With the regular season just underway, players from all levels, from the NHL right down to children who are six years old, are starting their regular seasons. Coaches, parents and media will all be evaluating the performance of these respective teams. Teams will be put under the microscope and many goaltenders will be shouldering the blame for their teams’ early losses. Today’s game is so much about losing and winning that even young kids will be judging their performance on any given day on if their team loses or wins. I would like to take this moment to ask all of you to consider the following: There’s No Such Thing as Losing, Only Learning.
I could only imagine what it would have been like to have been around when the great game of hockey was born as I have a hard time believing that hockey was designed around the concept of winning or losing. In fact I can almost guarantee that the game of hockey was designed to provide the people with a leisure activity where they could get together with friends and complete an activity that challenged their physical fitness.
Yet today’s game has been separated from these ideals and now we are in a state where I believe that too much pressure is put on winning and losing at every level. Don’t believe me? Look at Carey Price’s first preseason game. He was being ridiculed for performing poorly and Price’s response was along the lines of relax it’s not like the Stanley Cup is going to be won off of one preseason game. Media and dollar signs have transformed the game of hockey into a sport which the value of winning is being in proportionately valued at ALL levels.
I have had numerous conversations with six year old goaltenders who have told me that they have had a bad game because as a team they lost. Yet when we dive deeper into how they themselves played this is not always the case. Our youth feel that if they are not winning they are losers and this breaks my heart. I can only imagine the impact that I would have had on my daughter if after the first time she attempted to crawl I ridiculed her and painted her as a loser. She may have given up and never learnt how to crawl. Yet in sport we as a society believe that it is alright to drive this message into our youth. This adds increased pressure and takes the fun out of the game yet that this is not the worst product of a win or you’re a loser approach to the game of hockey. When our youth feel like losers they fail to understand that even when they are losing there is something that they can learn from a loss that will help them to become a better player. Instead they focus solely on the fact that they lost the game and only feel the pressure that they must perform better in their next game.
I would like to challenge everyone from coaches, parents and goaltenders themselves to begin their season with a different approach. Instead of looking at the game as a win or loss look at what your goaltender can learn from the game.What did the goaltender do well? What should the goaltender work on to get better? Write down three items for both questions. Maybe the goaltender had really strong angles yet failed to keep visually attached to the puck in traffic. This is a great lesson for the goaltender to work on; staying attached to the puck right to the end of the drill in their next practice. If after every game we can take a lesson out of the game of what we need to do next time to be better we will be setting ourselves up for success and we will be removing the pressure of winning. The truth is that for every goaltender the first game of the year is not life or death just as Price noted. Instead, goaltenders need to continue on the process of continually getting stronger every dayif they want to experience success in their game.Remember: The moment we stop working on our game is the minute that another goaltender is getting stronger!

Shaun Smith is the founder of Absolute Mental Training. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email him at