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The Illusion of Choice & Mindfulness in Ice Hockey

In Leadership by Walter Aguilar

“Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.”Lou Holtz

Many hockey players and coaches are under the illusion of choice. Although, they make many choices on any given day, are they truly making conscious choices in the moment?

Even though they may appear to be making choices, it is their past; beliefs, fears, worries, and doubts that are doing the choosing. These past thoughts affect their decision making process and behaviours.

That is why often players and coaches seem to be getting the same results in their performances. This can ending up with them feeling stuck, in a hole, or in a slump.

“Insanity – Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” – Albert Einstein

High performers, in hockey, whether playing or coaching, live with a higher level of present moment awareness. This awareness allows them to see the present situation for what it is, not just what they think it is. True is what a person perceives through their unique life filters. The Truth is indisputable, and is the “what is” of any given moment.

this is truth

Whatever meaning/interpretation (the story in our thoughts) we give to that Truth and how it relates to us, creates the emotions. Emotions are powerful influencers in our sport and lives. They are the driving forces behind our “in the moment” choices and behaviours.

Inspire Connect Lead

Thoughts = Feelings = Behaviour

In any given game, we may see examples of how players and coaches “lose it”. When players or coaches react to stress in a game they will often go to their default settings (past). That is why when a players receives or just even perceives that they have received a cheap shot, they go looking for revenge. This often leads to them getting a retaliation penalty. For coaches, when they have a call go against them that they perceive as wrong or unfair, they may lose their composure, by yelling or swearing at the referees.

Learning to create space between stimuli and reaction, is key to having consistent, and solid performances. It is where they are able to respond in ways that will serve them and their team, towards success.

A player or coach’s reaction to stress plays a big factor in how they manage their emotions. Stress reactions in the moment are often caused by personalizing a particular play, action or situation. When they perceive the need to protect, defend themselves or fear losing someone or something they value, they will react to that stressor.

MindfulnessChoosing to be in the present moment on purpose, without judgement.

Learning to be mindful in the moment is key to being able to make conscious, confident choices in the moment. Stress distractions creates interference for an individual that negatively affects performance by limiting their ability to tap into their potential.

Performance = Potential – Interference

Understanding that when players or coaches come under stress they will default to their past conditioning, makes being mindful in the moment the necessary tool to making effective, conscious choices in the moment.

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TCS|Members Ice Hockey Coach Tips and Drills Todd Woodcroft

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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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