Friday, 26 June 2009

Working on a dream

“Now the card’s I’ve drawn, it’s a rough hand darlin’” Signs Bruce Springsteen in Working on a Dream. I’ve been a fan of Bruce Springsteen for as long as I can remember. I think the first memory of me falling in love with his music was when my dad borrowed the Born To Run LP from my uncle. I can remember how tracks like Dancing in the Dark and Born to Run left an ever lasting impression on me.

However, time has passed since then and I’ve grown but for some reason whenever ‘the Boss’ releases a new album I find that I have to check it out. The latest offering has left an even more profound impact on me. As I’m writing this, I am listening to the track, ‘Working on a Dream’. What I relate to in this post is that I have can identify with the lyrics. “Working on a dream, though sometimes it feels so far away, Working on a dream and I know it’ll be mine someday”.

That lyric pretty much summarises why I started this blog and time and time again, I feel the need to go back and go over some of the same issues as I have done here. I started working on my dream in October 2008 and it is now June 2009. Given that we are over half way into the year I thought that I should do a check on whether I have achieved what I set out to do and where I’ve got to so far.

So, at the start I set out to work hard to get back from a knee injury that had me questioning whether I wanted to play hockey anymore. Well this is where I am at the moment: I have been able to train without any pain in my leg and I have gained much of my confidence that I had. Strides and skating no longer hurts. What I find most encouraging is the muscle mass I’ve built in my legs. I am constantly able to push more weight and have gotten noticeably stronger on my skates.

The only thing that I am slightly worried about is that my leg still wears out quite quick. The lactic acid build and the tightening of the muscles in my quadriceps are something that I am still working on. But when you’re playing 45 second shifts it doesn’t really get in the way that much. Just means I have to play scrimmages at a shorter shift than normal.

I also set out to score 30 points this season: Well I am slightly behind on that. Given that the cup lost 2 teams and effectively cutting the season shorter by 4 games. I’ve still managed to keep up my pace of scoring a point per game and my main mindset so far has been to work as a set up man and I think I’ve been successful at it. Because my confidence on my skates and the additional strength, I now have the confidence of taking that extra second to look, rather than haphazardly throwing the puck to a direction I think a player might be at.

I think I was about 2 months into my off season training when few of my friends started saying I should play for the Bison. At first I took it as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to want it. Though I was shy to admit it at first, the more I talked about it, the more I started to dream. As soon as I took that dream seriously, the dream took me seriously. I think it is when I realised that Rome was not built in a day that it was not going to be an easy road to get there, but like I said at the start of the blog, if you aim high, you will succeed.

So where I am at regards to attaining that goal? I’ve been training with the Bison now for two weeks and I have loved every agonising minute of it. I am finding that I push myself and find new extremes I can play at. I find that I do things better at this pace and I’m more driven. The passion and competitive flame that I loved about the game burns higher everytime I’ve been out there. Like Dallaglio after his first England appearance in Rugby: I know what I want and I want more of it.

The team’s roster is full for this year, but I am hopeful. To myself, I have proved that I can play at that level and not be too out of my depth. It has instilled more courage and passion in me to work hard to get there. Though I love playing for my current team, there is something that is missing, whether it is something in terms of chemistry or the guys not wearing their heart on the sleeve openly. Maybe it is that we play the game only for fun and don’t take things seriously enough and it drags us down from our potential.

So I am still working on a dream, and I know it will be mine one day...

Friday, 19 June 2009

Not afraid to fail

With my last post I was talking about how the team was not doing too great and was failing to live up to its potential. However, it only just dawned on me that this is all part of a very valuable learning process. A team can’t be successful unless you have failures along the way. Failures are what make you stronger and make you want the important wins even more.

I don’t think that people like Lawrence Dallaglio would’ve been so successful in their sport, if they didn’t have failures along their careers that would’ve helped them to get motivated to pursue the glory that they yearned for. Also with the current Stanley Cup champions, Pitspurgh Penguins, if the team wouldn’t have failed in last year’s finals against Detroit.

Our failures and meltdowns are all part of an unruly and frustrating learning curve we must go through in-order to find a level of success.

Not being afraid to fail is also useful when it comes to personal and individual development. My fear of failing and not achieving my goals has driven me on this path where I share my thoughts freely with people who stumble across this blog, as well as the goals that I’ve set for myself. Achieving these goals might have seemed far fetched to some people, but during the time that I have been updating this blog and continually striving for better physique and strength. The fear of failing at pursuing my dream has driven me to be nearly obsessive and at times, an absolute nightmare to live with.

