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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Cook

Life Lessons from the Rink

face off at center ice of a hockey game

Typically I write these newsletters to provide strategies and tools to empower athletes and coaches take their performance into their own hands. But, as many people will tell you, sometimes life is the greatest teacher and you just have to learn things the hard way - by making mistakes, learning from them, and repeating the cycle. Upon reflecting on my own sports journey, I wanted to share some of the biggest life lessons I've learned from the rink.

1) Work Hard for What You Want

Hockey is a demanding and high-paced game and one that calls for a lot of sacrifice if you want to go anywhere with it. Growing up in Southern Ontario, there was (and still is) a lot of competition in women’s hockey and as a goalie, the competition is even more fierce with there only being a few spots on the roster. You have to be willing and ready to put in the work. 

We were not fortunate enough to be able to afford the 1:1 goalie coaching development that was offered in some areas but I didn’t let that stop me from putting in the work when I had the opportunity. I pushed myself hard during practices and games. The early morning practices, the bag skates, the off ice training – they all contributed to building resilience, discipline, and a work ethic that now permeates every aspect of my life.

Tip for athletes: most coaches prefer a driven, hard working athlete over a skilled athlete that has no work ethic. Work hard - even when no one is watching.

2) Take Responsibility for Your Actions

If you want to make it in sports, business, or everyday life, there's absolutely no room for excuses. Success demands accountability. Whether it's a goal against, a defensive lapse, or a team loss, taking responsibility for your actions is non-negotiable. 

This is a lesson I learned the hard way in my first year of university. My goalie partner and I had been battling it out all season for the starting spot. Before stepping into playoffs we knew that Coach would make a decision - spoiler alert: I was on the losing end of the stick. I was benched and had to watch the rest of the season from the sidelines (every goalies worst nightmare). When the end of the season rolled around, everyone had 1:1 meetings before the summer break and it was during this meeting that I got the reasoning behind his decision. I was not taking responsibility for my performance. Instead of owning my mistakes, I was finding excuses for what caused them in the first place - not an admirable trait in any athlete.

From there on, I made sure that I stepped up in all areas and took responsibility for my performance on and off the ice. This has served me well after sports in business and life. You’re responsible for 100% of your decisions.

3) Practice Makes Progress

In an attempt to move away from perfectionist performance strategies, I’ve decided to change the classic “practice makes perfect” to "practice makes progress" because there is no perfect in the game of hockey and it is so easy to get caught up in performance results in the sports world. It isn’t about being perfect, it is about making progress and the only way to master anything is by putting in the reps.

Each practice is a step toward improvement, a commitment to honing your skills, and a recognition that progress is a continuous journey - both on and off the ice.

This has been especially important as I have embarked on a career after sports, developing my own business in the mental coaching space. I’ve had to learn many new skills which I did not learn overnight, but over time through countless repetitions, making mistakes, learning from them, and repeating. 

Set your destination and focus on the journey.

4) Look for the Growth Opportunity

Hockey, like life, is filled with unexpected twists and turns. There is a reason people say losing teaches you more than winning ever will. That’s because in every defeat, there's an opportunity to learn and grow. It is important to adopt this mindset early on because you can miss out on a lot of personal growth if you look at every setback from a victim mentality. 

Instead of staying in a victim mentality, asking “why me?”,  you should be asking “why not me? What can I learn from this? How can I get better?”. Once you start doing this, you’ll notice how your mindset changes, how you perceive challenges changes, and how you bounce back faster.

Whether it was facing a stronger opponent or navigating personal challenges, seeking the growth opportunity has become my autopilot and propels me forward in the face of adversity.

5) Mindset Matters

The mental game in hockey is as crucial as the physical one - especially as a goalie. Goalies must be able to withstand a lot of pressure, they stand alone as the last line of defense,  are in for the full 60 and must be focused and dialed in the whole time. 

How you talk to yourself and the mindset and attitude that you bring to the rink are important pieces of the puzzle for success.  A positive mindset during tough moments, visualizing success, and staying focused under pressure are skills cultivated through years of the game that have seamlessly translated every area of my life.

6) Believe in Yourself

Perhaps the most profound lesson I learned from hockey was the importance of self-belief. I can recall many times in my journey where there were naysayers, people telling me I wouldn’t make it to the next level, or even telling me to “get a real job”. It would have been easy to believe them, to give up, and to pursue a more “realistic” career path. But I was never one to take the easy route.

Whether it was facing daunting opponents, blocking out the haters, or taking on seemingly insurmountable challenges, the unwavering belief in yourself is the driving force behind every successful play in sports and life. Hockey instilled in me the confidence to pursue goals, both on and off the ice, with unwavering determination.

Bottom Line

Hockey hasn't been just a sport; it's been a classroom for some of life's most impactful lessons. Through hard work, responsibility, practice, growth, mindset, and self-belief, the rink molded me into the person I have become today and has provided me with endless opportunities to do things in which I would have never done if I chose to be “realistic”. 

Hockey has shaped my character, forged a positive and resilient mindset, instilled values of hard work and commitment, and taught me how to earn success. Whether you’re an athlete or a coach, playing or retired - embrace the lessons that your sport brings you. It will make you a stronger, more resilient person in and out of the game.

If you’re eager to learn more about performance coaching and how it can elevate your game in 2024, let's connect! Learn more at Taylored Minds or book a discovery call to gear up for your best year yet.

This newsletter is in association with The Athletic Mind podcast. You can listen to the full episode here.


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