With spring hockey tournaments in full force and our Western Hockey League playoffs happening right now, there are and will be many big games where the results will be on the line. When the pressure to perform is on, many athletes tend to tighten the grip on their sticks, get nervous and are not at their best when it counts the most. When these big moments happen, the effective athlete is CALM, COOL AND COMPOSED and is ready for the challenge of a top performance. This article will give you five key points to make sure you are ready to be your best.
1. OUTCOME VS. THE PROCESS — When you are focused on the outcome of the game (i.e. the score of the game, whether you scored a goal, etc.), nervousness and the fear of failure sets in. When this happens the athlete is prone to making mistakes and choking when it comes to crunch time. The best advice is to “control the controllables”! You cannot waste your energy and worry about the things you cannot control. You cannot control the crowd, referees, coach’s decisions or for that matter if the opponents score a goal against your team. Your attention and focus must be on what will help you play better. We call this the process. You can focus on your effort and how hard you are working. You can focus on your execution—what must you do in certain situations? Thirdly, you can control your emotional control—you do not want to be too high or too low. What helps is for you to sit down with a coach or by yourself and set one to three performance goals for the game you are about to play. Focusing on the goals is focusing on the process, this will give you a greater chance for success and to be your best!
2. BE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT — Nothing ever happened in the past, it is happening now! You will gain nothing from focusing on events that happened in the past, especially if they are negative. You must be sure to learn from negative things that happened in the past, let them go and move on. The future, can you control it? If you focus on the, “what ifs”, this will trigger tension, anxiety and nervousness. You cannot control the future! You must be fit and mentally well prepared and focus on the present moment and on what you need to do now. During a competition, your mind will wonder to the past and to the future. The trick is to catch your mind and bring yourself back to the present moment. Think about your one to three performance goals, tap your stick on the boards and bring yourself in the “NOW”!
3. BE POSITIVE — Having doubt and some negative thoughts about your game are normal. There is a saying, “what you believe you will achieve” or another one, “what you think about you will bring about.” In other words, if you think negative thoughts, you will bring negative results, if you think positive thoughts, you will bring positive results. When doubt creeps in, let it go, breathe deep and visualize. Visualize yourself at a moment when you were in the zone and things were going well for you. Another visualization technique is to see yourself writing the negative thought on a piece of paper, then taking a lighter and burning it. This will only take a few seconds to do while you are on the bench. So remember, a few deep breaths and focus on the positive!
4. DEALING WITH MISTAKES — Just like negative thoughts, mistakes are normal and part of sports. All the top athletes in every sport have made all kinds of mistakes and have learned from the situations and bounced back strong. Do not hang on to mistakes, it only creates further anger, tension and will reflect performance. All the best athletes forget fast.
Here is the simple seven R’s formula to forget about mistakes:
1) Recognize: know you made the mistake
2) Relax (when you get back to the bench): take a few deep breaths
3) Review: use your mind’s eye and visualize the mistake, the correction and proper execution
4) Release: let it go—on your out breath, let the mistake go
5) Regroup: psych yourself up and be ready for the next shift
6) Refocus: think about the one to three performance goals you have set for the game
7) Ready: you are ready to go out and do it all again, this time mistake free!
5. HAVE FUN! No matter what level you are at, a youth player or a seasoned professional, we are blessed to be able to participate in a sport that we love. Enjoy the moment, big games and big moments are what sport is all about, this is why we compete. So have FUN and ENJOY!
I hope these simple tips will help you be ready to deal with the events that happen during a big game. Remember to play hard, play smart, be a good team player and control the three E’s: Effort, Execution and Emotional Control.Back to Top
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