There is a myth that sports teach life lessons. That is only true if the lesson is pointed out and highlighted.
My son Davis was playing for Team Saskatchewan this past week at the Canadian Under 17 Ball Hockey Championships in Vernon, British Columbia and in his last game a lesson in focus, discipline and emotion was unveiled.
I know what you're thinking.
Ball Hockey? Yes it has become a big summer sport in Canada. It’s hockey but played on a rink without ice, kids in shorts and running shoes. It is supposed to be no contact but we all know that hockey is physical. The sport has become so popular in Canada that it is causing diminishing numbers in youth baseball enrollment.
At Nationals my son’s team was overmatched. The other teams were bigger, stronger and more skilled. Team Saskatchewan competed hard but did not have the horses.
Due to quirky scheduling Team Saskatchewan made it to the Bronze Medal game and played a team that had already beat them twice in the tournament. For the better part of the game my son’s team played their best.
They competed, ran down their opponent, battled for position, played smart, and stayed disciplined in system and behavior. They were leading 1-0, until.
As their opponent was getting more desperate for the tying goal they crowded the goalie. The other team would go hard and maybe brush the goalie or poke at his glove after the save and whistle.
It is a play we see all the time in hockey and for some inexplicable reason we all think teams should take umbrage and defend their goalie at all costs.
I think it is so inconsequential. The goalie is so protected by his equipment. Unfortunately, at all levels of hockey, sticks here and there seems to send everybody on the ice off the deep end.
Well my son’s team was no exception. A shot, whistle, poke at the gloves and a punch in the back and Team Saskatchewan is shorthanded. There is the obligatory arguing and complaining to the ref, the goalie also got involved and you could see the focus starting to wane.
In no time the opponent scores on the power play and ties the game up. The goalie continues to complain to the ref, as do some of the players. Quickly it is 2-1 and the focus and discipline is leaking rapidly away from the team. Team Saskatchewan ends up losing the game.
Now I try very hard not to coach my kids after the game. I usually tell them “great effort, you played hard”, and give them a pat on the back. Usually they will ask what I liked about their game and what they need to do better. In this case I couldn’t stop myself.
As we were heading to the car I asked Davis. “Would you like to know today’s life lesson?”
Knowing he had little to no choice and was going to hear it anyway he rather unconvincingly said, “sure Dad.”
When you or your team is disciplined, laser focused and driven you can achieve great things. You can exceed everybody’s expectations even your own. When a team or person is singularly focused and disciplined working to the ultimate goal they are hard if not impossible to stop.
BUT, if you succumb to the emotion, if you allow that emotion to envelop you and use it negatively, in undisciplined selfish acts then that focus and drive will leave you quicker than you can say Jack Robinson and it is rare to ever get it back especially in the heat of competition.
It is easy to release yourself to the emotion, to lash out at someone for a perceived slight or wrong. It’s hard to turn the other cheek and keep driving forward. It is easy to point to someone else for your problems (like the refs) instead of screwing your head on straight and getting out of your own problems.
Stay focused, stay disciplined keep driving forward. Take it upon yourself to do the right things, the hard things, as many times as it takes and you will be successful in sports and in life.
Here endeth the lesson.