However, I came one step closer to fulfilling my dream last night as I had the opportunity to skate with the Basingstoke Bison, a team that I have been secretly wanting to play for a long time for now. Ever since my stag party in Finland, I made myself a promise that I would be looking to play at the highest possible level.

Where I haven’t been guaranteed a roster spot, I am using this as an opportunity to atleast (hopefully) to leave some sort of a mark on the team and start creating a name for myself. With this opportunity I need to make the most of it, go hell for leather each time I’m out there. Maybe if this opportunity doesn’t materialise in a roster spot, it will help me to really work towards this dream and let me identify areas where I need to improve upon.

The dream is alive, and for the longest while, so am I..

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

On the Brink

It has been a while since the last update and there has been a lot that has gone on, both personally and within the team. The delay in the update is due to a much needed holiday, which helped me to recharge and re-focus. For the better part of two months, you might have noticed that there has been a lack of updates on this blog, which is mainly down to some issues that I will discuss in this, rather lengthy, post.

Part of this blog has been me talking about the mental struggles for hockey players and being mentally ready to play. However for a while now I have been fighting off depression, which has greatly affected the way that I approach the game. I had my goals set at the start of the season, which I am still working towards, but when you are questioning everything in your life, you will realise that a small bout of negativity can amount to an ugly ball of self-loathing and doubt. The confidence that I built up, disappeared, in what seemed like an overnight occurrence. I can admit that the few games that I have played I have not been as effective or mentally sharp to compete at the explosive edge that is required from competitive players.

While I was struggling with issues that weren’t hockey related, it ultimately affected my performance on the ice and more importantly extinguished the flame that I had for competition and that was my driving force in the game. However, I’m happy to say that the holiday gave me the sufficient time to reflect and refocus on things that I feel are important in life and that require a change in-order for me to be truly happy and effective both on the ice and off it in the office environment.

One of the greatest challenges for guys at this level of play is to manage the hockey, fitness, family and work. I think that 90% of the guys would rather put all their energies into hockey, though unfortunately we need to put food on the table and pay the bills, which hockey unfortunately doesn’t do for us. I would love to do nothing more than spend my days getting into shape and work towards bettering myself as a player, but I have other responsibilities that I must fit hockey around. I still train actively on and off the ice, which I am proud of, but when you are bummed down by other issues the joy of training disappears and you are left forcing yourself to move.

With my renewed focus and drive I feel that I’ve turned a corner that will help me renew that focus and the competitive drive that I have yarned for.

While I was away the team played two games, one was a close 3-0 loss, the other a 10-6 loss. After the 3-0 loss there was a flurry of emails being sent around by a disgruntled player who felt that he hadn’t been given the ice time he deserved. Though I can understand his frustration as I have been in the same position myself, I must defend my team captain’s decision to run the bench the way he did.

In a close game where you are playing for the win of the game, teams need to cut the bench short inorder to give the players that are known for converting a chance to capitalise on the situations and help the teams. Hockey is a team sport and there is no room for individual ambitions going ahead of those of the team. Weaker players must understand that sometimes these decisions are necessary. Take the NHL for example; every guy on the team wants to play just as much as the next one, but the truth is that the guys playing 4th line need to give up their ice time in tight games inorder for the team to win.

Where we are playing rec hockey, we still play to win and on an individual level I don’t enjoy travelling around the country and get thrashed every weekend. The team comes first in a competitive cup and players wishing to place their own individual desires ahead of those of the team’s better take a good hard look in the mirror and perhaps think of hanging up the skates, as harsh as it sounds.

The problem I have with rec hockey is that we need players of all abilities to come forwards and play, which puts us in a disadvantage against teams like Cardiff or Swindon who have strong rosters and are able to field strong players game in, game out.

The two losses and the internal meltdown of the team means that we are now playing on the brink, if we are to play in the playoffs in August. We need a miracle to turn things around and we need to stay motivated throughout the end of the season. Hopefully, with the exception of holidays, we will have a strong team to put out there every game. My sincerest hope is that guys put their own pleasures of getting drunk before a game night aside and dedicate themselves to the end of the season. It is what we need now and we need to play strong hockey in training to make sure that we are able to carry that momentum in trainings to our tough away game schedule we have coming up. I am a firm believer that with confidence and dedication we will be able to take the games to the teams we are facing and improve our position in the standings. I for one don’t want to end up last.