by Patrick Cohn
Your mental game of hockey helps you balance both learning skills and performing in competition.
Do you have trouble bringing your practice game skills to competition?
Many hockey players tighten up, over think and try too hard during competition, which can cause them to under-perform.
You practice countless hours to perform your best in competition. But, sometimes your practice can backfire and cause you to lose trust in your game. If you are stuck in a training mindset, you’ll have a more difficult time taking your hockey game to competition.
When you’re practicing, you’re in an analytical mindset. You are trying to “fix” your mistakes and improve your skills. This mindset is appropriate for practice, but can hurt your performance in competition. When you’re focused on technique, you in a learning mindset, which is necessary to improve. However, at game time you have to trust in your skills. You want to be able to allow your performance to happen in competition, rather than forcing it to happen.
Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes knows a thing or two about how to let it happen.
“I’m just kind of letting loose and playing the game. I’m not thinking. I’m just moving my feet first and letting everything else fall into place. For me, it’s about making sure my legs are churning and knowing that when they are, things just start to happen. Then it’s just about reacting. That’s what I’ve tried to focus on — making sure I’m working my tail off in practice and working my tail off in games.”
~Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Staal has a simple approach to each game, react and think less on the ice. You too can simplify your game by thinking less and reacting on the ice. One way to do that is not over-analyze your technique or “how to” perform a skill. You want to save those thoughts for practice. Instead, think about reacting with your vision and feel of the ice under you. You might feel quick on your feet or see a good pass and hit it.
Your hockey psychology tip for today. Divide your practice into both learning and performing. Re-create the same situations that you’ll experience in competition. Allow your skills to flow and have a trusting mindset. At game time, you have to let go of technique and trust your instincts.