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Confidence is Built on Simplicity and Effort

While athletes’ mental health and psychological performance in sports is becoming more recognized today, it is still underappreciated. There are many different techniques that aim to aid an athlete’s performance, but the thread that connects them all is confidence. From a psychological standpoint, confidence is an athlete’s thoughts, which form their beliefs, influence their behaviours, set their expectations, and create their perception. That perception becomes their reality.

Confidence also has a huge influence on perhaps one the most sought-after athletic attributes – speed. In a game situation, speed is a mix of both physical and mental ability. An athlete can have all the physical tools to produce speed, but if they are not confident in what their job is, where they are supposed to be, how the play is going to develop, or what they are capable of, they will play apprehensive and slow.

With the knowledge of what confidence is and why it’s important, the big question is: how do you get it? Since confidence is a psychological attribute, the answer may surprise some – you actually want to shut off your brain. Overthinking a scenario or second guessing yourself reduces your confidence and slows your reaction. A large part of being able to shut your brain off and perform has to do with your level of preparation. This is where practice comes in. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does help build confidence. When you physically perform a task, you create neural pathways. The more you do it, the deeper the pathways become and the more it becomes ingrained. When you carry this over to a game situation, you can perform tasks without overthinking and they become automatic, and because they feel automatic, your confidence will be high. There is a belief and expectation that we can do it, and this positively affects our behaviour, making perception a reality.

To make sure your confidence is high, put a full effort into practice. Perform drills with intensity, watch film, ask questions, and know your situational responsibilities. If you feel your confidence is low during a game, shut your brain off and focus on the simplest of tasks. These tasks will be things that require no talent: skating hard, forechecking, backchecking, and being in the correct position, which you should know from film and meetings. Do not try to do too much; keep it simple and watch your confidence begin to grow as you lean into the aspects of your game that you have practiced the most.

It is often the simplest things that make the biggest difference. That’s not to say they are easy. Putting a full effort into practice isn’t always easy, but it is simple. Watching film and paying attention in meetings isn’t always easy either, but it is simple. These all require effort, and the good news is that effort is one of the few things that is one hundred percent under your control at all times.

Confidence is key to your performance. Build it and maintain it by doing the little things right.

Until next time,
Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen

This article was originally published in Game On – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine. 

JHD Coach Himpe proud to participate in Hockey Can’t Stop Tour

written by Mitchell Clinton

Jets Hockey Development On-ice Instructor Devin Himpe didn’t have a front row seat to the Hockey Can’t Stop tour finale between the Ukraine U25 national team and the University of Manitoba Bisons. He actually had a better one.

The 34-year-old was on the Bisons’ bench for the memorable night, one that he says will stand out in his mind forever.

“I’ll remember that night for a long time,” he said. “Everything from the anthems, to the reason the game was taking place, to even just coaching at Canada Life Centre, it’s something that will always stand out for me.”

The product of Dauphin, MB has been a full-time instructor with Jets Hockey Development at hockey for all centre for several years and – as if that’s not enough hockey – he’s also been an assistant coach with the Bisons for the last eight seasons.

So combining his love of the game with the opportunity to be part of a special evening, and getting to take his coaching skills from hockey for all centre to Canada Life Centre was something he couldn’t wait to be part of.

On top of those two things, there is also a little bit of Ukrainian heritage in Himpe’s family, as well as his wife Tara’s.

For a seven-year run in his high school days and well into his time as a student at the University of Manitoba, Himpe stayed involved with Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival, held annually just outside of Dauphin.

“My mom was a big part for a few years in helping to run the National Ukrainian Festival,” he said. “Being able to see the culture on that side of it – the dancing, the singing, and a lot of Ukrainian people coming together, and how amazing those people were – I knew it was going to translate into this game as well.”

The Bisons coaching staff – head coach Mike Sirant, Himpe, and fellow assistant coach Ryan Bonni – started hearing about the tour in late October.

“We definitely wanted to be part of it and get on it pretty quick. Mike decided to talk with Mark Chipman and discuss getting True North involved,” said Himpe. “For myself, working for True North through Jets Hockey Development and hockey for all centre, I was really excited to be able to come to Canada Life Centre, have the game be here, and have the practices be here. It was exciting.”

The night was everything the players, and Himpe, could have hoped for. As both a minor hockey development coach with Jets Hockey Development and as a university hockey coach, Himpe regularly gets to see the passion Manitobans have for all levels of hockey. But the nearly 8,000 fans that filled the lower bowl and the atmosphere they created is something that he won’t soon forget.

The final score wasn’t what Himpe and the Bisons were looking for, as Ukraine earned a 5-1 victory – their first on the Hockey Can’t Stop Tour after losses to the University of Calgary, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

But as Sirant put it after the game, this matchup was always about more than hockey, and he felt the nearly 8,000 in attendance (including almost 4,000 Ukrainian refugees), knew that as well.

“We talked about that in the dressing room. Our players can feel really good about what they contributed to making this game happen,” said Sirant. “So many people are going to benefit from this, not only the Ukraine team, but also people in Ukraine from the humanitarian aid that will be derived from this game.

