The 5 important life skills you learn from playing hockey
By Tim Turk
If you’re reading this, you already know that hockey is truly a wonderful sport. First, it makes fantastic use of winter, an otherwise bleak and cold season. It gives people from all walks of life the chance to experience the excitement and thrill of victory, and the motivation of defeat. It also provides people with the opportunity to make new, long-lasting friendships.
Hockey gives kids and adults alike something to look forward to after school or work. It also gives players a slew of incredible memories to share with their family and friends, and to reminisce about for the rest of their lives.
But the best gifts a hockey player can receive from the sport, however, are arguably the life skills from playing hockey. Hockey grants you skills which you learn from playing the game but can apply to all areas of your life—for the rest of your life.
At first thought, you may be questioning those statements. How can anyone learn life lessons from hockey, skating around with their friends? However, if you take the time to look at what the sport is all about, you’ll be shocked to find that there’s a lot you can learn from playing it.
Here are 5 important life lessons from playing hockey:
Want to become an elite hockey player? Here are some examples of what’s involved:
- Attend every weekly game and practice
- Go to the gym or do off-ice training
- Eat healthy food
- Get enough sleep (at least 7+ hours per night)
- Study the game by watching and reading about it
If we were living in a perfect world, this all would be a no-brainer. The reality is that most people, for one reason or another, may not be able to do all the above. But if you play hockey, chances are you do some of these things. Routinely sleeping well, working out, and eating healthy create a sense of discipline. Each item in this list trains you to develop a habit and stick to it through times of temptation and distress—the very nature of discipline itself.
Although you may only be doing those things to become a better hockey player, when it comes time to apply discipline skills in other areas of your life, you’ll find it much easier to manage.
When you were 15 and playing hockey, you created a schedule where you would read about hockey for an hour each night before going to bed. Now, at 20, sitting down to study for your college exams each night is a walk in the park.
From mite level all the way to the pros, every hockey league has a strict code of ethics that all of its players must abide by. Essentially, each league has a code detailing how to treat people with respect.
Congratulating players on scoring a goal, greeting your teammates at each practice, and fist-bumping the opposing team after a game, all contribute to building a sense of respect in a player. Also, a team’s coach or captain serves as an authority figure for the players. Listening to and learning from them helps to develop a player’s character and sense of respect for their elders and those in authority.
Hockey isn’t an individual sport; it’s played as a team. At any age or skill level, a hockey player will have at least a dozen teammates that they must learn to work with. Every goal scored and every game won is a result of months of practice building team synergy. Using that synergy, players can make snap decisions about where to pass the puck and when to rely on their teammates.
Throughout life, everyone will face situations where they must apply teamwork to accomplish a goal. Those situations can range from a group presentation at school to completing a project at work, and even to moving a heavy object with a few friends. Learning to rely on others, divide a workload evenly, and play to the strengths of teammates are the keys to successful teamwork. And all of that can be learned by playing hockey.
Let’s face it: no hockey team is successful without excellent communication among its coach and players. The ability to express ideas in a way that anyone can easily understand them is a much tougher skill to acquire than you might think.
Hockey gives players the opportunity to communicate with a diverse group of teammates, which often change from season to season. When expressing ideas or concerns to a coach, or planning plays with teammates, efficient communication is important. Over the course of a hockey season, team members become used to talking with one another, and they learn how to adapt their communication style to suit specific levels of understanding.
Yes, proper communication is a core aspect of successful teamwork. However, it also contributes to building strong relationships, working more efficiently, and ensuring that nobody is confused or unsure about the topic at hand.
Right along with teamwork and communication is humility.
There’s a reason why hockey leagues track assists in games and not just goals. Scoring goals in hockey is a team effort, regardless of who last touched the puck before it went in the net. In fact, almost every play made during a hockey game is a team effort—whether it results in a goal or not, or whether it succeeds or fails.
Humility is probably the most debatable life lesson to be learned in hockey. Concepts like having a team captain deter players from learning humility. Plus, it’s also dependent on the coach, their teaching method, and whether goals and other accomplishments are praised as an individual or group effort. (Although most coaches and captains will do their best to instill humility in their team.)
Hockey can be a formative tool for all its players in surprising and often unexpected ways. Every practice and every game contribute to the development of skills that can be applied for years to come. After each season, players will no doubt find themselves with more discipline, respect, teamwork skills, communication, and humility, among many others.
This amazing sport of ours can be the foundation of life skills for years to come. Hockey should not only be viewed as a source of competition and fun, but also as a means of personal development and an outlet for lifelong growth.
Tim Turk, a frequent contributor to CrossIceHockey.com, has been an NHL-level skills and shooting coach for over 18 years. He continues to work with NHL players while making time for minor league hockey teams and players. He runs several camps and clinics across the globe. This article originally appears here on his website.