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The most dangerous four-letter word in girls' hockey

12/14/2016, 8:30am CST
By Board

I’m already seeing a disturbing pattern emerge with many of the girls’ hockey players I am working with this season – and the regular season has just started. Whether during practices, games or off-ice training, every single day I hear players saying the most dangerous four-letter word in girls hockey – “can’t.”

“I can’t crossover that way”.

“I can’t shoot a backhand”.

“I can’t do push-ups”.

To be honest, “can’t” is one of the most frustrating words to a coach. It’s not that the players can’t do the skills at all; they just can’t do them as well as they would like to be able to quite yet. As soon as a player uses the word “can’t,” they are giving themselves permission to underachieve. After all, if they already know they can’t do it, why even try? 

I always ask my players to think back to when they first starting playing hockey. Back then, they really couldn’t do much of anything. But they didn’t put themselves down constantly by saying that they couldn’t do anything. They kept trying to skate, stop and shoot until they could do it.  

But now that they have been playing for a while, they expect much more from themselves and get frustrated that they aren’t as good as they would like to be and often get stuck in the negative state of mind. 

Lack of confidence is by far the biggest problem among girls’ hockey players. And I simply won’t allow players to chip away at their confidence by using negative language.  Ideally, they wouldn’t use the word “can’t” at all. But I know, having been a young female hockey player who held myself to a very high standard, that the journey towards positive thinking can be a long one.   

That’s why I start off small with my players. Every time I hear them use the word “can’t,” I make them to add a very powerful word to the end of the sentence – “yet.”

I can’t do push-ups … YET.

I can’t shoot a backhand … YET.

I can’t do crossovers that way … YET.

It’s a small step in the right direction, but it will make a huge difference in the long run. After all, confidence and self-esteem aren’t built in a day. 

If you are a girls’ hockey coach or parent, please try this strategy out with your players.  Remember, every little bit of positivity helps.  

Tag(s): Tip of the Month