"I'd always write them down and they'd disappear for a year and all of a sudden pop up again, and you'd get re-motivated," Webb told NHL.com.
MAKING OF A ROYAL BLOGS
"What was going to make them consistently want to perform at a high level even when dealing with the adversity of climbing the ladder to get to the higher ranks?" Webb asked himself. "How do I keep the motivation in front of these kids and do it on a consistent basis?"
His persistence paid off as two years ago, Webb, who spent eight seasons in the NHL with the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, developed the "Y Athlete" website (www.Yathlete.com).
"We help them create their own carrot and they turn around and become their own stick," Webb said. "Basically, they're responsible for the results, and in the process, we coaches don't have to urge them on every time they return to the bench. They have their own motivation, own desires, and are fully accountable for the results."
Following each game or practice, Webb and LaFontaine will ask players to rate themselves via an easily accessible mobile application. The topics change regularly. For instance, one day Webb might ask the players to rate on a scale of 1-10 their execution on the power play, the penalty kill, following the game plan or their performance in the defensive zone.
"I wanted the kids to get deep enough into it and understand the work and commitment that's involved in this process," Webb said. "I needed to find a way to make this exciting, fun, interactive and powerful. The 'Y Athlete' is a place where you can store your ultimate goals, the ones that make you all bubbly inside. The goals that make you want to go out for a run right now … a goal that, when accomplished, provides a great sense of pride."
"We help them create their own carrot and they turn around and become their own stick. Basically, they're responsible for the results, and in the process, we coaches don't have to urge them on every time they return to the bench. They have their own motivation, own desires, and are fully accountable for the results." -- Steve Webb
It takes players approximately 3-5 minutes to reflect on their performance and complete the "Y Athlete" tool following games or practices.
"We always stress short-term goals because we know we have a few years here in between possibly becoming a pro athlete," Webb said. "So the players also set up short-term goals and determine the actions they're willing to take today in order to make sure they don't waste another day in preparing for the future."
Webb admits it was during his time working in player development with the Islanders that he considered building something as impactful as the "Y Athlete" website.
"Stevie came up with the idea and the website and has done a fantastic job with it," LaFontaine said. "We know what the kids are thinking and how they view themselves now; it's a great tool for other coaches and other players. Stevie plays a big role for these kids."
For Webb, it's fulfilling to be able to give back to aspiring hockey players in a way that opened doors for him as a professional athlete.
"When I reflect on when I was in minor hockey as a 14- and 15-year-old, I remember having NHL guys helping out the team," Webb said. "It was actually Doug Gibson who, over time, was the one who connected me with assistant general manager Gordie Clark to get my tryout with the Islanders. And it all goes back to sitting on the bench as a 14-year-old, not playing that much, but here I am. Gibson and Bill Plager assisted me along the way and provided advice."
Webb also mentioned another former player, Paul Crowley, who never reached the NHL but spent seven seasons in the American Hockey League with Hershey, Binghamton and Rochester. Crowley, a 10th-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1975, dedicated many mornings in the summer to assist then-youngsters Cory Stillman, Mike Fisher and Webb.
"All these former players and coaches were amazing influences who assisted me when I needed assistance and dedicated their time," Webb said. "In return, that has made me feel that this is what I want to do. I love to see guys achieve their goals in life, move on and have successful careers."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale