Every week the players attend Pursuit Class which is a one hour presentation by one member of the coaching staff, or another person who has a particular expertise such as a sports psychologist, nutritionist, NHL player, NHL coach, agent, or scout. Each year the guest speakers may also include financial advisers, communications specialists, and experts in many other fields.
We have the luxury, for example, of having the time in Pursuit Class to spend time on every aspect of the power play from breakout to power play tactics and then to study on video some of the various power play units on different NHL teams.
The Pursuit Class is the time in which the game videos of the Pursuit teams are analyzed. So every week, the players are learning, both in terms of individual play and team concepts, by watching themselves and having one of the coaching staff critique the players’ performance. Because all of the games are digitally recorded on computer, and through the use of Game Breaker software, the key teaching points are easily marked and brought up for review with the players without any wasted time.
Life Skills & Values
In the life skills and life values area, well over 30-40 topics are covered such as leadership, confidence, concentration, visualization, character, integrity, relationships, humility, goal setting, motivation, communication skills, body language, creativity, finances and investments, procrastination, happiness, parents, attitude, respect for others, faith in God, success, and many others.
Once a week some time is given in Pursuit Class for players to update their goal setting and focus sheets in their Smart Planners. The players stay on target through developing the positive daily habits they need to reach their goals during the program.
This area of training for high performance athletes is critical. As the difference in physical abilities of top athletes becomes less and less, the mental abilities of the player often becomes the deciding factor in his or her success. As the number of games played continues to increase, the more important it becomes for a player to learn how to be mentally prepared for each game so he or she consistently performs at their highest level.
Also, as players train harder and longer and the skill level continues to increase, the ability of a player in practice and in training to be able to set goals, to achieve goals, to be mentally tough, to be confident, to
have a positive self image, to love the game and to learn to minimize the pressure when playing, will all be critical attributes that a player must acquire in order to put in the hours of effort required to be a top athlete.
3 Key Components
Mental training for our players is divided into 3 components even though they are all interrelated.
The first component focuses on motivational issues, understanding motivation, how to enhance motivation, and applying it specifically to the player’s own game.
The second component covers many areas such as mental preparation for games, the achievement of excellence through overcoming obstacles, developing mental toughness both in terms of training and their game play in a very physical and aggressive sport.
The third component involves more team building issues not only in terms of the group of 29 players working together for the school year but also issues such as becoming a team leader, the player’s attitude toward team members, the coaching staff, the opposing team, and the referees.
Pursuit players develop the habit of using their Smart Planners to set objectives for every practice and game. They use their planners after each ice session to record areas of success and things they need to continue working on. Developing concentration cues for practice such as having a piece of tape on the shaft of their stick with key words like “shoot to score” or “laser focus” are all part of the mental training for our players. Even the ability to block out internal and external distractions in game situations such as a referee’s calls, are mental skills that completely transform the on-ice performance of many of our players.
A nutritionist works with our players and leads classroom sessions on this subject. These sessions discuss the importance of eating properly, and the specific types of meals needed for high performance athletes. We test each player’s body composition and work with the player so he develops a healthy, sensible diet, which will also maximize the player’s performance on the ice. Part of the player’s daily training record includes monitoring his diet. Parents are kept apprised of the player’s progress so they have complete confidence that their child is not dwelling on the issue of food or diet but rather is just establishing good eating habits for high performance.
Our coaches know very well that they are in “the shoe shine business”. Their most important function is not to teach hockey but to help develop the self-esteem of each and every player in the program, to make our players feel good about them selves and believe in themselves. So players are encouraged to be creative and not to be afraid to make mistakes. The players have confidence in knowing that the coaches will not get angry or yell at them for mistakes they make.
However, players also learn very quickly that there are consequences if rules are broken or if players demonstrate a poor attitude or a lack of work ethic. The uniqueness about the discipline we impose is, in
most cases, no one gets upset. Players just know what the consequences are and they pay the price and they learn never to let it happen again. At the same time, the players know the coaches care very much for them and the players learn the difference between forgiveness and there being consequences for our actions.