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  • Writer's pictureMind to Performance

Brookes' Mindset Journey - Chapter 4: Deep Breath

First skate with the big boys. Brookes laced up his skates; a cacophony of thoughts churning in his head. Was he ready for this? Yes! No? This was what he had worked so hard for, yet as he looked around him in the locker room, he didn’t exactly feel like he fit in. For starters, everyone had so much hair…everywhere. And the smell. My goodness, it smelled like this before practice?? But the worst of it was the constant joking, mostly inside jokes from what he could tell. For once, Brookes was silently relieved of his small stature, out of sight and out of the line of fire, quietly getting ready in the corner. Practice couldn’t start soon enough.

The difference in skill was immediately noticeable. The speed in which everyone skated was shockingly fast. Brookes did his best to keep up, but he had to really turn on his jets to not finish in dead last. He had an alarming suspicion that most of these guys weren’t even trying that hard. Again and again, the whistle sounded. Sprint after sprint; red line, blue line, blue line, red line…they started to blur together as his chest screamed for air. Then onto shooting drills. Brookes exercised every ounce of his self-control to not bend over to catch his breath. Even if he felt like collapsing, he would not let anyone, least of all his coaches, see.

Before he could take another breath, the puck was on his stick and he was skating toward the slot. Brookes ripped a snapshot…more than a few feet wide of the net. As he skated to the other circle, he could physically feel self-doubt creeping into his head. “Take a breath, bud!” Brookes turned to see the grinning face of Monty, the team’s captain and star defenseman. “Tryouts are over, now you get to just play hockey and have fun.” Easier said than done, Brookes thought. But he did take a breath; the biggest breath he’d taken all day, and boy it felt good. The next puck on his stick felt like it belonged there, and the shot was a bullet – top shelf. Whistles, hoots, and hollers came from his teammates. The sounds of their approval did wonders for his struggling stamina. Once his feet were squarely under him, the rest of practice seemed to race by.

Brookes stared out the window on his drive home. He had so many thoughts swirling in his head. Admittedly, the first practice wasn’t exactly what he expected it to be…however he really did enjoy it. Proving himself was not going to be a cakewalk, that’s for sure. His body felt like it was encased in concrete, but he didn’t mind. He was grateful; grateful for many things. For the coaches believing that he had what it takes to belong on Varsity. For Monty passing along those simple words of wisdom that centered him when he needed it most. And right in this moment, for his mom turning up the music and letting him dwell in his own thoughts.

As his console booted up, Brookes sunk into the couch and let out a deep, contented sigh. Yeah it was a school night, but he felt like he deserved some well-earned relaxation. Right as he was loading into his game, the television abruptly shut off. Brookes figured he was sitting on the remote again, but as he stood up to look, he was greeted with his mom’s icy stare. Whether she knew it or not, she had perfected the dagger glare; Brookes felt the size of an ant. Before he could lay the foundation of an excuse, she began reading an email from his math teacher aloud. She carefully emphasized each word, only meeting his downward gaze after she finished reading his current overall grade. Brookes took a deep breath. There would be no gaming tonight…

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