Tis the season when parents and players alike are thinking about the next opportunity whether that means a combine, a showcase, or a tryout. It is important to formulate a plan to ensure success, and I believe a key differentiator in players who “make it” and players who don’t is their mental game. Since I also believe every practice, every workout, every shift, and every game is a tryout, consider adding these things into your regular routine on practice and game days so they become a part of who you are as an athlete.
The first thing to think about is your perspective. Many players get nervous and anxious before a big game or before a tryout or if they think a scout might be in the stands, but when you are nervous, you don’t play your best. You need to think of these high pressure situations as opportunities because that is what they are. You want to be excited about them so you can be relaxed and have fun playing the game you love. Not performing well in one game or not making a team isn’t career ending. There will be more games, and there are dozens more teams, but if you let it become a habit to self sabotage, it will be the end.
You also need a plan. You need a plan for the big picture as well as the day to day. Review it often and expect to make tweaks as you learn and grow as a player. Make a plan for teams you want to try out for and events you want to consider attending. Make a plan for your workouts. Make a plan for your nutrition. Make a plan for pre-practice and pre-game routines. Write these plans down and take note of what worked for you and what didn’t. Having your plans written out takes away those fears and anxieties because you know what you are going to do.
Speaking of what you are going to do, add some visualization and meditation into your plans. Visualize making the perfect play in game situations. Visualize your skills getting better and doing those practice drills perfectly. Visualize getting faster and stronger. If you can picture yourself doing it, you can do it.
Give yourself a cue to leave everything else behind and direct your focus and attention to your play, and choose something that is always part of your routine. A cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior, and you want that behavior to be “nothing else matters right now except hockey.” No thinking about that English paper that needs to be written or worrying about that argument you had with your billet brother. Maybe your cue is to pack your hockey bag or workout bag. Once that starts, you go through your routine and block out everything else in your life except what is happening in the here and now--hockey. The rest of it will be there once hockey is done.
Speaking of the here and now, stay there. Don’t get caught up in dwelling on the future or the past. The past is over, and you can’t do anything about it now, and if you are worrying about the future, are you playing your best? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to fantasize about making the team when you should be worrying about what’s happening on the ice right now. If you aren’t focused on the ice, chances are you won’t make the team. Take it one shift at a time and let the chips fall. Remember, you can adjust your plan.
Focus on the process, not the results. It’s easy to get caught up in standings and stats sheets or the status of making a certain team, but at the end of the day the only thing you can control is your effort. You can’t control the refs, the other team, other players, the coaches, only you. Pay as much attention to your mental game as you do the physical. Establish a routine, follow it, and if something isn’t working for you, change it.
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