The Winning Junior Hockey Player’s Mindset

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John Wooden Quotes

“As beneficial as enthusiasm is, it must be dispatched in moderation. Extreme highs do not work. In fact, too much emotion can be counterproductive. Highs lead to lows, and such swings of intensity result in instability.

“I wanted my players on an even keel so that their thinking wasn’t adversely affected by emotion. Quiet enthusiasm gets results. It exudes confidence and rubs off in wonderful ways.”—John Wooden


Junior hockey seasons are likely longer than what you’ll be used to playing.

At the highest levels, you’ll be playing over 100 games per year if your team goes the distance, and even at the lowest levels the shortest season would be around 50 games.

Those are just the actual games! Don’t forget travel days, practices and battling through the inevitable bumps, bruises (and torn groins and separated shoulders come playoffs).

It’s a ******* grind!

You can train all you want in the off-season, and rest all you can during the season, but ultimately it’s your mental game that will carry you through.

To be able to bring your best night after night, you need to stay balanced. You can’t let one great game enable you to take the next game off. You certainly can’t let one bad game break you either.

High-level junior hockey prepares players for playing pro. Pros don’t make excuses—they have to “come to play” every night.

To play like a pro, you need to always keep an even keel when playing. This means you can celebrate your victory in the room, but when you leave the rink your only focus is on the next game… And in junior, you may be playing that next game the following afternoon.

At the same time, if you have an off-night, do not hang your head. Don’t be “all loosey-goosey,” as one of my coaches was fond of warning us, but you have to move on.

Sometimes coaches will light up the team after a loss to set a tone, to re-enforce that losing isn’t acceptable, to make the mood unbearable. (Enduring a silent bus ride for eight hours after a loss sucks!) However, that is just to signal the importance of not taking losing lightly. Don’t wallow in the loss; prepare for the next game.

After a win, take the slack you get, enjoy the ride home, and be prepared for a hard practice the next day. The reward for winning is in the win itself. The coach make sure you stay down to earth.

But those skates can never break you if you always have an even keel mindset. Win or lose, you always approach the next game the same.

by Nick Olynyk (47 Posts)

Nick Olynyk is a junior hockey expert and author of the Junior Hockey Truth, a book series for parents of bantam and midget hockey players approaching junior hockey. To check out his book for bantam and midget hockey parents, go to: www.juniorhockeybook.com

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