“To play a small role in hosting this event had special meaning for me, to know that people in Ukraine were going to benefit, and this hockey team – Ukraine’s hockey team – was going to benefit from it.”

Not unlike his role with Jets Hockey Development – which is dedicated to providing every program participant the very best opportunity to develop as a hockey player and as a person – there was development both on and off the ice for the players, coaches, and staff on the Ukrainian squad as well on the Bisons team.

On the ice, the main purpose for the Ukrainian team was to face university level competition ahead of the 2023 FISU Winter World University Games, held in Lake Placid from January 12 – 22, 2023 – an event Himpe attended overseas in 2019 with Team Canada.

“It’s probably the closest thing to an Olympics that you can get into,” he recalled. “You’re there with every other athlete – downhill skiers, curlers, snowboarders, bandy players, hockey players, male, female – it’s everybody.

“There is an athlete village, you’re eating with other countries, you’re carrying your phone around with Google Translate a lot because sometimes you don’t know what they’re saying – and they don’t know what you’re saying. It was a very cool experience.”

Off the ice, it was about showing players and fans – including the nearly 4,000 Ukrainian refugees in the stands in downtown Winnipeg – that their country is still fighting even as the war continues, and that people all the way over in Canada care for them and want to support them.

Thanks to the efforts of so many people, including Himpe – mission accomplished.

Relative Strength

In the past issue, we discussed bilateral maximal strength and some foundational exercises and protocols to train it. An equally important part of an athlete’s strength base is their relative strength. Relative strength is defined as the amount of force an athlete can produce in relation to their body weight. In an athletic sense, I like to expand that definition a little further to also include how well an athlete can move or propel their own body. The number one tool an athlete has available to them in any sport is their body. If they can move their body more efficiently and effectively than someone they are competing against, they have a higher probability of being successful.

For athletes to develop and maintain relative strength, they should always incorporate an element of body weight training in their programs. Body weight training is simply doing exercises performed with your own body weight. It is an integral part of an athlete’s training foundation, as it is usually the first thing that an athlete is exposed to when they initially start training. Effective body weight training helps set the foundation for exercise technique by promoting alignment and stability under safe loading parameters – the athlete’s own body weight.

These exercises are often seen as novice or beginner exercises that people progress away from as they become more experienced in the gym, but they should always remain a staple no matter how advanced an athlete is. There are many ways to progress the body weight exercise with the development of the athlete. Variables such as sets, reps, tempos, exercise variations, exercise pairings, and exercise sequencing can provide a limitless amount of potential in body weight training. The experience of the athlete and where an athlete is in their training cycle will help determine how to adjust the variables to keep the body weight training challenging and relative to the goal of the program.

Some great examples of body weight exercises that regularly show up in our athlete’s programs in some way or another are push-ups, pull-ups, supine rows, planks, squats, lunges, hops, plyometrics, and sprints.

Remember: being strong is great, but for athletes, that is not enough. Athletes need to be strong and must be able to move as well. The best way to become better at moving your body is to practice moving your body. A component of this is our relative strength, which can be developed through lifting weights and effective body weight training.

Until next time,

Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

AJ Zeglen

This article was first published in Game On – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine. 

Growing the Game: Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup adds sledge hockey to schedule with showcase game

With 200 teams from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nunavut and beyond in 20 divisions ranging from House League to A3 at ages U7 to U15, this year’s Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup will be bigger and better than ever.

Numbers like that not only make a fun challenge for the schedule makers of the annual tournament being hosted over the holiday season from Dec. 22 to Jan. 4 at hockey for all centre (previously known as Bell MTS Iceplex) for the first time in several years is, but it means there’s programming for a wide variety of hockey players.

“It’s a hockey atmosphere unlike any other,” said Dean Court, Business/Amateur Hockey Development & Manager of Team Programs for Jets Hockey Development and hockey for all centre. “We host a lot of great tournaments at our facility each year, but the Challenge Cup is unique. The tournament is all in one place – it’s solely hosted at hockey for all centre unlike some of our other tournaments. We’ve got four rinks with non-stop action from the early morning until nighttime, there’s a pancake breakfast for families and lots of prizes for kids. There’s so much excitement at this tournament each year with so many people around and with kids pumped to be out of school. We’re not sure who’s more thrilled to have this tournament back – the players and families or us.”

The popularity of the tournament is obvious with the event running at capacity. And while the tournament already involves so many young hockey players, that hasn’t stopped organizers from exploring ways that they can continue to grow the tournament further and involve even more athletes.

They’ve been looking specifically at involving sledge hockey, which they’ll do for the first time this year with a showcase sledge game. It was Kyle Calder, Committee Member for Coaching + Development at Sledge Hockey Manitoba, that first brought the idea up with Court and others at hockey for all centre.

“They had started posting about the Challenge Cup to get the word out about the tournament, and I was looking through the divisions that were being included,” said Calder, who himself is fairly new to the sport of sledge hockey, having been involved for the past two years. “I asked them where the sledge hockey division was, which led to a conversation with the organizers where they mentioned that they had been looking into including a sledge hockey division.”

