Sadie was a very competitive 14 year old. She was very clear on what her goals were and how she felt like she could get there. She knew she wanted to play Division 1 college hockey someday and play on the Olympic team for Team USA. She had motivational posters and quotes all over her room that reminded her to push herself to her limits every day.
On her team back at home, she was one of the top goal scorers. She was pretty tall for a 14 year old and it was hard for people to push her off of the puck. A lot of people called her a “power forward” because of how she was able to drive to the net, even if there was a defenseman standing in her way.
In June after her season had wrapped up, she got a call from USA Hockey!
“Hello?” answered Sadie.
“Hi, is this Sadie?”
“Yes,” Sadie replied. Her heart was beating fast.
“Hi this is Taylor with USA Hockey. I’m calling to inform you that you have been selected for National Camp! You will be reporting to St. Cloud, Minnesota in a month to compete against the best players in the country at your age group. Are you willing and able to accept this invitation?”
Sadie could hardly believe it! “Yes, of course! Wow, thank you so much!”
“Great,” replied Taylor. “We look forward to seeing you there!”
Sadie hung up the phone and could barely hold in her excitement. She ran to the kitchen to tell her parents who were equally as excited. Over dinner that night, they started to plan the trip! Sadie felt like her dreams were on their way to becoming a reality.
When Sadie got to camp, she immediately felt nervous. She had to stay in a dorm room with girls she had never met before. Other than the occasional sleepover, she had never really been away from her parents more than a few nights. Now she was going to be away from them for a week!
Sadie also felt intimidated by how many of the other girls seemed to know each other. She wasn’t sure how. Maybe they had been at other camps with each other before? Maybe they had played together in the past?
Sadie especially tried not to notice this factor but some of these girls were STRONG. She thought that her body weight dryland was enough but these girls clearly had been hitting the gym. How was she going to compete with that?
Camp hadn’t even started and Sadie felt nervous, alone, scared and like she had no business being at camp with all of these other girls.
After some team building activities, she walked to the rink with her green team and they began getting ready for their first skills practice. Sadie was definitely not herself at practice. She kept missing passes, fanning on shots and she even tripped a few times. All she could focus on were the other girls. Some of them were super fast, some of them had crazy fast hands and some of them could score on almost every shot.
After practice, one of the coaches pulled Sadie aside.
“Hey Sadie. Are you ok? You seemed a little out of sorts out there.”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” said Sadie as she looked down at the ground.
“What’s going on? You’re one of the best players in the entire country! You’ve made it this far, now all you have to do is be yourself!” said Coach.
“Well, I think I’m just having a hard time because everyone here is so good. Back at home, I’m easily the best player on my team and here I just feel average. I feel like I don’t even have a shot at making a national team someday.”
“Sadie, what is your greatest strength at home? What makes your game different than anyone else’s?” asked Coach.
“Well, I guess I’m pretty tall. So I score a lot of my goals by protecting the puck and driving to the net,” replied Sadie.
“That’s great!” exclaimed Coach, “Just focus on that!”
“But it’s just so hard when these other girls are faster than me and have a better shot!”
“Here’s the thing, Sadie. You can be the fastest player in the world or have a harder shot than NHL players, but the reality is if you aren’t strong enough to get to the net in a game, then your speed and your shot won’t matter. You have a strength that I’m sure a bunch of girls here wish they had. I want you to really focus on not comparing yourself to others and just worry about you! Focus on showing us that net drive that helped you get to camp in the first place. If you can do that and stop worrying about other players, then I know you will have a successful camp!”
Sadie had never really thought about it like that before. In her mind, if she wasn’t the best then she had to find a way to be better at everything than other players. Sadie thanked her coach for giving her a different perspective.
Sadie started focusing on her game, her strengths and the things that she could control. In practice, she started scoring more goals by lowering her shoulder and driving to the net. She began gaining more and more confidence and realized that she absolutely could compete with the other girls at camp if she just worried about playing HER best game.
By the end of camp, Sadie was tied as the camp’s top goal scorer! While she definitely wasn’t the best at the off ice testing and wasn’t the fastest player at camp, she now was confident that she belonged there! She definitely felt motivated to improve the things she wasn’t great at, but she was also motivated to continue to work on her strengths. Sadie was so thankful for the experience because it helped her remember that hockey is a team sport and a good team is filled with players who have different strengths. There was only one Sadie in the world and she was proud to know that her strengths could make a difference on the ice!