Garret Sparks’ performance fuels rookie performance concerns

Dec 3, 2015 | Sports

Ashleigh Darrach

hockeyToronto Maple Leafs fans are expressing their disappointment after rookie goalie Garret Sparks allowed six goals on Wednesday night following his successful NHL debut earlier in the week.

But is the criticism justified?

Sparks had a shutout Monday against the Edmonton Oilers with 24 shots on net. However, during Wednesday night’s game – Sparks’ second-ever professional outing – he had a less than stellar performance and Toronto lost to the Winnipeg Jets 6-1.

Experts on Thursday told Humber News this is a very common trend for new starters in sport.

Jody Hull, head coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes team, said developing mental toughness is a skill he focuses on with his players.

“Things that you look at are what kind of programs they come from, whether they were winning programs, what are some of the success they’ve had in past years,” Hull said.

“For us, it just shows the confidence in the kids’ abilities.”

He said his team focuses on many different aspects to improve mental toughness to ensure that, when players move into a higher level, they are ready to perform.

The training includes watching videos of game play, both of individual athletes on their own team as well as various videos of other league players.

As a coach, Hull said it is his job to help a player re-focus after a lacklusture performance and to reassure them that they belong in the league.

Hayli Moore, a former Humber Hawks volleyball player, agreed with Hull’s analysis after reflecting on her rookie year as a starter in 2012.

“It’s pretty important to hear that you belong because it makes you feel more confident about yourself so it helps you perform better,” Moore said.

The former Durham region player added that she came straight to a program with a six-year dynasty of winning at Humber.

She was nervous to start in a game with a level that she had never played at.

“Your confidence is the most important thing,” Moore said.

“You can’t go in unconfident because you’re already nervous,” she added.

“So you’re just building your emotions on top of each other and it’s going to decrease your level of play almost immediately.”

“If you go in with confidence that you’re going to play well, and that you can do it… you pretty much will,” Moore said.