Kim McCullough

Motivation is not enough


By Kim McCullough, M.Sc, YCS

It is often said hockey is 80 percent mental and only 20 percent physical. And while I think that the physical trumps the mental at the younger ages, when players are still developing the skills necessary to just be able to compete, I do believe that the importance of the mental side of the game outweighs that of the physical game once a player starts playing at an elite level in Bantam and Midget. 

When a player is between the ages of 13-17, it is often their mental performance that dictates a large proportion of their physical game. Motivation is a huge piece of the performance puzzle in this age group, but there is another part of the mental game that is sometimes mistaken for motivation, but is actually quite different and absolutely critical.

When it comes to succeeding on the ice (or in the classroom, or in life in general for that matter), motivation is as important as volition. The definition of volition is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. Volition is the same as willpower and “stick-to-it-ness.” 

Many players have the motivation to get to the highest level – they want to play on the best team, they want that college scholarship, they want to play on the Olympic team. But what many players lack is the willpower to achieve those goals. 

Willpower is what helps you drag yourself off the couch in the summer to go and train in the gym, even though you don’t really want to. It’s what allows you to “suck it up” when you get short-shifted or benched and still cheer on your teammates when what you really want is to be out on the ice. It’s what helps you push yourself as hard as possible in practice even when your team is on a losing streak. It also helps you make the most of a difficult situation by staying positive and focused on your ultimate goal when you get cut. 

Motivation without willpower means that you’ll have BIG goals that you want to achieve, but you’ll have no means of coping and pushing through when tough situations arise along the way.

It’s easy to stay motivated when everything is going your way. But when the going gets tough, are you mentally tough enough to stay strong and push through? 

Think of it the other way – it wouldn’t matter how strong-willed you were if you weren’t really motivated to become a great player. You would work hard and push yourself – but only to a point. Because if you don’t really want something bad enough, you won’t hold yourself accountable when the going gets tough. You’ll let yourself off the hook and take the easy road. It’s always easier to take the easy road. And there’s never any traffic on the high road.

Some players will have the motivation but lack the volition to make it to the elite level, while others will have the willpower but just aren’t motivated enough to push themselves to the edge. 

To really rise to the elite levels of hockey performance, players must be extremely motivated to succeed while also having the willpower to push themselves to the limit no matter what challenges, obstacles and opportunities arise. Both motivation and volition are critical pieces to the elite performance puzzle. You can’t have one without the other if you want to be the best.

To get access to articles, videos and secrets that address the specific needs of female hockey players, visit Kim McCullough is an expert in the development of female hockey players. She is a former captain at Dartmouth and played in the National Women’s Hockey League for six years. She is currently the Girls Hockey Director at the PEAC School for Elite Athletes in Toronto and is the Founder of Total Female Hockey.