Sauce Us a Follow

“All lights turned off can be turned on.” (Call Your Mom, Noah Kahan). As someone who loves music and all forms of writing, I find deeper meaning in words and lyrics than others might. By all means I am not a country music fan in any way except for when it comes to this song. This is a song I find deep meaning in the lyrics. The lyrics, “All lights turned off can be turned on” reminds me of my first season playing hockey. That first season, the light was off for me. I didn’t know it was possible to turn on the light, not until I turned it on. I find a deep connection between that song and my first season of hockey. For almost the entire season, my light was turned off until I realized that I had the power to turn it on.

When you’re starting a new sport, the path to success will never be linear. There will be bumps and obstacles along the way and that is completely normal, they’re supposed to be there for a reason. They’re there so you can learn and grow. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to learn and grow. Sure, everything would feel smooth since there’s no bumps. But, will you ever learn anything by walking on smooth ground? Will you ever grow? Will you ever make any progress? It is so important to have bumps in the road, more important than one might think.

I started playing hockey at the age of 14, much later than all of my teammates. In my first season playing hockey (2022-2023), I was not only the newest player on the team but I was also the only girl. I learned how to cope and work through both of those challenges during that season. Comfortably? No, not at all. It took me a significant amount of time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You can’t be in your comfort zone 24/7, at some point you will have to step outside of it. And that was a skill that took me so long to master and sometimes I still have trouble with it even now. But, without that skill, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I was pushed so much during my first season by my coaches and teammates who wanted me to get out of my comfort zone. It took quite some time but eventually I did. I was just scared. Scared of the unknown, scared of what would happen when I stepped foot outside of my comfort zone. Scared of it all. But now, I’m so happy that I did because it made me such a better player and person overall.

With being the newest player on the team in any sport comes challenges. For me, my biggest challenge was skill. I had come straight from a learn to play program whereas all of my teammates had countless seasons of hockey under their belts. As for myself, I had about 5 months under mine. With that amount of time, it left me with what felt like nothing when I joined my team. Learn to play taught me the essentials. How to skate, how to transition, how to stop, and a little bit of stickhandling and shooting skills. But, when I hit the ice with my team for the first time, I felt like all of that disappeared. It was like I was all of a sudden back at square one. Like I didn’t know how to skate or handle a puck. Maybe it was the nerves getting to me, I’m not sure. Maybe I felt intimidated by all of my teammates who were so much better than me and more experienced than me. Whatever it was, I felt like I had just unlearned everything I was taught.

As the season progressed, I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. One of my coaches worked with me on my skills at almost every single practice and regardless of the work and time he spent with me trying to help me, I still felt like I wasn’t getting any better. Nothing was working, it felt impossible to develop my skills. My coach would even take time outside of practice to take me to public skates to help me with my skating skills. I am extremely grateful for all the time that coach spent trying to help me. I didn’t feel like I was making progress with him that whole season until my second season when I felt all of that hard work and dedication paying off. But for that first season, I didn’t feel that at all.

The feeling of not getting better despite how hard you’re working is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt. I would just come home from practice and cry because I hated that I wasn’t as good as my teammates and that I wasn’t making any progress. I wasn’t anywhere close to being as good as any of my teammates, I honestly never thought that I would ever be as good as all of them. I get it, I came straight from learn to play, it was kind of a given that I wouldn’t be as good as my teammates. But, I wanted to be, and I wasn’t. I tried so hard every practice just for it not to pay off all season. That whole season I didn’t have a single goal, assists or even a penalty. I got close to scoring a goal so many times that year, but none of those chances ever got in the back of the net. I was nothing that whole season. I wanted to be something, anything. But, I wasn’t anything.

I think at a certain point in the season I just gave up. I gave up trying, I gave up putting in effort. Nothing was working and I was convinced that nothing would ever work. So, what was the point in trying if my effort wouldn’t show any positive results in the end? There wasn’t one. So, I just gave up. It killed me though. It killed me not making any progress. It killed me that I gave up. I was so disappointed in myself, I’m not a quitter and I don’t give up. Except for that time, I gave up. 

My light was off the whole season. My flame was burned out. I lost my spark. I was left in the dark, the darkness that I put myself in. I wasn’t making progress, I wasn’t producing, I wasn’t anything. I was nothing. I love hockey so much, sometimes more than anything else. And it was like I just completely gave up. I accepted the fact that I was the worst on the team and that I would remain the worst on the team for the remainder of the season. And, I wasn’t okay with that. But, there was nothing I could do about that. Or, at least I thought there was nothing I could do about that. It’s not like anything I was doing was working. It wasn’t like I was getting better or anything. So I gave up on trying to be better, I just accepted the fact that I never would get better.

