How to be a Relentless Competitor

By Enio Sacilotto, Assistant Coach of the Victoria Royals & President of International Hockey Camps

"It takes no ability to give effort"

When we think of a competitive athlete we think of people like Milan Lucic of the Edmonton Oilers & Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens. These players play the game with a passionate heart that will let nothing get in their way. They leave everything they have on the playing or practise field all the time. They never give up no matter what, they are relentless. A relentless competitor is determined, ferocious, uncompromising, unrelenting and unstoppable! This article is for players who want to learn to be a relentless competitor and for coaches and parents who want to help them get there!

Relentless competitors, have grit and guts, they never give in or burn out, they have the intestinal fortitude to win every race, every battle and do their all to win every game. They are mentally strong and overcome every criticism, challenge, setback or obstacle that come their way. They keep their eye on the ultimate goal, they do not dwell on the negative. Rather they look for solutions and just keep on ploughing through.

To be relentless competitor one must look at the overall picture, it is not a one time, one game, one practise thing, it is an attitude that is brought to every practise, game, and season, it is a consistent attitude.

The good news is that becoming a relentless competitor is a learned skill. It is important to note that the drive to be relentless must come from within yourself. This is true for any level, gender or age of the athlete. Parents, coaches, mentors, teammates or anyone outside yourself cannot make you into a relentless competitor!

Here are 7 things that you can do to help you learn and develop the skill of a relentless competitor:

1. Passion

You have to find something that you love! When you find what you love, you will develop a passion for it! In our case it is hockey but can be any sport or activity. Passion gives a feeling of enthusiasm and excitement about practising, training, playing games, and helps build your desire and devotion. Playing and practising with passion will eliminate your fears and help you to go into the danger areas, compete for pucks and do things above and beyond what you expect. Dan Coyle, author of the book, “The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t born. It’s Grown,” says passion works in your brain like rocket fuel. It makes learning fast and fun. It helps you determine why you are playing and gets you excited!

2. Set Goals 

You need to take the time to think about what they you want as all relentless competitors are goal driven! It is best once you establish your goals to write them down on paper. The S.M.A.R.T. system is a very good formula to use for setting goals. Your goal must be:

  • Specific – know exactly what you want.
  • Measurable – you have to find a way to measure your goal this way you will know your progress, examples could be how many times you hit the target in your shooting practise.
  • Attitude – you have to be willing to put the time in and do the work, it is all about your attitude.
  • Realistic – the goal must be do-able, you have to develop a realistic plan that you can live up too, slightly stretch yourself!
  • Timed – have a clear target date as to when you intend to reach your goal.

When you have planned goals you can re-evaluate and make changes as you go. By setting YOUR own goals (not by coaches or parents) you will go for them with a firm COMMITMENT!

3. Commitment Contract

Make a deal with yourself. To even further firm up your commitment to be a relentless competitor, you can think about some of the things you need to do at practises and games. You can do this exercise for a segment of the season or a whole season or a playoff run. Promise yourself you are going to do the things you say you are going to do. Pick 4 to 6 things, write them down in the form of a contract. 
Example - For the next 10 games I commit to:
  1. Work hard and compete at every drill and in every game,
  2. I will practise my 1-on-1 skills making sure to play the body every time.
Once the contract is complete, sign it, have a teammate sign it and a coach or parent sign it. With a commitment contract you will increase your self-confidence, boost yourself into action, self-motivate yourself and give you the power to outwork and outperform all the athletes around you!

4. Self Talk 

Your worst enemy is yourself! How many times have you talked yourself into a mindset that you cannot do something or you that you are too slow or too tired? We call this the monkey mind, your mind will race all over the place and fill you with reasons you cannot do something, TAME THE MONKEY, be aware of what you are saying to yourself! Create a few statements that are related to your passion, your goals and your commitment contract. These statements must be positive, present tense and personal.
Example - “I am a competitive player, I am first to pucks and am fearless when I go into the corners”.
We call these statements affirmations, write them down on a 3” x 5” card and carry it with you, repeat several times per day. Repeat any of the affirmations that are related to your on ice play when you are out there. Affirmations help you stay focused, positive, control the monkey mind and take out any fear of failure!

5. Avoid Comparisons to Others 

There are always athletes that are not as talented as you or athletes that are better than you. Comparisons to others are not going to help you. Use your energy to compare yourself to yourself. After practises and games rate yourself, keep a journal, how did it go, what can you do better? At the next practise or game, review your last one and prepare yourself to compete harder and be better. You will get better by keeping a comparison of yourself and not others. BE PREPARED TO PUSH YOURSELF OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE – THAT IS HOW YOU WILL GET BETTER AND BECOME A RELENTLESS COMPETITOR!

6. Learn from your Mistakes 

We all make mistakes in everything you do, do not get stuck on mistakes. Analyze what happened, learn from it and let it go! The most competitive athletes have poor short term memories when it comes to mistakes, they forget fast! Spend more time and energy on your successes! How did if feel during that game when you were in the zone and winning every battle? Visualize it and keep a movie in your brain! Have a “growth mindset” and focus on the positive and most of all on your 100% effort.

7. Study the Game 

You have a passion for your sport, take the time to watch games on TV. Watch the most competitive players. Watch Lucic (power forward) and Gallagher (skill player), check out their techniques, how they angle when going into corners, how they are first on pucks, how they compete. Pick your own superstar. Even though you are a unique individual and you have to be yourself, you can mimic and act like your idol! 

It is important to stress that having a passion for something and being a relentless competitor must come from within yourself. Parents, coaches, teachers, friends, and advisors cannot do it for you! It is a learned skill that you can work on every day just like skating and practising your slap shot!

At our Battle and Compete camp you will have the opportunity to practise your on ice battle and compete drills through 1 on 1 drills and many small area games. In the classroom we will review the contents of this article and do some of the practical exercises to help you become a relentless competitor!

It is never too late or too early for you as an athlete to work on these skills! 


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