Growing up, sports (hockey especially) have played a huge part of my life. At one point when I was ten or eleven I think I was playing six sports. Coming from a family with an athletic background; my dad is a tennis professional, my sister played tennis at Dartmouth College, and my other sister played lacrosse at Colgate University, athletics are in my blood. As I grew older, each of these sports began requiring more and more of my time and since there are only so many hours in a day and only one of me, I had to begin the painful process of selecting which ones made the cut and which ones didn’t. First, I dropped basketball, then tennis (sorry dad), then baseball, and finally lacrosse. By the time I entered high school I had narrowed my selection process down to just two sports: hockey and golf. At first glance, most people would say that these sports couldn’t be more different. Hockey is full of hard hits, hard shots, bumps and bruises, fast paced skating and is exhilarating from start to finish inside a 200’ x 85’ glass bubble. While golf requires much more patience, precision, mastering the inside voice, and is slower in pace and boring for some people to play, let alone watch. The question I began tossing around my mind a few weeks ago became, does playing golf make me a better hockey goalie?
Two summers ago, I was playing in a national golf tournament in Vermont. At this time, I was still a relatively short, skinny, and inexperienced kid competing with some of best junior players in the country. At these tournaments, there are many college golf coaches that come to watch and recruit. On my second to last hole, I noticed both the Kansas and Virginia coaches watching my group. Obviously, still being young I was inexperienced with these types of things (how to handle the pressure, scouts, etc.) and this made me really nervous. I proceeded to hit two shots in a row right into the water (not exactly my best showing). Just like letting up a soft goal in hockey, when you make a bad score on a hole you have to erase it from your mind, quickly, because you have another shot staring you dead in the face. Despite my poor play, the coaches finished watching our round. With the last hole completely out of my brain, I bounced back and made a nice birdie on my last hole. After the round, the Virginia coach came up to me and told me how impressed he was with my mental toughness to finish strong after having a bad hole.
Becoming mentally tough is something I have found plays a large role in my game as a goaltender. I have gone to Midwest Goalie School since I was six years old and a saying that I remember the instructors, in particular Chico, always telling me was “the most important shot is always the next one”. This quote has stuck with me throughout my entire goaltending career, and whenever I make a mistake or let up a bad goal, I remind myself of this. The more I thought about it, the more I began to notice parallels between hockey and golf. Regardless of the task (external measure), my emotional connection with the situation (internal measure) largely determined the outcome. If I panic on the golf course or worry too much about who’s watching me, I don’t focus on what I need to do or the flow of my swing to hit a good next shot. In hockey, when I worry about who is watching or the goal I gave up in the first period, I don’t focus on my movements or concentrate on tracking the puck completely into my body which is so vital to making the next save.
Many young athletes may think that by the time you get to high school you should be focusing on just one sport, and I would have to disagree with them. For me, being able to play both hockey and golf has been incredibly beneficial. Not just in terms of athletics but also from a mental standpoint. Playing golf is something that I enjoy doing, so it relaxes me and challenges me as an athlete in different ways that hockey does. It allows my mind to escape the hectic and high speed thought processing being a goalie demands every second on the ice. After 18 holes, my hockey mind feels refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to go to the rink and be a goalie. I believe that balance in life is important, and too much of anything becomes too hard to handle. Golf allows me to enjoy being a hockey player and vice versa. I like the different challenges each sport presents, and in the end, I am a stronger athlete because of it.
This past fall was a big moment in my life because I finalized plans for my collegiate future. Instead of playing Division 1 golf (which I was being recruited for), I chose to play Division III golf at Trinity College in Hartford, CT because I will also have the opportunity to play Division III hockey; something that is very important to me. Golf has always been a large part of my life, just as hockey has, so getting to compete at the collegiate level in both is nothing short of a dream come true for me and an opportunity I am greatly looking forward to. I am a 2 sport athlete, and sure, at times there have been conflicts where I’ve been forced to choose one over the other. At the end of the day, golf and hockey have shaped me into who I am, and I fully believe golf has helped me be a better goalie and hockey has helped me be a better golfer. For that, I would encourage all young goaltenders to pursue a secondary sport and have fun being an athlete in both!
*Click Here for an excellent article from the site Challenge the Game Project that outlines the advantages athletes gain by playing more than one sport at some point in their career