ If you try, you face your fears. If you try, you might be amazed at what you can accomplish. If you try, you may fail, but try again. Only with loss will you find growth. Only with growth will you find happiness.”
Even though I knew this player was struggling, I also knew he needed to come to his own realization on his own time. A coach, a parent, or even a teammate can point out to someone they aren’t giving their all, but until they own their actions, it will have little effect. Once they do, their potential is endless.
Sean Whyte is the director of hockey operations and coach-in-chief at DYHA.