Photo Credit: Julie Whelan Photography
At the end of every game there will be a winning team and losing team. That is just the nature of the sport. But if the final score is the main objective for a team it can create an environment that ends up limiting growth. No matter the level of hockey or the age of the players, healthy competition in a safe playing environment can provide life lessons that kids can carry with them as they graduate from minor hockey.
Competition gives players goals to work towards. Without bringing their best effort, players will struggle to find the results they are looking for. The progress and deadlines of these goals can be tracked throughout the year. It teaches players to take risks, whether it’s trying out for a new team or testing out a new skill for the first time in a game. With those risks can come a nervous energy but competition forces players to work outside of their comfort zone and learn to manage any pre-game nerves that may arise.
A player may be the hardest working on the ice and still come up short in the end, and that’s okay. What competition teaches them is to keep bringing that same energy every time they step on the ice and to get up every time they may feel knocked down. It builds self-esteem and the belief that anything is possible as long as you work hard towards it. How players react to the highs of a victory and the lows of a defeat lets them deal with a wide range of emotion while sportsmanship keeps them respectful no matter the end result.
Practice is the perfect setting for players to show how competitive they are. While it may not always match the intensity of a game, adding competitive drills to practices are a fun way to keep players engaged and battling for possession.
“I’m a huge believer in introducing competitive situations into your practice and situations that are game-like. Do I think that has to be 5-on-5, full ice? I don’t,” said OMHA Executive Director Ian Taylor on an episode of the Breakaway Podcast. “I think in most cases you’re going to see teams using smaller areas, whether its cross-ice, whether it’s in a corner, even just an endzone drill. There’s two main areas there. You want to emulate what happens in a game and I think ending practice with fun competition, kids eat it up.”
A team sport like hockey gives both players and parents a sense of community. The teamwork needed teaches dedication and commitment to each other as well as the opportunity to share in the collective successes. For as competitive as any player may be, they can’t perform well without the help of their teammates.
Competition isn't just happening on the ice. It can take place in the classroom or many other extracurricular activities. Done in a purposeful manner, competition that puts the players ahead of the scoreboard leads to development and growth. Take a step back, look at the process and determine the best way to get the end result you’re looking for.
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