Something that I think contributed to me feeling like I wasn’t getting better was my coaches and teammates slowing down for me in practices. I get it, I was the newest player on the team. But, I wasn’t going to learn anything by the whole team slowing down for me during drills. I need to learn at full speed, at game speed. Sure, slowing down during free skates and stick n pucks is fine with me. But during practice, it’s not. I want to play at the same speed and level as everyone else. And to do that, that means to practice at the same speed as everyone else. I want to be treated the same as everyone else on the team. I didn’t really see any of that happening to me this season, just a few times occasionally. And honestly, it kind of infuriated me. I don’t want people to have to slow down for me. I just want to do things at the same speed as everyone else. And by not doing that, it’s like being back to square one. 

Being the worst on the team was exhausting. I was putting in so much work and it wasn’t paying off, it was extremely tiring. It wasn’t until the last three weeks of that season that I realized that I was tired of being the worst on the team. I realized that there was something I could do about being the worst on the team. I could work as hard as I can to not be the worst anymore. I flipped the switch. 

Once I flipped the switch, I felt like a completely new player. I turned on the light. I wasn’t in the dark anymore. I was skating harder, making harder passes, handling the puck. It was like I was unrecognizable compared to where I was just weeks prior. I could tell that everything my coaches were helping me with had actually paid off. I felt like I had made so much progress and that feeling is indescribable. It was shocking to me that all I had to do to get better was to flip the switch. So, for the rest of that season, I worked harder than ever. I wanted to end the season as a better player than I had been that entire season. And when that season ended, I knew that I was a better player and I knew that my next season would go my way. I just knew it.

During the offseason I did about 3 weeks of summer camps. I wanted to do everything I could to not be the worst on my team for the upcoming season. And during those summer camps, I could feel and see my improvement. In a way, I just felt alive and free. Whenever I would start skating and feel myself getting better, it felt like coming out of the water for a breath of fresh air. I could feel the wind blowing against my jersey with every stride I took. I wasn’t just skating fast, I was skating faster than I ever had before and I was improving my skating in all aspects. It just felt so relieving. The thought that I wouldn’t be the worst on my team the following season was extremely comforting for me and I couldn’t wait for my season to start.

The 2023-2024 season rolled in super fast and I was ecstatic. When I got out on the ice for the first time with this new team, I knew I wasn’t the same player I was last season. I could feel it and I could see it. I was completely different from last season and it felt just so good to be good at hockey. During this season, I got the opportunity to play on two teams. By playing on two teams, I got to be on the ice anywhere between 5-7 times a week. Playing on two teams gave me 9 coaches, I got all the help I could ever want and need. With being on the ice so often, it was like playing two seasons in one. I got so much help in developing my skills with both of my teams from all of my coaches and I got so much ice time. I was able to grow as a player so much and completely transform myself. 

Since flipping the switch, I have gained so much confidence in myself. I am confident in my skills and the way I play. I’m willing to learn and try new things every chance I get. I just feel so alive and happy. I love hockey more than I ever have now since getting all of the opportunities I’ve had over the last year and a half. I finally got my spark back and I’ve been happier than ever. With this new confidence, I was able to have an extremely productive season scoring 2 goals and getting 1 assist! My teammates are incredible and I consider them as my family. The bond this team has is amazing and we have just such amazing team chemistry. Our roster is extremely small this year which meant everyone got a lot of ice time. With a short roster, I never once had to worry about being on the 4th line and averaging 5 minutes of ice time per game. This season, everyone has averaged more than 10 minutes of ice time per game, including myself. It’s so relieving to actually get to play hockey whereas last season I felt like I didn’t get to play at all. I feel like a hockey player, a real hockey player. Being on the ice is the only place I want to be all the time and I’m so grateful for the amount of ice time I got by being on two teams this season. 

It’s amazing what the power of flipping a switch can do for an athlete. It brings you so much. Confidence, growth, development, happiness and courage. I never had any of those things in my first year playing. Now going into my 3rd season, I have them all. By flipping a switch you can become a completely different player, you can completely transform yourself.  There’s just a little switch inside your brain that can control everything and it’s either on or off. And to become a better you in any aspect, you just have to turn it on. You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t decide to do everything you can to be the best possible player you can be. Progress isn’t linear and it isn’t pretty. But, the end results are so rewarding. All of your hardwork will have all been paid off and you will be unrecognizable. You can prove everyone who ever doubted you wrong. The possibilities and opportunities you have will be endless. You’ll be able to do anything and everything. You just have to trust the process and let what needs to happen, happen. You have to be able to overcome all of the obstacles you face with courage and strength. Because without them, you’ll never get anywhere.

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