Connor McDavid drops jaws night in and night out with his speed and skill.
Kids coming up through the ranks would love to know the secret to becoming a generational player like McDavid.
It turns out, physiologically, they can get there. Scientists haven’t identified any genes that help to create a superstar.
If you look at the data from McDavid’s preseason fitness test, it wouldn’t stand out amongst his teammates.
“Comparing him to other players on the team, they are very similar in their fitness levels,” said Alex Game, director of the Sport and Health Assessment Centre. “Some guys would be higher, say in strength than others, or that aerobic fitness that allows them to play 25, 30 minutes a night.
“They are very similar in their physiological makeup.”
That means that hard work and a lot of practice really pays off. And note to parents, you don’t need your kids specializing early to reach the skill of players like McDavid and Sidney Crosby.
“You don’t have to start when you’re young,” Game said. “Basically, being physically active would’ve helped any of those players, regardless if they were solely in hockey or if they did other sports, to become that well-rounded physical athlete.”
Where generational players like McDavid stand out, is in their brains.
According to University of Alberta sport psychologist John Dunn, the list of psychological traits includes:
Lack of fear of failure
Commitment to train
Attention to detail
Ability to identify marginal gains
Unwavering confidence and resilience
“They never ever lose that deep down belief that they are who they are and it’s going to come back,” Dunn said. “Whereas I think the rest of us, I don’t think we’ve got that same unshakeable belief that they have in themselves.”
These types of special athletes also don’t see pressure the same way as the average athlete.
“They focus on what they can gain,” Dunn said. “The regular person focuses on what they might lose and as a result, that change of mindset allows them to flourish beyond what the regular good athlete is capable of achieving.”
Most importantly, according to Dunn, is passion.
“It fuels all the behaviours that are necessary to train, to commit, to make the sacrifice, to endure the hardship, to fuel the ability to rebound from disappointment,” Dunn said.
For those asking, Dunn says this level of mental fortitude can’t be trained.