From there, discussions led them to starting with a showcase sledge game during the tournament this year to get their feet wet. The sledge hockey game will take place on New Year’s Eve from 10 a.m. to noon on the Scotia Arena, and Court is excited to see how the game plays out with so many hockey fans on hand who may not have witnessed sledge hockey before.

“Our goal is to give everybody who wants to play hockey the opportunity to do so,” noted Court. “That’s a major principle of our facility year-round, but also with this Challenge Cup tournament. The tournament already runs on a packed schedule, but when Sledge Hockey Manitoba approached us, we knew this would be a great opportunity to keep growing this tournament and continue showing our community that hockey really is for all.”

For Calder and Sledge Hockey Manitoba, this is only the first step in what they hope is a much longer journey. Though many Canadian provinces have their own sledge tournaments and Manitoba’s sledge hockey players have opportunities to play through those events as well as league play at home and national tournaments at the higher levels, involving sledge hockey in the Challenge Cup would incorporate the sport into a hockey tournament like few other events.

“The possibilities for the future are what excite me,” explained Calder. “The plan, in theory, is that this showcase game could lead to having a sledge hockey division at future Challenge Cups where we would have more than two teams – potentially four to six – and expand to including other provinces as well. We’re always looking for more opportunities and more awareness, so this is a good chance for our group to get our foot in the door for potentially growing this into a much larger tournament for us in the future.”

It’s an opportunity that Calder knows many sledge hockey players are excited about, and he’s even more excited to help provide it for them.

“There are so many incredible people in the sledge community that deserve to have their stories told, they deserve to have eyes on them. I’ve been blown away by the amount of effort, the work ethic, the positive spirit and happiness around the community. It’s been really uplifting and a really rewarding experience.”

Court and those at hockey for all centre already know it will be an experience they won’t soon forget.

“We work hard to make the Challenge Cup the best experience for players,” he said. “There are Player of the game prizes and trophies to be won, with player welcome packages off the ice too, and the tournament is hosted in a world-class facility where some of the best players in the world regularly train. It gives these young athletes the feeling of being like a pro and leaves them dreaming of where their hockey careers could go. The more kids we can give that feeling to, the better.”

This article was originally published in Game On – Manitoba’s hockey community magazine. 

Jets Hockey Development coaches leave lasting impact in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

The goal of the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team has always been to provide professional hockey development for players of all ages and skill levels. That’s something they regularly do at hockey for all centre, but they don’t let geography stop them from growing their impact on players.

They regularly host players for training at the facility from around Manitoba, and even do satellite sessions away from hockey for all centre. But from Dec. 1-4, the JHD team traveled the farthest they’ve ever gone for training sessions by flying up to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

They didn’t go alone though. The JHD coaches were part of a contingency that also included employees of the Project 11 mental wellness program who visited Rankin Inlet schools to share their message and lessons around mental health, and brought those lessons to the rink as well.

It wasn’t the first interaction JHD has had with players from the Nunavut town located more than 1,400 kilometres north of their home base in Winnipeg. Teams from Rankin Inlet have for several years been attending the Winnipeg Jets Challenge Cup hosted at hockey for all centre over the holiday season, and players from the town have made trips down to Winnipeg in the summer to train with JHD for a week.

But this was a whole new experience.

“We were on the ice from early morning until late at night to work with as many kids as possible,” said Dean Court, Business & Amateur Hockey Development & Manager of Team Programs with JHD. “The people brought us breakfast and lunch and accommodated us with room and board. They were so gracious to us and showed so much gratitude to us for being there to work with the kids.”

David Clark, the recreational manager in Rankin Inlet who helped organize the weekend sessions with JHD, could feel the excitement around the town as well.

“The whole community gets excited about something like this,” Clark noted. “JHD had been looking to come up for four days and offer a ton of on-ice sessions with lots of kids. We had 200 kids altogether, and I’m just thrilled not only for our hockey association but our community and look forward to building this partnership for many years to come.”

The time on the ice wasn’t wasted either. The JHD team had the players running plenty of drills, including the goalies as JHD’s Manager of Goalie Development Andy Kollar was along on the trip.

But the sessions weren’t just designed for the players. It was important to the JHD team to have the local coaches involved too. That included having the coaches participate in the on-ice sessions and hear a presentation from the JHD coaches, as well as having Project 11 employees share the importance of being willing to listen to your athletes and how that can have a positive impact on and off the ice.

“When we have our team go out there, we have a plan in place,” said Court. “It’s age appropriate and already structured for the development of those players. We also did coach mentorship where we met with the coaches and did a presentation. We don’t just leave after all of that though. We partner with these coaches and work with them continually on the development of their players.”

That element is perhaps one of the most important for JHD. Their coaches can’t be there all the time, so it’s important to give high-quality hockey training knowledge to the local coaches who work with the players regularly.

Overall, it was a worthwhile weekend that left everybody excited to do more.

“It gives us another way to learn and grow,” said Clark of the connection with the JHD coaches. “We’re hoping to just see the relationship develop. Having that open line of communication and the support is huge for our volunteer coaches who are just trying to do their best for our players.”