The start of September means kids everywhere are heading back to school. For many young tykes across Canada, it also means the start of the minor hockey season.
At the rinks you can catch the bustle of players eager to hit the ice, the gathering of nervous parents hoping their child will make the cut, and the sweet smell of effort lingering in the air. For the youngest of players trying out their new equipment, there’s something magical that happens the first time the hockey gear goes on.
They become hockey players.
It’s hard to describe and difficult to understand. Most of these young players have never put stick and skates together, and all they know of the game is “get the puck in the net”. But somehow, when they put on the uniform and become immersed in the culture of hockey, they know how to behave like the athletes of their sport.
They don’t let their lack of ability or skill prevent them from participating in the sport or taint their belief that they are indeed hockey players. In their minds, it doesn’t matter that they can’t skate very well, that they spend more time falling down than skating, or that they’re barely able to get a stick on a puck, let alone shoot it. For them, their identity as hockey players is not defined by outcomes and abilities – it’s based entirely on what they are doing, not on how well they can do it.
This identity is so strong that when they do fall down or get behind in a drill, giving up doesn’t even present itself as an option. In that moment, all that they know is to do what hockey players do: lean on one knee, push up to standing, and keep on skating. Regardless of the obstacles that might stand in their way, they are going to do whatever they can to get right back in the game.
At this young age, being a hockey player usually only lasts as long as the few hours a week they are at the rink. It doesn’t necessarily change the way they are outside of ice time. But as their involvement and commitment to the sport grows, many more of the decisions the kids make are influenced by the fact that they are hockey players. It’s this identity that shapes various aspects of their personality and that drives their choices and behaviours.
Regardless of ability, experience, or goals, adopting the identity of an athlete defines who you are and how you integrate nutrition and training into your life. It strengthens a commitment to the behaviours and strategies that are inherent in a healthy lifestyle. If you believe that you are a fit person, the choices you make will reflect your identity as such.
With this identity, you are the person who does not miss workouts. You are the person who chooses better food options. You are the person who continues to do these things whether you’re on vacation, have had a bad day, are not seeing progress, or just don’t feel like it some days. You are the person who gets right back in the game when you do slip and fall.
Regardless of whether you have achieved your goals, you do these things because your identity as a fit person won’t permit you to act any other way.
So get the gear. Build the environment and lifestyle of being fit. Surround yourself with fit friends and people who will cheer you on. If you make fitness and nutrition your identity, you will find every creative solution to get up off the ice and stay in the game.
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