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Great Athletes Cover All Their Bases with a Plan A, B and C

04/29/2014, 11:45am MDT
By USAHockey.com

True greatness requires extra effort. That’s true in any walk of life, and it’s certainly true in sports – no matter how much raw talent our young athletes possess.

In the unpredictable and fast-moving world of sports, extra effort goes hand in hand with proper preparation. If an athlete wants to be great and win, they’ve got to prepare great too. And to prepare great, they’ve got to have more than just a Plan A.

They’ve got to have a Plan A, B and C.  

The experts at Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) understand what it takes to achieve greatness and prepare for everything – including the unexpected. That’s why they developed a winning approach that’s built around both preparation and adaptation. They call this game-tested approach “Plan A-B-C.”

“Most athletes have a Plan A,” explains Jim Thompson, Founder and CEO of Positive Coaching Alliance. “The way they like to compete, that plays to their strengths.”

But just like anyone else, athletes also have “off days.” In those moments, they need to switch gears and zone in on those solid backup plans they’ve been developing. When Plan A just isn’t working, they need to reset their focus towards Plan B.

A great Plan B focuses closely on effort. If your offense just isn’t working or clicking, for example, focus instead on defensive effort and energy. In many sports, offensive runs are sparked by disruptive defense.

Likewise, if Plan B doesn’t yield the desired results, a prepared, disciplined and mentally tough athlete can move on to Plan C. For many great athletes, Plan C involves focusing less on their own efforts and achievements and concentrating more on making things happen for their teammates.

Whatever our young athletes’ sport, they can sharpen their mental game by not only identifying and practicing their Plan A, but by also preparing Plans B and C for those times when Plan A just isn’t cutting it.

When an athlete really knows and believes deep down that they can always find a way to succeed – in any scenario, against any opponent – greatness becomes that much more attainable.

Download our FREE "Plan A, B, C” handout now and sit down with your youth hockey player to help them make their plan.  

At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we constantly look for ways to celebrate the countless acts of responsibility shown by people every day. We created Responsible Sports, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, as part of this belief to help ensure that our kids experience the best that sports have to offer in environments that promote and display responsibility. We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support winning on and off the field.

Join the Responsible Sports movement!

©2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Positive Coaching Alliance. All rights reserved. This material may not be distributed without express written permission. Any reproduction in whole or part by and individuals or organizations will be held liable for copyright infringement to the full extent of the law.

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When it comes to women’s hockey, there is no argument that USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have the two premier programs in the world. Earlier this month, their young talent took to the ice in Lake Placid, New York, as a part of the U18 and U22 Select Series.

While there were several athletes on both teams who competed for their country in such an event for the first time, it also marked a special occasion for Melissa Szkola. An experienced official who has worked a handful of International Ice Hockey Federation events, Lake Placid marked her first USA-Canada affair. USA Hockey caught up with the Michigan native to talk about the amazing international experience and her evolving officiating career.


USA Hockey: What was it like to be a part of the U22 and U18 Select Series’

Melissa Szkola: The experience was wonderful. It was fantastic. We’ve essentially got the two best teams in the world competing against each other, so the learning experience, working with the officials that we have, is always amazing. You leave here a better person, a better official; that’s what we’re here for. That’s what I look forward to the most at these big-time events: the level of hockey and what you get out of it as a whole.

USAH: How did you first get into officiating?

Szkola: It’s been nine years since I got my start. I was a competitive figure skater and my older brother played hockey, so I’ve always been around the game, but it was my husband who actually got me into the officiating side of it. When we started dating, he was a roller and ice hockey official. He asked me to come with one time and I said ‘okay.’ That’s how I got started. It’s something he and I have in common and he is my biggest supporter. I wouldn’t be here without him.

USAH: So nine years under your belt, how would you describe some of your past IIHF events?

Szkola: I’ve had a handful of experiences with international tournaments. Each one has brought a new set of skills to my plate. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot from your supervisors from different countries as well. To get out and work with other female officials and learn from them and your supervisors is amazing.

Being in another country, where sometimes there aren’t people who even speak English, is a really unique experience as well. The communication that you learn to speak with non-English speaking officials really makes you appreciate what you have in common – hockey.

USAH: How did the Select Series compare to those events?

Szkola: The level of play, it’s definitely much higher at the Select Series than any of the championships that I’ve been to. I wouldn’t say that the intensity is much different, because at each level they are competing for their highest achievement. The intensity is the same, the importance is the same, but the level of play is definitely much better; it’s faster, it’s crisper. Your awareness just has to be that much higher.

USAH: Did calling a game with high-caliber players like those at the Select Series shake up any nerves?

Szkola: I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous before we got on the ice. I’ve watched Team USA and Team Canada compete before, so you know the level at which they intend to play. Being out there with it, you just know where the emotions can go sometimes. It was a little nerve-wracking before the start, but as soon as that puck drops, you have a job to do. USA Hockey does a fantastic job developing us; I feel like they wouldn’t put you out there if you weren’t ready. Once that puck drops, you’re kind of at home.

USAH: What’s next for your officiating future?

Szkola: The support that I have, not only from my hometown in Michigan, but also the support and development USA Hockey has given really sets you up for success if you want to take it in that direction. That is my goal. I do want to skate in the Olympics. Moving forward I am going to continue to improve upon each experience that I have, because you can always be better. Mistakes do get made, so you learn from those and improve yourself. 

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