6 Mental Approaches to Help Minor Hockey Players Overcome Stress

In Coaching Hockey, Leadership by Walter Aguilar

Stressful thinking creates catabolic energy – an energy that can show up as anger or victim thinking that will create tension, worry, fear and other negative emotions that will significantly limit their performance.
Stress in minor hockey players blocks creativity, intuition, flow, and decreases confidence. They may find they’re holding on to the stick too tight and just plain forcing their game. Self and outer awareness will be low, and they may find themselves in the penalty box often. Goalies may find their focus divided between the present and what they are thinking in their heads. They may find themselves taking things too personal and letting in goals they would normally be able to save. They will discover that how they carry their energy in one area of their life will be how they will carry it in other areas. Positive, peaceful, and effective thinking will create anabolic energy that is healing, growth-oriented, creative, highly intuitive, and associated with the experience of life flowing and being in the “hockey zone“.
There are six approaches a player can adopt to overcome stress and have a meaningful and successful hockey season:
  1. Be Present– The now is where everything happens. Focus and concentrate on what is happening now. Make every effort to not create negative horizontal thinking (past & future) while performing. As we live our lives one moment at a time, just do your best in whatever moment you’re in. Be the game.
  2. Be Authentic– Don’t try to re-invent your game during the season. Do the things that you are great at and be consistent at that.
  3. Be Responsible– Take responsibility for the meanings and stories you create around events and interactions. If the story is not serving you, then change it to one that does. Be accountable for your performance.
  4. Accept What Is– Stick to the facts. Do not catastrophize any one thing. Do not fight, struggle or give too much thinking energy to what is not in your control. Let go of the losses and don’t over celebrate the wins. The only constant thing in life and hockey is change.
  5. Be Audible Ready – Be ready to change the plan if you’re asked to do something different (I.E. play a different position) or if what you are doing is not working.
  6. Have Fun!– Cut yourself some slack. There is a reason it’s called a game. Yes, it requires discipline and hard work, but you are living out your passion! Reconnect with why you love the game and learn to focus on the process. There you will thrive and discover that true success is not found in an outcome, but in the process of becoming the best that you can be on and off the ice.
Having a meaningful and successful season isn’t just about mental toughness or outcome focused results. It’s about learning self mastery of the thought world – the state of being where players are most effective and can minimize their stress reactions. This mindful state is where they can access all their skills and talents, connect to creativity and intuition; in others words, be in the hockey zone. There they experience the joy of being the game and not just playing it.


About the Author
Walter Aguilar

Walter Aguilar

Walter Aguilar – is a Certified Professional Coach and COR.E Performance Dynamics Specialist. Using the mind/energy connection to performance, he teaches a unique approach to peak performance. He specializes in teaching mindfulness for hockey using the COR.E Performance Dynamics energy leadership system. This is based on the 7 levels of energy that thoughts create. These affect awareness, confidence, engagement, creativity and intuition. His equation of Performance = Potential – Interference, provides a framework for success in hockey and life.


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