Tag: Pitching Against Myself

Guest Post – Tips For Smaller Hockey Players

Tips For Smaller Hockey Players

Just 5-foot-6, Theo Fleury was an eighth-round draft pick who would go on to register 1,088 points in a 15-year career that wrapped up in 2003.

At 5-7, Henri “Pocket Rocket” Richard — the younger and shorter brother of Maurice “Rocket” Richard — became the only player in NHL history to play on 11 Stanley Cup winners.

They called Marcel Dionne “Little Beaver” because he stood all of 5-8, but that didn’t stop the longtime Kings star from scoring 731 goals, fifth in NHL history.

Lest you think that sort of thing is ancient history, think again. For all the behemoths – 6-9 Zdeno Chara and 260-pound Dustin Byfuglien leap to mind — there is still plenty of room in the NHL for players who check in at less than the league average of 6-1, 201.

Players such as Brad Marchand (5-9, 181), Johnny Gaudreau (5-9, 157), Cam Atkinson (5-8, 179) and Alex DeBrincat (5-7, 165) have all found NHL success — and there are lessons any undersized player can take from those players and others to prove that size doesn’t always matter.

Roll With It

You’re short. Everybody knows it. Don’t go all Napoleonic about it. At least, that was Gaudreau’s take in a 2016 piece for the Players’ Tribune:

“You’re always going to have people on you about your size, so do what you can to be in on the joke,” Gaudreau said. “Last All-Star weekend, Ryan Johansen brought out a little kid during the penalty shootout and scored a goal with him. So as a gag, Jakub Voracek came up to me and asked if he could use me as a prop for his shot. I thought it was hilarious.”

A couple of other tips from Johnny Hockey:

• “Next piece of advice, keep your head up. Always. You’re not built to take heavy shots, so you have to be twice as careful out there.”
• “Try that move out, look silly, and get better. As long as you’re smaller, your best skill needs to be your effort.”

Go Big or Go Home

In everything you do on the ice, demonstrate size — of your heart, your effort, your willingness to learn. These keys will open doors typically closed to smaller players.

Maximize your gifts: You can’t make yourself taller, but you can work on getting faster, stronger and more explosive. That means time in the weight room as well as on the ice.

Emphasize those gifts: If you’re the fastest player on the ice, build your game around it. If you’re a great passer, focus on setting up your teammates. Get better at the things at which you’re already good.

Play with confidence: Believe in yourself, play to your strengths, know that your size can lend you an elusiveness that big players are not granted.

Accept contact: It’s going to happen anyway. Like Gaudreau said, keep your head up. Keep your feet moving and your center of gravity low — victories in NFL line play typically go to players with the best positioning and leverage, not the most strength.

See and sense the game: Decision-making skills can be honed, hockey IQ (or “ice sense”) can be developed. Pickup games help, tough practices help, small-area games where you stay on the ice longer and you’re more concerned about finding the open man than dragging your carcass up and down the ice helps. So does carefully watching the smartest players in the game.

If You Don’t Believe, No One Will

Mostly, the key to your success is just don’t quit.

Ultimately, it comes down to belief in your ability. One without the other isn’t enough. Or, as Gaudreau said, “It doesn’t matter where you’re playing or if you’re getting cut from teams. If you have the talent, the right person will find you.”

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.

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Quite often I talk too much

Last week I wrote about the first huge takeaway I had at a recent level 1 certification class put on by U.S. Lacrosse, Are you a palms-down coach or a palms-up coach? 

The second principle that really hit home was the concept of Guided Discovery.

Quite simply, it is the concept of letting those you coach learn through their mistakes. Contrast that with the old-school approach of telling them in excruciating detail exactly how to do something.

Picture yourself teaching a new skill, I’ll use picking up a groundball in lacrosse as an example:

Old way:

  • You spend 10 minutes explaining the proper way to pick up a groundball, you demonstrate it, and you tell them all the reasons it’s important to do it ‘your way’ and the bad things that can happen if they don’t do all the things you’ve shown them. Then you let them try it and you walk around correcting mistakes.

Guided Discovery:

  • You start by playing ‘hungry-hungry-hippo’ with lacrosse balls by splitting the group into 2 teams, throwing a bunch of balls on the ground, and tell them it’s a race to see who can pick up the most balls and put them back on their side.
  • After a couple of rounds of this, you ask the group what seemed to work well when picking up the balls, and what seemed to not work so well. Maybe they say ‘it works better to use 2 hands instead of 1, and it works better when I bend lower and put both hands really close to the ground.’
  • You acknowledge their ideas and suggest trying another round or two using some of those concepts.
  • And you keep adding constraints as their skill level gets higher

Which method do you think will get more buy-in and understanding from the athletes?

This concept reminded me of a great question coaches can ask, as written about by Michael Bungay Stanier in his book The Coaching Habit – Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way you Coach Forever:

The AWE Question – ‘And What Else?’

When talking with the players on our teams, instead of continually offering solutions, instead ask them ‘And what else?’ or ‘Tell me more.’ Then listen and seek to deeply understand.

I often fall into the trap of thinking that if I explain something clearly, people will naturally understand. But that’s not how most people learn. People learn by doing. Failing. Figuring it out on their own. Discovering. Solving. 

My job as a coach is to teach these young men and women. And if people learn by discovering solutions vs. being told them, that’s what I need to do. Talk less and listen more.


