Of the 126 top professional hockey agents, one, Pat Brisson, represented 10 of last year’s 31 first round draft picks – over 40 times his “fair” share.

Here’s the secret. Those 10 players didn’t pick Brisson after they were drafted. Brisson and his team of 25 agents, marketers, lawyers, coaches, psychologists and managers of sports business affairs and operations identified those players’ potential years before and invested in their development over time, helping them earn their first-round selection.

Yet again we learn the lesson that great moments of success are born of years of gritty learning, practice, experience, hard work and being open to help.

Arguably the keys to having 10 of 31 first draft picks are Brisson and CAA Sports’ player selection and development program. They identify high potential prospects 5-6 years before they’re ready for the draft and work with them. In their words:

“We have staff dedicated to working with our younger players and their families, both as advisors and agents, to implement individual development strategies. Our approach is holistic: we advise and assist with training, skills development, nutrition and mental preparation, (on an ongoing basis and at their annual week-long hockey summer camps), and we educate families on their options and the best path to success, no matter the desired outcome.”

When “his” players get drafted, Brisson guides them to establish a relationship with a more experienced player on the team to learn from their experience along the way.

“Identify with older players who have gone through a similar path. If you’re 19 and you go to camp and there’s a kid who’s drafted fairly high but he’s 24 and now he’s been in the league for three years, try to find out how this guy made it. You may learn from him.”

Get it? This touches all the pieces of strengths development from talent through learning, practice, experience and apprenticeship.



Brisson and his team pick their players based on potential. Identifying innate talent and potential is itself an acquired art. As Brisson put it, “Sometimes you’re not right — I’ve been wrong and will continue to be wrong — but over the years you get more experience about recruiting the right players.”

Be clear on the talent you seek.



Knowledge is learned. Brisson and his team encourage young players to keep learning.

Encourage all your people to keep learning.



Skills are the product of practice. Skill development is so important that Brisson added in-house coaches to the CAA team to help their players overcome a “weakness or habit that is preventing them from getting better.”

Give people the time and resources they need to overcome weaknesses and build skills.



Individual talent, knowledge and skills are necessary, but not sufficient. Hockey is a team sport and teams must play together, gaining hard-won experience on the ice, in the arena getting knocked down by real opponents. Brisson’s hockey camps are one small step in accelerating that. In some cases, they may be the last 1% that makes a difference between great and predominant.

Give people the chance to experience getting knocked down – and then getting back up.



Craft level caring and sensibilities can’t be taught. They must be absorbed from masters over time. This is why Brisson has built an almost self-regenerating organism in which the more junior members are, in a way, apprenticed to the more experienced members.

It takes time and an openness to help.



It’s one thing to wish for success. It’s another to be willing to do what it takes to succeed yourself and to build a successful team.

Angela Duckworth defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” She says it’s about “a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.”

This is why it takes years to create great moments of success. You need strengths, and grit over time couple with a high sense of urgency, pride in what you’re doing and openness to help from others.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #758) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

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