Mental Fitness Fridays

I’m sharing this article by Steve Mann of Minnesota Hockey on Mental Toughness and Resiliency.  Knowing we all share the mutual interest of making athletes better, I think you will find it very interesting. I appreciated being approached by Steve to share my perspectives in the article. 
Here’s the link. https://www.minnesotahockey.org/news_article/show/1146443

I purposely used the term “Mental Fitness”.  The term Mental Fitness changes the narrative away from the damaging myths of the often-used “Mental-Toughness” term.  I believe “Changing the narrative” helps “change the paradigm.”

Over the years, the stigmas about mental health have been changing. I’ve been told that I can’t talk about mental health and performance psychology together because it will scare people away. In some cases that is true, but over the last 20 years, my experience tells that most of the time it is not.  We seem stuck believing many of the myths about mental toughness and mental health.    

The last year has been extremely challenging time for everyone on planet. The stress we are all feeling often can be indicators that we are having challenges with coping and many times we are either reluctant to address them because of the stigmas associated with these myths. As the pandemic has unfolded, the need to challenge the myths has grown – because our mental health is suffering.  

Demand for our services has never been greater and our reach is limited by the hours in the day. We feel a responsibility to do as much as we can.  I would sincerely appreciate your assistance in helping us to change the conversation and the stigmas. Initiatives like #BellLet’s Talk are terrific, and we want to help amplify them! 

So, this Friday, February 19, I am launching Mental Fitness Fridays. We plan to create a series of short videos we can all share to help change the conversation and better understand how to build Mental Fitness.  

Day Three – Relax and Recover

You are to your last day of the tryout weekend.  One of the important life skills hockey teaches us is learning how to take care of yourself so you can maintain consistent performances despite all of life’s pressures and circumstances.

Before you start your day take some time to de stress as part of your preparation routine.  Practice visualizing and progressive relaxation.  If you don’t have a routine, you can go to our website and download our FREE Stress Management Visualization.  It’s less than 10 minutes and an effective to de-stress and practice setting aside the stresses of life.

Relaxation and progressive relaxation help you and your body recover.  The relaxation response as opposed to the stress response helps you to learn an important skill.  The ability to shift from tense to relaxed and relaxed to tense.  Having a familiarity with knowing how to do either gives you the ability to use thoughts, emotions, and physiology to dial up the state of mind you need perform in any given game or life situation.

It also helps you to managing your body language. Managing body language is a skill that can be developed.  Managing body language starts with having an awareness.  You must be aware of your thoughts, your emotions and your body’s physiology.  These three things pour the foundation for you.  In order to control your body language, you need to know if you are too tense, too relaxed or in your Optimal Performance Zone.

The key to learning how to move yourself back to your OPZ – is know how to manage thoughts, feelings and physiology.  It starts with knowing how to move your body into that zone.  All of our high school, college and professional athletes have a routine that helps them return.  Your routine should include

  • Rebooting your brain – The thinking and feeling parts of your brain need to work together and both need to be online. You can get them working together by doing one of the following; Take a centering breath, do alternating fist squeezes, alternate touching your toes to the top of your skates, or count down from 200 from by 7’s.  Or set a mouse trap – really it works – you need two hands to do it and engages all parts of your brain.
  • Visualize playing in your OPZ. Come up with four words that describe how you play when in your OPZ.  Write them on the knob of your stick.  Visualize using all your senses and your emotions.
  • Smile or laugh – Easy for me to say and harder for you to do. But seriously think of a joke, tweet or Instagram.  Try to smile at someone in the stands, or find some reason to laugh.  Smiling actually changes your brain and body state.

The order you do these in is not important.  If you have a routine that works, you may not need to change anything.  Increasing your awareness and implementing a routine will help you to manage your body language, and consistently access your skill and talent so you can perform at a high level.   You’ll get noticed for your character and mental toughness instead.

To learn more about how we can help you enhance and develop this skill check out our website at www.centerforsportsandmind.com

Day Two – Great Moments are Born from Great Opportunities

Great moments are born from Great Opportunities – Herb Brooks.  Whether this is your first high performance event or your third the High Performance Program is a great opportunity to showcase your skills.  Don’t keep yourself from experiencing great moments.  Many of the hockey players we have worked with over the years, with the benefit of hindsight, tell us that the best way to make the high performance program a great opportunity is to see just as that.