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Are you a palms-down or palms-up coach?

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”  – Jim Valvano

I recently had the opportunity to attend a level 1 certification class put on by U.S. Lacrosse. Besides the myriad of great drills I learned, there were two overarching principles that were sprinkled throughout the training that really hit home for me. I’ll share the first today, and next week I’ll share the second.

The first principle that really caused me pause was the question:

Are you a palms-down coach or a palms-up coach?



I wasn’t sure what they meant by this at first, but it’s really easy to picture when you think of game and practice scenarios:

When a player makes a mistake, or a referee makes a call you don’t agree with – what is your reaction? Think about your body language.

  • Do you hold your hands up in the air with palms-up and visibly show your frustration?


  • Do you hold your hands down with palms-down and say ‘It’s OK’?

Think about how different these approaches makes the person (athlete or referee) feel on the other end. A palms-up response is really saying ‘I can’t believe you could make that mistake. You are not a good athlete/referee. I don’t believe in you.’

Compare that to the palms-down response. This approach tells the person ‘You might have made a mistake, that’s OK we all make mistakes all the time. It doesn’t mean you are a bad athlete/referee. We can discuss how to do it better next time. I believe in you.’

It really comes down to your purpose in coaching. If you are trying to prove your worth via wins and losses, you will be a palms-up coach because you think someone else’s mistake is making you look bad. But if you are trying to lead a group of young men and/or women to be the best they can be, and help teach them how to be better and pour into them, you will be a palms-down coach because it is all about them not you.

Let’s all commit to being a great palms-down coach!

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It’s time for me to stop talking and start doing

‘We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’ – Romans 5:3-4

You know someone’s message is effective – when it doesn’t just make you think, but it causes you to ACT.

This week’s podcast with Riley Tincher, did just that for me.

Riley opened his heart about the power coaches had in his life. In saving his life to be specific.

During the podcast, I shared with him about 2 conversations I had recently with parents of kids struggling to find their identities in high school. I had talked with their moms about some suggestions. But I had not taken the time to talk with these boys individually.

Typically when I finish a podcast interview, I am a bit spent and take some downtime to get a snack and relax for a bit and think through what was just discussed.

But after my conversation with Riley, literally from the second I hit the button to end our Skype call, I felt encouraged to take immediate action on my calling to be a coach. To quit talking about being a coach who cared, and instead to take action showing my love for these boys.

So before I did anything else, I immediately texted both boys and set up one-on-one meetings with them. To pour love and wisdom and encouragement into them, and as Riley so passionately shares in his message, to let them know they are uniquely created with gifts that have nothing to do with their athletic prowess.

It’s so easy to get caught up with practice plans, X’s and O’s – I hope this note encourages you to set up a meeting, make a call, write a note – reach out to 1 or 2 kids on your team. Do it now. And keep being a a coach that pours hope into these young men and women – what a glorious calling!

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WYC 154 – The Struggle of Self-Confidence – Riley Tincher – ‘You are more than an athlete’

Riley’s bio: I am a former All-American pitcher at UW-Whitewater. I am now a Mental Conditioning Coach (Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology), Author, and Speaker. I own a mentorship program called Coachability, where I have had the great fortune of coaching and mentoring athletes at every level. My book, “Pitching Against Myself,” is about my baseball career and all of the life lessons I learned throughout it, and how they apply to life after sports. It also shares an important message that I wish I would have been able to hear back when I was playing before the identity crisis, depression, and suicide; a message that says “you are more than an athlete.”

Pitching Against Myself book: Use discount code ‘WYC20’ at rileytincher.com to save 20% off book
Facebook: /RileyBTincher
Instagram: @RileyTincher
Twitter: @RileyTincher

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Show Notes – WYC 154 – The Struggle of Self-Confidence – Riley Tincher

Lessons from being told “You Should Quit”

  • Riley’s first baseball coach at age 14, after the season told Riley ‘You Should Quit’. This created a huge chip on his shoulder to prove him wrong. But it created an unhealthy need in Riley to prove himself to others.
  • ‘There is purpose in your pain’ – Riley’s struggle with depression and suicide was turned around when a mentor taught him that the purpose in his pain was to help others.
  • I AM MORE THAN AN ATHLETE – The drop caps that start each chapter of Riley’s book spell this phrase, without him planning this.

Performing in pressure situations

  • A big key is understanding we are not alone
  • Practicing pressure situations is also key
  • Confidence comes from:
    • Affirmation – Your words (as a coach) are critical. Remind athletes that they are great where they are. And they can get better. And most importantly, they are worthy enough to get better. A great activity is for athletes to write down affirmation statements about themselves, and then have them share them with their teammates – challenge them if they don’t see to believe them: ‘Speak up, say it like you mean it’
      • You’re the kind of person who _________ (is willing to take the big shot; will learn from any failures or mistakes you’ve had/made)
    • Achievement. Struggle is part of it. The greater the struggle, the greater the reward.


  • The worst: the coach said ‘I am your master and you have to listen to me’. They had ‘rules’ – but the best athletes didn’t have to keep them.
  • The best – Didn’t have rules, had standards. The players created them.

Best advice from a mentor

  • If you don’t change what you believe about yourself, nothing will change

Parting Advice

  • Stop focusing on the scoreboard and start focusing on your legacy

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