Ron's Story - In His Own Words
Every so often, I am asked if I miss playing in the NHL. My response usually surprises those who ask: "Yes, I miss playing but I no longer need to play". Of course I miss the camaraderie involved with team sports where everyone is working towards a common goal, but what I miss most is the simplicity of the game. One thing all players will generally agree on is that while the game is simple, it is the business aspect that is complex. One could also argue that receiving a sizable pay cheque for "playing a game" is something worth missing as well, and I would have to agree with them! In order to complete my answer to the original question I needed to ask myself "Why is it that I no longer feel that I need it?"
To be completely honest, since retiring in 2000 I haven't always felt this way. The first few years brought changes and challenges for which I was not prepared to deal with. One specific example was being forced into retirement earlier than expected due to back and neck injuries sustained while playing the game. This was quickly followed by difficulty determining a new career direction, a failed marriage and a realization that I would need to adjust my lifestyle to fit the realities of my new financial situation.
The most challenging and difficult part of my transition from the game was that I felt like I was the only player to feel what I was feeling, and the only player to go through what I was experiencing. For the first time in my life, I was no longer part of a "team" and as a result I felt alone on this, the next chapter of my life. Of course I understood what retirement meant in terms of the potential loss of camaraderie and friendships but the fact of the matter is I now realize that the biggest loss was from no longer being part of a team. Being part of "something more" ran much deeper than I had ever expected. After all, for pretty much my entire life, my vision, mission, purpose, goals and even, to a large extent, values were "the team's", and were determined by "the team". My sense of identity revolved around the game of hockey, the team and those involved in the game. Had I been prepared for, and realized, the importance of determining these goals on a more individual level, I am certain that my transition would have been easier. What I have since realized in my retirement is that my situation was not unique to me, and I was not alone as I had previously thought. Fortunately, I now know where I stand as an individual in all aspects of my life - which is a balanced, fulfilling experience in and of itself.
In learning from my own experiences and gaining perspective into other athlete's stories, I no longer want athletes to feel alone. I want athletes to feel as though they are still part of a team. I have discovered that it requires a "team" to assist athletes in creating and defining their own personal vision, mission, purpose, and values while being able to set goals with these in mind. In the same way that athletes gain skills and are held accountable by their athletic coaches, I want to help athletes by providing them with a personal leadership coach and a network to assist them in achieving their personal goals while holding them accountable during this process. The coach will also provide them with tools to become more empowered with regards to setting and revising their own vision, mission, purpose and values. Additionally, I also see value in providing a program to all participants with a "team" of diverse mentors to support athletes. It is my vision that this program, Octane - High Performance Mentoring, will provide athletes with the support they need while striving to lead healthy, balanced, fulfilling lives.