Your play this weekend is a snapshot in time.  If you view at as more than that you may succumb to the pressure that creates for you.  It is tempting to take a “sportscenter mindset” in these situations and try impress the evaluators, scouts and coaches with flashy plays.  Make plays but don’t press.

Too often players make the mistake of believing that the impression they make here will a create a default future of glory and commitments to college or destiny of failure and a struggle on road to late night hockey with their friends.

Instead, take a mindset that views this weekend as a challenge to the skills you have prepared your entire career to showcase.  Play within yourself, to your strengths, and don’t try to be someone you are not.  Compete against your last performance each day and be willing to self forgive if you make mistakes.  Stay hungry if you played “lights out” the day before.  The key to being an elite performer is consistency.  Whether you move on to the next phase of the process, find a way to learn about yourself as person and a player.

The evaluators, college coaches, and your team’s coaches are professionals who are trained to notice the little things that make you a great player.  Be a team player.  Don’t be a jerk.  If you are on the bubble in any way being a team player may break the tie.  Consistent play will show you and those watching that you are making the most of your opportunity.

 

 

Day One – Miracles start with Mindset

“The Miracle on Ice.”  Everyone reading this knows what that means. Although Herb Brooks was correct in saying “If we played them 10 times, they might win 9. “ Our experience with high performing athletes tells us that a miracle starts with a mindset.  Many of our athletes set goals for their future that don’t immediately see as achievable.

Calling the 1980 upset a Miracle discounts the hard work, vision, and mindset they used to achieve their goal.   Miracles start with your mindset.

The simple definition of a mindset according webster’s is “a particular way of thinking. a person’s attitude or set of opinions about something.”

Your mindset sets the tone for how you perform.  It’s the operating system that determines how you evaluate your performance and what you need to do to adjust your immediate performance.  It tells you what you need to do to push into a training and development cycle.

This is the mindset you need to take with your performance this weekend and this way of thinking needs to become a habit for you.

Awareness.  Without it, you cannot change what you don’t know.  At the Center for Sports and the Mind we have developed an online mindset assessment. (Link)  To find out where you stand with your mindset, take our assessment that evaluates your mindset and gives you tips and pointers about how to change and develop it to push yourself toward your Miracle. We have discounted this for High Performance participants.

Our assessment will help you determine where you mindset falls and how it impacts your performance.

Our culture often tells athletes to take a fixed mindset into tryouts like these and have the mindset that they cannot make any mistakes or show any weaknesses.  Simply – you have “it” or you don’t.  If Herb Brooks had taken this mindset, there would have been no “Miracle.”  The Soviets took that mindset and they failed because they believed they had “it” and the U.S. did not.

We teach our athletes, whether it be a PeeWee or a pro, to take a “Developmentally Competitive” Mindset.  It is focused on the idea that you can be both competitive and develop.  Not one or the other.

What does a developmentally competitive mindset mean and how do I create it for myself? Below I have listed the most important characteristics.

  • Be comfortable with uncertainty. – Accept the fact that after the puck drops you can only control yourself and your play.  You cannot control the future.
  • Challenge yourself every day and compete with your last performance. Doing so will help you gain the confidence you need to believe that you can influence the outcome of the game.
  • Be Self -Forgiving- Don’t mistake forgiveness for lacking accountability. Learn from your mistake and then focus on the immediate moment.
  • Failure = Learning – Use failure as an opportunity to learn.

Our online assessment will give you tips and information about what you need to do to make a developmentally competitive mindset a habit.

 

 

Day Three: Finish

As you approach your last day of the weekend, it may hard to focus on what you need to do next.  If you have played well so far, the tendency may be to mail it in because you are already satisfied.  If you have not played as well as you thought, you may either play with too much to prove or believe that you cannot do anything to make a good impression.

Before you start your last day, it may be a good idea to check in with a coach who you trust and you believe has your best interests in mind to give you feedback about how you have been playing.  Feedback from them may help you to focus on what’s important now instead of playing with a focus on what you have or have not done.  The players we have helped say that at this point in the weekend they have made the mistake of evaluating their play with t0o strong of a negative emphasis.

One of the keys to finishing strong is to play well without getting yourself into a constant loop of judging yourself after every play against what you think people are looking for from you.  This loop is the equivalent of texting your friends or texting someone you are interested in and asking them after every text you send “Do you still like me.”  To break out of this loop find a way to physically release your tension and re focus on the immediate moment.   Get out of your head and focus on the environment around you for several seconds.  One technique our players have found effective is to quickly identify three colors in the rink that stand out or three objects that stand out.  Some find it helpful to take a centering breath and breath in to the count of 5 and hold for the count 2 and breath out to 7.

