#1 Respect The Competition
Don’t just respect the competition for their sake. Do it for your own benefit, because each time you treat your opponent with respect it strengthens your competitive spirit. Each time you treat your opponent with disrespect it weakens it. All poor sportsmanship advertises the fear you feel inside. It is not a sign of strength but a sign of weakness. Do you really want to present yourself to the hockey world as someone who is afraid of the sport he or she is trying to love?
#2 No Excuses
Work hard in practice and give your best effort and you won’t need any excuses. You will have traded in your excuses for a heart-felt responsibility that will help you both on and off the ice. A big part of athletic maturity is realizing you can’t get everything you want when you want it. There is nothing to be gained by telling people why you didn’t play better on a given day. You are better off learning what you can from your disappointment and trying to do better the next time you take the ice.
#3 Be A Good Teammate
In order to be a good teammate, you can’t just think about what you want. You also have to think about what the team needs. A team is like a family. Everyone needs to work together. Everyone needs to make sacrifices. Everyone needs to value each other. The best way to judge the character of a team is by the way it treats its weakest player. Team chemistry is not a popularity contest. You can’t be a leader on your team unless you’re willing to care about all of your teammates.
#4 Learn From Losses
It will be easier for you to be a good sport throughout the season if you feel there are lessons that can be learned from defeat. This doesn’t mean that you have to like losing. It just means that you need to be humble enough to accept that you don’t always deserve to win.
The team that plays better on a given day deserves to be victorious. There is no shame in losing, no shame in learning from a loss. While winning is definitely more fun than losing, that doesn’t mean it will make you a better athlete. If you don’t ever feel above defeat, then you will never feel beneath victory.
#5 Give The Ref A Break
Complaining about the referee will never make you a better hockey player, no matter how badly your game might have been officiated. Referees make mistakes just as players make mistakes. If you can learn to forgive the ref when he makes a mistake, it might even help you to forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Often it is helpful to think of officiating in the same way as you think of the weather. There is no point getting angry at rain or wind. You are better off just putting on a jacket and trying to make the best of things.
#6 Thank Your Parents
It is a great privilege to be able to play hockey. You should thank your parents for this opportunity. There are many kids your age whose families can’t afford the costs involved in playing on a hockey team. There are many parents who aren’t willing (or don’t have jobs that allow them) to wake up early and drive their children to rinks across town. This doesn’t mean that you owe it to your parents to become a hockey star. It just means that you need to appreciate the privilege that’s been given to you and let your parents know from time to time that you don’t take it all for granted
#7 Control Your Temper
You won’t be able to help your team from the penalty box, so you owe it to your teammates to control your temper and keep your head in the game. It is a myth that hating your opponent will make you a tougher competitor. Mental toughness isn’t about anger; it is about confidence and concentration. The best way to retaliate against a team that is playing “dirty” is to keep your composure and play better hockey than they do.
#8 Listen To Your Coaches
The only way to keep improving as a hockey player is if you become a student of the game and value all of your coaches as teachers. There is something you can learn from every coach that will make you a better hockey player. The best coaches aren’t always associated with the most prestigious clubs, just as the best teachers aren’t always associated with the most prestigious universities. Great coaches come in all sorts of shapes and disguises, which means that you need to be ready to receive hockey wisdom every time you lace up your skates and take the ice.
#9 Be Humble
You should never feel the need to tell people what a great hockey player you are. Your game should speak for itself. The problem with feeling above one player is that you set yourself up to feel beneath another. Arrogance always proves itself to be an athlete’s worst quicksand. You don’t get better by trying to impress others with your talent. Instead, you get better by quietly trying to develop your talent. If you are blessed with talent, you should feel grateful—the best spirit for receiving any gift.
#10 Honor the Game
You cannot love the game of hockey without honoring it. What does it mean to honor something? It means you treat it with care and respect. It means you give of yourself and try to make it better. There are a lot of things you can do even as a Junior player to make hockey better in your community. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make something better. You just need to have a big athletic heart, and then take that big athletic heart of yours to practices and games and let everyone know how much you appreciate them being a part of your hockey life. It usually doesn’t take much effort to let people know you appreciate them. Sometimes you can just smile or say, “Thank you.” Sometime you can just reach out your hand and say, “Nice game.”