Have you ever had that feeling after months of grinding your way through the season where it feels like you’re just getting the chance to catch your breath and all of a sudden it’s over? I’ve certainly been there–where just in time for my last games that take a second to notice that ‘Wow, I’m really hitting my stride..I feel great…but there’s only a couple games left’. Or when I’ve hit the end of a season just to say ‘I wish I had more time to accomplish what I wanted’.
These experiences come as a result of missing multiple opportunities to check in with myself and how I’m doing; multiple missed opportunities to say, ‘Where am I at right now in relation to the goals I set at the beginning of the year? How much progress have I made? What do I need to focus on now?’ And let’s be honest, there were years in my youth where I didn’t even have concrete pre-season goals to reflect on. I was just playing trying to make it to the end of my season, hoping, essentially, that I would be victorious by the end of it.
Bottom line, you have to have goals at the beginning of the season if you want to check in on them later on. I was thinking a lot about this the past few weeks as I just recently finished my third professional ice hockey season of my career. It was a very turbulent year to say the least–where I went from not even knowing if I was going to play to being thrown into competition and then moving to an entirely new country midway through the season.
There was so much going on at times that it was truly difficult to just focus on hockey. When I hit that final game, I remember sitting in the locker room feeling absolutely devastated. I was immediately hit with the question that every professional female player faces all too often: ‘Will this be it? Is this my last season ever? Did I just play my last game?’ It’s so easy to slip down that slope of thinking that your time is up too quickly, or that there was more you could have, should have, done.
Ultimately, that’s why it’s so important to set initial goals at the beginning of the year, write them down, and then commit to checking in on them periodically, and reflecting upon them at the end of the season. A specific goal of mine this year was to ‘Find a way to make a meaningful impact on the ice’. How I measured that was by looking at my leadership, my mentorship, and my attitude. Was I stepping up vocally in the locker room when it felt right? Was I showing up each day and putting all of my effort forward? Was I helping my younger teammates develop as human beings and hockey players? Did I feel like I was making a difference?
So, when the end of the season came around, instead of staying in that rabbit hole of uncertainty, I was able to pull myself out by reflecting on the goals that I had set. I then knew that I definitely had accomplished some of the goals I set out for myself. Maybe not all of them (no one is perfect) but I could feel happy and content with what I did accomplish, yet hungry for the work that was to come in the off season.
– Coach Lauren