COVID-19 may have canceled the games but nothing can cancel your success!
As is the case across so many disciplines, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended schedules and led to cancelation of long-anticipated events. This news left many athletes and coaches heartbroken at the missed opportunities, even among those who acknowledge that this course of action was for the greater good.
As someone who works in hockey, I am not immune to this feeling. I had athletes already participating in or gearing up for playoffs and championships, all of which was canceled last Thursday. Personally, instead of charging through four more weeks of high-intensity sporting action, I am sitting at home, socially-distancing, and my starting end-of-season debriefs early.
All of that seems rather morose and there's enough bad news out in the world right now. So instead, I decided to highlight some of the positives that came from this season that COVID-19 cannot negate. Success does not only come in the form of medals and trophies; success comes in the form of improvement and triumph over adversity. A championship is nice but not required to recognize that type of success. So, instead of focusing on the big highlights, like provincial championships or national and international events, I wanted to focus on the achievements of process. The little things that we don't normally trumpet as a success but that actually make the difference for an athlete trying to achieve their goals.
Every day, I wake up and quietly express my gratitude for my life. One of the things I always express gratitude for is the remarkable athletes who have allowed me to be a part of their lives. So this season I am incredibly proud to have worked with:
multiple young athletes who prioritized their mental health and made smart, mature decisions about their own life.
an athlete who made remarkable physical strides and stuck with the program all year, despite not seeing immediate on-ice results.
an athlete who returned full-time to the sport after being forced to take time off because of factors beyond their control.
an athlete who continued to grow and mature away from the rink and show that maturity in their on-ice performance.
an athlete who didn't make the improvements they wanted to but took difficult feedback with maturity and grace and pledged to keep improving.
an athlete who balanced multiple sports to make time for and improve their skills with my team.
several new athletes who joined our team and were welcomed warmly by our existing team members.
an athlete who managed challenging situations away from the rink and came in with a competitive mindset and commitment to continuous improvement.
an athlete who brought their illustrious career to an end on their own terms.
an athlete who continued to improve after missing the last year with an injury.
an athlete who worked tirelessly through the last two months of the season and pushed themselves to make the cut for a Provincial Championship, which they did.
multiple athletes who set goals for themselves and committed to excellence both in the classroom and on the ice.
multiple athletes who continued to balance being counted on by their families at home as well as their teammates on the ice.
multiple athletes who pushed themselves out of their comfort zones at my request and performed at a high level despite their anxieties.
Thinking back on these accomplishments of last season definitely brightened my mood so I decided to look internally as well. I thought about the things that I accomplished in my own coaching career over the last twelve months of which I can be proud. While I want success for my athletes, I never want to hang my hat on "an athlete who reached [X] level or competed in [Y] event". I want to end every season and every week knowing that I brought my best for my athletes. As someone who will always be his own strongest critic, I think this is particularly important. So this season I am proud of myself for:
committing to and challenging myself on my own continuing education and professional development.
devising new methods for training technical/tactical skills and testing/implementing them with athletes in different age groups and levels of experience.
bringing in new resources for our high performance group and targeting improvement in tactical training opportunities.
running three centralized training camps for different sections of our high performance group.
investing more resources into our "sport for life" (pre- or non-high performance) athletes locally, with the goal of keeping more female athletes involved in the sport for the long term.
There's nothing unnatural in being upset about a season cut short. We set our goals and we challenge ourselves, working towards those final opportunities at the end of the season; the opportunities to show proof of our success. If the season was going well, we feel robbed of what feels like a surefire strong finish. If it was going poorly, we rue the loss of that final opportunity to turn it around and end on a high note. Despite this, it is important to remember that winning in sport is not merely about triumphing over the competition. Eventually, those wins just become names and dates in a record book or an internet archive. The real beauty of sport is struggling, improving, and triumphing over your previous accomplishments. So, if you accomplished something this season, whatever that might have been: hold onto that, have pride in yourself, and come back stronger next season!