Setting goals for improvement in the new year is always a helpful exercise
By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for life in general. In hockey, setting specific goals the first of the year can be a big motivating factor in how a player improves on and off the ice.
Resolutions are also an important new-year idea for coaches and parents.
This year, with players having limited ice time or no ice time at all because of the pandemic, has really thrown a wrench in plans.
“This has been a real interesting time to figure out how to do it on your own — whether it’s working out at home or it’s finding a gym to go work out at where it’s one-on-one and they can do it with the varying governmental requirements,” longtime Illinois coach Brad Bialas said.
Depending on a player and their age, it is best to set resolutions by pinpointing a specific area of their game where there is room for improvement.
“Ask your coaches, ‘Hey, what do I need to work on?’” Bialas said. “Now that you have that resolution say, look, just like I would have gone to practice and that would have taken a 30-minute drive and 20 minutes to get dressed and an hour on the ice — there’s probably two or three hours. Commit to a quarter of that. Commit a half hour to stick handle or work on your backhand or jump on the rollerblades. One of my daughters was saying, ‘I can’t wait for the ponds to freeze up. It’s free, non-COVID restricted ice. I could just go find a pond and go skate by myself or with friends.’”
Another resolution idea for kids is becoming dedicated to being a better teammate, especially during the unique situation everyone is facing.
“The Zoom calls or the reaching out to the kids that you don’t get to see as much — and those kids that probably need the interaction,” Bialas said. “We’re a relatively busy household, so quarantine is still pretty active. But there’s others that might be an only child and maybe they don’t have that same interaction.”
As for what age a player should be before making resolutions an annual commitment, Bialas suggests teenage years are a good starting point.
“If you drew that watermark at 12U and higher, it should be part of what they do,” Bialas said. “Those kids should already have what they normally do as offseason goals. It’s a weird season, but let’s treat it like an offseason goal. Go ahead and give yourself something that you can take care of over the holidays, set those goals/resolutions now.”
A good way to try to ensure all resolutions are followed through by a player is to write them down for documentation. That could be the inspiration and motivation that a player needs to accomplish a goal.
“If you don’t document it, it’s never really real,” Bialas said. “I don’t care if it’s hockey or life, writing something down makes it real. Then it kind of gives you that internal accountability, like, ‘Gosh darn it, I’ve got to go do this.’ In addition to that, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
“So, I think sticking to two or three [resolutions] is ideal, because if you get too overzealous, it will probably be just inherently discouraging because you won’t get to all of them.”
Once resolutions are set and revealed by a player, letting their coach or parents know is a sound idea. Bialas said players should learn to be held accountable.
“The sooner the person can create internal accountability for goal achievement without having somebody to be the pusher, I think the better,” Bialas said. “I think it’s a real unique time because of the universal situation. It’s a unique time for all of these players to learn how to be their own best advocate and critic at the same time.”
It shouldn’t stop at setting resolutions and trying to achieve them, there needs to be regular interaction with the goal.
“It needs to be something where you’re interacting with the goal regularly enough where there’s time for input or influence on it,” Bialas said. “If your goal is you want to get a little bit faster — I’m going to go run in the backyard; I want to go this distance in 12 seconds — then tracking it every day is probably not going to help you. I think even every week might be too much. But once a month to say, OK, if I did it 10 times, did I get better in that month? I’d say regular interaction with the goal, but make sure you’re interacting with it with reasonable expectations of improvement.”
As for coach resolutions, Bialas suggests each one finds unique ways to continue communicating and leading.
“If anything, those kids probably need that leadership and that communication more now than ever. More so than when they get to see you three or four times a week,” Bialas said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.