~ Kevin Willis
Kevin L. Willis, PhD
Peak Performance Coach
Level 5 USA Hockey Coach
Hi, my name is Kevin Willis, aka, Dr. Dub, and I am a Sport Psychologist, Hockey Coach, Hockey Dad, and Hockey Fan.
My passion for hockey, and specifically the mental game of hockey, comes from my obsession with wanting to understand how the 1980 Men's Olympic Hockey Team, made up of college kids, how they beat the best hockey team on the planet.
Growing up in the 70's I didn't have hockey where I lived. I played baseball, soccer, and football. But then, in February 1980, I saw a young hockey team beat a bigger, faster, and more experienced Russian team, and I have been a diehard hockey fan ever since.
Growing up inspired by the 1980 Miracle on Ice, I found that my whole approach to playing sports and understanding competition was different. I began to see competition, not just based on the physical skills of one player versus another, but as dedication, commitment, and toughness to do what it takes to win and be successful.
As a freshman in high school, I had no chance of making the varsity team, and yet I not only made the team, I made the team as the starting catcher, something that I thought was impossible, but something I set out to do and somehow achieved.
I was beginning to see sport and competition in a different way, and I couldn't seem to get the idea out of my head that with the right attitude, training, and mental toughness, what someone can accomplish is really only limited by what they believe and how hard they're willing to work.
But let me back up a little .
Even though I didn't grow up playing hockey, when I did discover it, I became a student of the game. I watched as many games as I could. But since hockey costs 10 times what it costs to play baseball or soccer, my parents were pretty clear that I could watch, but playing wasn't an option.
And that was tough because, like I said, I knew that hockey was somehow my calling, but as a kid, you can only do what you can do. So I set out to learn everything there was to know about the game. And throughout this entire time, I never let go of my fascination with wanting to understand how a bunch of college kids beat a bigger, faster, more experienced team from Russia in the 1980 Olympics.
That became my mission to understand how something like that can happen! I had to know.
So, in college, I decided to study psychology, figuring that if I can't learn mental toughness by playing hockey, I will understand it through academics, research, and my ridiculous passion for the game.
Now, fast-forward to my early 20's, when I finally get a chance to play hockey for the first time. I quickly learned that playing hockey is a whole lot harder than it looks.
I won't bore you with the details of my men's league career, although I will say that we won the B-League championship twice and I was the scoring leader both years. I know, I know, incredible, huh … I would have you check out my stats in hockeyDB.com but for some reason, I am not in there. 😉
The point I want to make is, although I didn't grow up playing hockey, I know I am bound to it in some psychic way. And so my path to becoming a Level 5 USA Hockey Coach, Sport Psychologist, Peak Performance Consultant, and Certified Mental Game Expert grew from my passion and commitment to understanding how to use a player's mental game to enhance their overall performance and success.
To pursue my dream of becoming a Mental Toughness Coach in hockey, I partnered with my mentor, Dr. Saul Miller, author of the popular book Hockey Tough.
Together, Dr. Miller and I worked to make the material in his book available online. Not only did we convert his coaching into online training, but we also interviewed players, coaches, and scouts from the NHL, AHL, ECHL, NCAA, and teams across Europe and asked them to share their insight into what it takes to play hockey at the highest levels, and we made that coaching available on the internet.
Building on my work with Dr. Miller, I created TheCompletePlayer.com to develop my own mental game coaching workbooks, workshops, team coaching, and one-on-one coaching so that I could work with players, coaches, and parents to better understand the mental side of hockey and to help them find not only more success, but more enjoyment in the game.
One thing I have found is that to be a top player, you have to recognize that the path is difficult. And if you don't love the game, if you don't have a passion and motivation to work through the tough times, then no matter how skilled you are on the ice, it will be difficult for you to move up if you aren't mentally tough.
So for the past 20 years coaching players in this great game, from mites to juniors, I have always tried to emphasize that in addition to teaching the kids hockey skills like skating, passing, and shooting, I would make sure they learned mental toughness skills that would give them an edge over their competitors. I knew that talent was important in hockey, but talent alone wasn't enough.
If a player wants to reach their potential as a hockey player, they must continually build their mental toughness skills right alongside their other hockey skills. And sadly, I have seen far too many times, that players who fail to do this will inevitably fall short of their true potential.
So, long story short, that is why I became a Performance and Sport Psychologist working with players, teams, and parents to help them reach their full potential and play hockey at higher and higher levels.
My mission is to help players develop the grit and toughness it takes to take their game to the next level. I know this training works, and I promise that if a player will dive into this kind of training with the same enthusiasm and commitment as they do their other hockey skills, and if they will use what they learn, then they will become a better player.
Not only that, but the game becomes much more enjoyable.
My goal is to help players reach their goals, and I do it by coaching mental toughness in hockey.
So if this sounds like something that will help you, your player, or your team, or if you're a coach or a member of the league board and you think coaching like this can set your program apart from the others … then I invite you to learn more throughout the site.
And when you're ready, I would love to talk with you about how we can put this kind of coaching and training to work in your unique hockey situation.
If you're still reading at this point, thank you for taking the time to learn more about me and about TheCompletePlayer.com.
I look forward to meeting you one day.
See you at the rink!
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