When I was 13 years old, I had an opportunity to try out for a high-level local hockey team. I had just finished a very successful first year of travel hockey where I lead the team in assists and was second in goals for a team that was runner-up in the state tournament. I should have made that team and advanced my development, practicing with and playing against better players. But I didn’t make the team because I never gave myself the chance. After the first day of tryouts I decided to return to my home rink team and dominate against weaker players – and slow my development.
Three years later I was faced with the possibility that my high school team would no longer have enough players for a team. There was no easy solution.
Having the goal of playing hockey after high school, I needed to make a team that would push me to new levels and provide me with opportunities to show scouts my creativity and ability to facilitate offense. I decided to try out for our local AAA team. I am a fast player, but my high school season did nothing to prepare me for the speed and puck movement of the AAA players. I worked hard just to keep up. With each drill I got a little quicker, a little better at anticipating the play, and gained confidence that I not only could keep up, but I could carry the puck and make plays. I ended the week by making the spring team. While I didn’t make the team for the following AAA season, during the spring, I continued to develop my skating, my speed and playmaking. I also developed my confidence that I could compete at a high level – I just have to continue to risk the disappointment of not making a team to put myself in position to play with and against the best and push my own development.
This past fall, I made a team of U16 select high school players. I got to play with a high speed, high skill group of players. I came in an unknown player and slowly worked my way to the first line powerplay and penalty kill. I ended the fall season with over 20 points on a team that finished state runner-up.
Each of these experiences are little steps toward a 3-5-year goal of playing hockey for a Division 1 school that can challenge me at a high level academically and can appreciate my creativity and ability to facilitate the offense. There are likely to be disappointments along the way, but I understand that it is better to challenge myself and be disappointed than to regret never challenging myself. I also understand that there are opportunities to improve even through disappointments – if you don’t let the disappointments define you.