I was looking at another sports website and they
had put together some generalized mental training tips. It was just a few
things they had collected (some from yours truly). I decided, as I have been writing one or two posts a
week for JuniorHockey.com for around six months now, perhaps a more
general tips post would feel right to those of you that check them out and then
if something hits home you could go back and look up a more specific post about
that area of mental training from previous articles. Or I shudder to say- ask me to elaborate!
I also created a specific page on my website
for hockey players, coaches and teams. You can go there www.TheMental-Game.com/hockey It
is not in the menu as I developed it primarily for those here.
Tips for Mental Hockey Training
Hockey is just as much a mental game as it is a
physical game. Even if players have the best grasp of fundamentals and the best
hockey training, it's worth nothing if they may crack under pressure, or if
they have mental, emotional and lifestyle issues outside of hockey that mess
with their head in-game.
Bouncing back from
a poor performance or handling negative emotions is something that comes from
having your head on right, not just practicing drills up and down the ice. If
you want to get ahead of the game, you should spend as much time training your
mind as you do your body.
By learning to
manage stress, anxiety and other psychological aspects of the game, you can
excel faster than your peers who just focus on the mechanics of hockey. Here
are a few hockey training tips to help you do just that.
Hockey tip #1:
Visualize- Use your imagination
Yes, you move the
puck around every day. But do you imagine yourself doing it, or do you just do
it? Even when you're not on the ice, use mental imagery to "practice"
your hockey training. There are two ways you can do it: external visualization,
where you imagine watching a movie of yourself playing hockey (used when
learning a new skill or looking at improvement), or internal visualization,
where you imagine playing as though you are actually doing it (for skill
enhancement). This concept will help familiarize you with your task until you
could do it half-asleep, with both hands tied behind your back. For now
always imagine doing it correctly with positive outcomes.
Hockey tip #2:
Relax, chill out, and calm down
Many players get nervous before something like
a game or even practice. Unfortunately, anxiety can also mix-up your thinking,
which can cause you to make poor judgments on the ice. If you're alert, but
relaxed, you can make decisions better and faster when you're under pressure.
Controlling your anxiety will go a long way to making you feel more confident
in your game, because you'll know that it won't affect your performance. Take
some time to relax before each game, and you'll find yourself a lot less
stressed. Keep in mind that relaxation is a skill and you can learn to
relax both your body and mind.
Hockey tip #3:
Focus on your goals
short-term and long-term goals for your hockey training will motivate you and
give you something to strive for. If things don't seem to be improving and you
don't have any goals, it's easy to get discouraged and consider quitting. The
goals shouldn't be impossible, but they should definitely challenge you and
force you to step up your game. Challenging yourself is the only way to
consistently improve. Consider your goals a roadmap. Without them it is
easy to get lost in the jungle. Remember that tying in emotions and using your
5 senses will help make your goals real.
Hockey tip #4:
Concentrate- (I prefer FOCUS)
Yes, it's easy to
get distracted during a game. However, part of being a good player is
overcoming that. Concentration or focus drills can help you to improve your focus
completely on the game. Not every drill works the same for everybody else. Some
people are visual learners while others are either auditory or kinesthetic learners.
Find a drill or a pre-game ritual that works best for you. Find something
that allows you to focus. Often times it is a word or action that will anchor
you and help you focus. I like combining the two. Repeating a word like
dominate while making sure your laces are tight prior to stepping on the ice
will signal to you it's time to focus and bring out the fury.
Hockey tip #5: Discipline your mind and body
Do the things you need to do, even if you don't want to do them.
Use exercises like the "Remember the Coin" exercise to learn to be disciplined.
Pay attention to the details. Part of discipline is remembering that all
aspects of performance require training. Ice, dry land, fitness, and yes mental
training all require attention and if you let something slip you may not
perform to your expectations. If as most people say 80% of performance is mental,
then it seems reasonable that you work on this part of the game and that takes
discipline in part because you do not see the results in blood, sweat and
tears. If you were exhausted after every imagery rehearsal session it might be
easier to believe how important it is. Since that is not the case it takes
belief and discipline to get the work done.
By mastering the
mental game can reduce your anxiety and so much more. Use your emotional intelligence
to bounce back from mistakes, and make playing hockey a more enjoyable experience
all around. Mental hockey training is just as important as the physical, so
don't neglect it. You may be surprised at how you will improve.