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True Toughness

Written by: Alex Barron (@althiusmindbody)

As a current mindset sports performance and coach, growth is the name of the game for any athlete. “How can I become better, fast, stronger, shoot harder, score more goals, etc.?”  Hockey players in particular have an unparalleled addiction to growth and achievement, often leaving them with an arsenal of tools allowing them to make a seamless transition into life after hockey.

 During a player’s relatively short playing career, it is near impossible to think about any thing other than hockey. From the time we were kids, this sport has dictated our entire life! The way we talk, walk, dress, our lingo, the chirps, our mannerism, you name it; they are all tied into this hard hitting, flow obsessed culture.

 For this sport, we happily make non-traditional sacrifices, for example: a normal high school life, opting instead to travel to the coldest frozen crevices in North America in order to chase a dream of one day making it to the next level. For some that dream may come true, playing juniors, a college scholarship, an NHL contract, maybe even a Stanley cup. For many of us that dream might have passed but it will never fade!

 “Ask any retired player, pro or not, what they miss most about the game. 99% of the time the answer will be the locker, the boys (or girls)…”

 With such a deep-rooted love for this sport, we often forget that hockey is something we do, not who we are. It is easy to become deeply integrated within this hockey culture. Reserved, soft spoken, polite, hockey players, in my book, are undoubtedly some of the most welcoming athletes. The more we dive into this culture, the more we begin to abide by the unwritten rules and laws that govern this sport. We are known for being the toughest sport in the world! Telling a hockey player that hockey isn’t the toughest sport in the world, is like a 4th line grinder chirping the best player in the league, it wouldn’t make sense to any of us.

 Stepping out of that hockey player mindset in our every day lives can be challenging. We carry our sport as if it were a badge of honor and have to openly admit we enjoy hearing people talk about how tough and exciting hockey is. We often become so wrapped in that identity that when it comes time to unlace the skates and step back into the real world, we forget to let go of the tough hockey player mentality.

 “Tough people don’t show emotion, let alone talk about it”

 Yes, hockey is a tough sport, we are tough for playing hockey, but when we are not playing hockey let’s not forget that we are human. Let’s not forget that playing hockey doesn’t make us immune to the wear and tear of every day life. Life can be challenging and sometimes those challenges turn into a mental and emotional war within ourselves.

True toughness lies within the ability to be brutally honest with yourself while finding a way to work through the discomfort in life.  It is the ability to encourage each other to get better not only on the ice but off the ice as well!

 20 years of playing hockey and I can now openly admit that there were times I was struggling and should have asked for help. I can now openly admit I have played, currently play with, and will continue to play with players that are going through incredibly tough times and could use help.

 We all started playing hockey because it was fun and we loved the game! That love of the game made us feel something inside that nothing else on this planet could.

 For many of us, that love of the game has led us to travel the world, meet our best friend, earn a college education, give us invaluable experience, and for many, it brought family. Allow hockey to be what it has been and always will be, a beautiful relationship between you and your love of the game. If you find yourself struggling off the ice at any point specifically with your mental and emotional health, do not be intimidated to ask for help. If you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for the love of the game and the future generations looking up to.

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