On November 24 and 25, the Boys Varsity Hockey team became closer than anyone could have imagined when Jeff Levin, a sports psychologist out of Boston and New Hampshire, visited campus and led a team-bonding workshop.
The idea behind Levin’s program was to create an environment where everybody felt completely comfortable making mistakes in front of each other, and a safe space where individuals could trust others with things that few other people knew about them.
During the two-day session, the players shared personal adversities with one another. They also sang together, and ridded their minds of what Levin called “nasty gremlins.” In Levin’s opinion, a gremlin is something that tells its host they are not good enough, or something that makes you feel less than you really are.
The exercise, Head Coach Derek Cunha felt, was “extremley helpful, especially for the new kids to come in and be comfortable around their teammates for the next three-and-a-half months.”
Cunha believes the team’s experience will help them bond as a team and play together on the ice.
“I think it set the stage for us to become closer. It’s not a ‘do the workshop and everything will be great.’ The true results of the workshop will show itself towards January and February,” he said.
He thinks that he would use Levin again in the future
“I think every team will be different and have different issue to work through,” Cunha said. “I think there is value in learning from someone outside of our community. Hearing a different voice deliver different messages is important”
While most hockey teams focus entirely on the physical and strategic aspects of the sport, Levin encouraged the team to use their brains in different ways.
“The main goal of this workshop is to teach each individual how to use the space in between their ears,” said Levin.
Exercises included singing a major scale in front of the entire team and sharing personal dilemmas and struggles with one another.
Levin has been working with athletes for over 30 years and has worked with various individuals, families, and teams. He grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, and attended Dartmouth College and the Boston College School of Education. He played basketball as a kid, but works with many hockey teams. He previously worked with the Pingree School, in Hamilton, Mass.
With 13 new players on the team, Cunha called upon Levin to help create a tight bond between the new and returning players.
Senior Captain Tim Rego said doing the workshop gave the players the comfort of being able to let down their guards and express their minds in front of one another.
Tim joked that “singing in front of each other” was his favorite part.
“I felt I really utilized my beautiful singing voice,” he said.
Senior James Belleavoine agreed that the session helped the team bond.
“There were a lot of new guys on the team and they didn’t necessarily feel comfortable talking to the returners or even the other new kids,” James said. “Having the ability to communicate with your teammates makes everyone feel more comfortable and translates onto the ice well.”
Levin’s message was well received by everyone involved. Each player had a similar takeaway to Tim’s: “The importance of being totally comfortable and not being afraid to make mistakes in front of your teammates.”
The boys look to carry Levin’s message throughout the entirety of the Hockey season and make another run at the NEPSAC playoffs, and have a deal with Levin in place that has him coming back for a team dinner if the team makes them.
As of press time, the team’s record is 1-2. They play Académie Saint-Louis tonight (Dec. 7) at home.
This story originally ran in The Willistonian. The photo is by Hunter Sarro ’19.