When you touch the ice, you have a choice
Earn your ice is an expression we use, reminding players every shift matters.
Every game and every practice matters. Every second of ice time is precious–Don’t waste it! Earn your ice.
We are coaches, but not magicians. We can work on skills. We can adapt our strategy. We can help you improve technique. What we can’t do is improve a player’s effort. Effort is completely in control of the player. Effort is a choice. Effort is essential in earning your ice. But what is effort?
Effort is an essential component in Earning your ice
Effort is hustle, hard work, and dedication. Effort is extra time in the weight room. Effort is taking extra shots. It is staying after practice to work on face-offs. Skating hard to the goal line, not coasting from the dots. Playing to the whistle, not pulling-up early. Goalies, you aren’t exempt. Did you make every effort to get to that last shot at the end of practice? For each and every player, max effort is earning your ice.
Your ice isn’t earned by your name, your seniority, or which fancy stick tricks you’ve mastered.
How this works in the Real Rink
We had a player in our program, who needed help connecting the dots. When we gave him a practice with the big squad, there was no limit to his effort and hard work. He earned his ice. Watching him at his next game, there was something missing. He didn’t have that same fire in his belly. He didn’t have the same edge. He wasn’t earning his ice, and he didn’t realize it.
We talked to our player. We told him what we saw: the difference between the player we saw in varsity practice, and the player we saw in a junior varsity game. It was like two different players entirely. But, and here is the tricky part, it wasn’t obvious.
He played strong, but we saw him play so much stronger. It wasn’t readily apparent. It was subtle. You wouldn’t have watched his game and said “no effort.” To the contrary, he had solid hits in the game, shots on goal, excellent passing, and was hard on the back-check. His game was solid. But it wasn’t exemplary. He was one of the strongest players on the team, but he didn’t dominate.
We saw there was more in the tank. In our conversation, we realized our player didn’t see it. Neither did we, until we watched him play after practicing with varsity. He needed help–a nudge–to find that fifth gear!
Coachability equals success
This player had more. We saw that. After we talked to him, he knew it. He accepted what we told him. He took it to heart. If this player was not coachable, the conversation would have been in vein. It would have fallen on deaf ears. But this player was coachable.
He began digging deeper. He started playing every shift, like it was his last. He was beginning to leave everything on the ice. (Another one of our mantras). The shots he had been taking, were becoming points. His line was becoming more productive, both in goals and in penalties drawn. (No, we’re not talking about flopping or diving) He was earning his ice.
In the very next game, he anticipated a pass to the point. He tipped the pass into the neutral zone, then out-legged–out-worked–2 defenders for a shot on goal. With two players on his back, he got a shot off and followed his own rebound to the net. He dove for the loose puck. He earned his ice.
Players should ask
Players should ask themselves, Did I earn my ice? Every game, every period, every shift. But games aren’t enough, practices too–every practice, every drill. Did I earn my ice?
Earning your ice comes from within. Effort can be encouraged, but can’t be coached. Each player makes a choice. The player is the only one who controls it–not coaches or parents or teammates–and the only one who can truly answer the question. Did I earn my ice?
Coaches should invest
Coaches, make the investment in your feeder teams. Watching a game, or bolstering your practice lineup, can make a difference in a player. It did with our player. If you make a difference in the players on your feeder teams, you are making a longer term investment in your overall program. A little time spent early, will pay-off exponentially in the long run.
What are your thoughts?
Coaches: What techniques do you use, to help players realize their utmost potential? Do you use mantras (Leave everything on the ice) or rallying cries (Earn your ice)? What works? What doesn’t? If you don’t have something in place already, try this. It works well for us, and it may be helpful to you. Feel free to make it your own.
Players: Do you ask yourself, Did I earn my ice, or something similar? Do you take a few minutes after games and practices, and remember what you did well and what needs improvement? If this is new to you, start doing it. If you are honest with your answers, your game will immediately start to improve.
Goalies: Did you work for every puck? What techniques work for you to improve your game? We have found personal review to be particularly effective with goaltenders. Do you find it useful? Why or why not? If you don’t take a look at your performance–if you don’t evaluate–you are cheating yourself.