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The Recipe for Growing a Player's Confidence

By Dan Pollard, 04/30/19, 2:15PM EDT


Focus on the work and effort, not the end result

If there was a magic formula that could help a player increase their confidence it would be up to the parents and coaches to help deliver it. A kid’s self-confidence comes from their own belief on their ability to learn and grow on and off the ice. That inner voice is shaped by what they hear from the influential adults around them.

This is the same language that players will use as they grow older and faces more challenges later in life. This recipe comes from Richard Monette, the Managing Director for Active for Life and a sports psychologist consultant. It consists of three ingredients that are also the essential elements of creating players for life. Kids who actually are brought to the game and learn the game in a way that will make them love the game and most like get them to play hockey for life.

In hockey, coaches serve as the role of teachers. Having that same mindset of a classroom, where certain ages are taught specific things based on their development, can be beneficial in managing expectations and creating lesson plans.

The three factors that make up the confidence formula, as Monette explains, are Know-How, Purposeful Repetition and Awareness of Improvement.

“Know-how is when the kids learn the skills required but not just in a mechanical way. It’s more when kids learn about the skills and the way that is meaningful to them. It’s understanding why a skill matters and understanding their concept of this skill,” said Monette. “If you have a young kid, you might teach them how to make a good pass and then as they learn about passing the puck they also learn about why it matters, where it fits in the game. Then it’s the repetition of that skill over and over again with the knowledge of why it matters and where it fits in the game. It’s more than just knowing the skill and being able to do the skill, it’s understanding the overall skill.”

“The second ingredient is purposeful repetition. It means that you find ways to engage kids in repeating this skill in a way that makes sense to them as well. It’s teaching kids that as they go through your drills and they do these skills and they repeat these skills, it’s to get them to do it in a way where they really try to do it to their best. Giving them feedback in a way that kids will understand even more when they’re involved in it.”

These two elements are added together and then multiplied by the third – awareness of improvement. The focus isn’t just on the end result but on the work put into the process of getting there. Emphasizing the effort and engagement of the work being put into mastering a new skill is just as important as accomplishing it. For example, a player may not have scored a goal but they shot the puck accurately, a skill they were working on in practice.

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“That’s where coaches can really have a huge impact. Kids usually gain confidence only from success. It’s kind of wasting a lot of the experience that kids have because if you learn a new skill, you’ll fail quite often before you get really good… In designing the confidence formula, I tried to help coaches understand that you need to help kids gain confidence in everything they do, not just the good stuff.”

When kids learn from a young age that working hard, learning and putting in effort is key it can make the older years more manageable, especially for a late developer. These are lessons that apply outside the rink as well. And what a better place to build these skills than through sport?

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Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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