Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.
Performance = Potential – Distractions
Ice hockey is a fast and demanding game. It is played by many but very few can elevate their game to a phenomenal level consistently. At every level of hockey high expectations, focus on outcomes, and stress on and of the ice can affect performance negatively. However, when we see the players who are performing at their best game in game out there seems to be something different about them. They’re creative, inspired, and engaged. They perform great plays at high speed and they make amazing saves that end up making the highlight reels.
Many refer to the state required for these moments as the “zone”. Anyone who has played the game knows what it feels like to be in the zone, but what does it take to get there? It often begins with the desire and willingness to show up as the best version of themselves. These athletes set the intention of playing at their best and then go do it.
Here are five steps to tap into a relaxed, engaged state of being in hockey:
- The night before a game, visualize yourself playing at your most effective. Connect to what that will feel like and what emotions you will experience in that moment. Then, the next day, summon those feelings and it will feel like remembering the future.
- Keep your awareness on what is happening on the ice, not inside your mind. Be mindful. Be fully engaged in what is happening in the “now”.
- Focus on what you can control. One shift at a time. One game at a time.
- Relax and enjoy the moment. Commit to the process. Once the moment is gone it becomes the past.
- Let go of the past whether it was a poor shift, missed shot, easy goal, etc. Focus and prepare for the next moment, the next shift.
Remembering the joy and excitement that comes from playing the game for the game’s sake reminds us coaches what is like when we were young. But as coaches, it can also be an effective way of helping our young players relax and engage their skills, talents, creativity, and intuition. Add that all up and you’re in for an effective performance. Hockey is intense and focussed on the result, there’s no question about that, but that result is easier to achieve when the players can reduce distractions. An athlete who can effectively drown out the noise and limit the negative impact on their performance is the athlete who performs to their potential more often.
Image courtesy of Chris Mast and the Everett Silvertips