Last put the weekend into perspective.  Imagine a list of the people who love and care for you.  No matter if you play “lights out” or if you stink up the place, this list won’t change one way or another.  It won’t add or subtract anyone.

This tryout is just another step in your learning process to become the player and person you want to be.

If you have questions or want to learn more, check out how we can help you transform your performance from good to GREAT.

Day Two: Relax and Reboot

Your first day of your weekend long tryout is over.  The anticipation, travel, and excitement that goes with all of it is stressful.  One of the important life skills hockey teaches us is learning how to take care of yourself so you can maintain consistent performances despite all of life’s pressures and circumstances.

Before you start your day take some time to de stress as part of your preparation routine.  Practice visualizing and progressive relaxation.  If you don’t have a routine, you can go to our website and download our FREE Stress Management Visualization.  It’s less than 10 minutes and an effective to de-stress and practice setting aside the stresses of life.

Relaxation and progressive relaxation help you and your body recover.  The relaxation response as opposed to the stress response helps you to learn an important skill.  The ability to shift from tense to relaxed and relaxed to tense.  Having a familiarity with knowing how to do either gives you the ability to use thoughts, emotions, and physiology to dial up the state of mind you need perform in any given game or life situation.

It also helps you to managing your body language. Managing body language is a skill that can be developed.  Managing body language starts with having an awareness.  You must be aware of your thoughts, your emotions and your body’s physiology.  These three things pour the foundation for you.  In order to control your body language, you need to know if you are too tense, too relaxed or in your Optimal Performance Zone.

The key to learning how to move yourself back to your OPZ – is know how to manage thoughts, feelings and physiology.  It starts with knowing how to move your body into that zone.  All of our high school, college and professional athletes have a routine that helps them return.  Your routine should include

  • Rebooting your brain – The thinking and feeling parts of your brain need to work together and both need to be online. You can get them working together by doing one of the following; Take a centering breath, do alternating fist squeezes, alternate touching your toes to the top of your skates, or count down from 200 from by 7’s.  Or set a mouse trap – really it works – you need two hands to do it and engages all parts of your brain.
  • Visualize playing in your OPZ. Come up with four words that describe how you play when in your OPZ.  Write them on the knob of your stick.  Visualize using all your senses and your emotions.
  • Smile or laugh – Easy for me to say and harder for you to do. But seriously think of a joke, tweet or Instagram.  Try to smile at someone in the stands, or find some reason to laugh.  Smiling actually changes your brain and body state.

The order you do these in is not important.  If you have a routine that works, you may not need to change anything.  Increasing your awareness and implementing a routine will help you to manage your body language, and consistently access your skill and talent so you can perform at a high level.   You’ll get noticed for your character and mental toughness instead.

Day One: Ignore the Noise

Being selected to participate in this High Performance Event often triggers players to feel pressure.  For some of you this may be your first experience at one of these weekends.  It’s a great opportunity to showcase your skills with the hope of continuing your hockey career at the next level of play.  As a result, many players feel pressure to “over perform.” They want to “flash”, make highlight reel play after play in order to get noticed.  They want to create a buzz about their play.   This approach usually backfires.

You know there will be scouts, college coaches, and evaluators as well as fans watching you play.  Our players who have participated in this event who have moved on to college hockey have said that is easy to get sucked into turning all that goes with the events into noise that creates pressure to play to the coaches, scouts and parents.  One of the biggest mistakes I see hockey players and athletes in general make is to let external pressure and circumstances impact the way they play.

They don’t focus on what they can control.  They end up focusing and comparing themselves to the kid who is committed already or that they think everyone is talking about.  Or you focus on the fact that you think you could show your skills better if the coaches put you on a line with “better players.”

The impact on your performance is that you spend valuable mental energy on something you cannot change instead of using that mental energy to focus on preparing yourself to play well.

The players who have played in these events who have the benefit of hindsight often tell me that they wished they had challenged themselves to ignore the noise.  They wish they had struck a better balance between showcasing their individual skills and helping their team succeed.  The better your team performs the more likely you are to get good looks from coaches and scouts.

It is important to remember to ignore the noise in your head to over perform by playing to impress all the scouts in the stands or to try to mold their game to fit what the scouts are looking for.  Remember that what one scout looks for or is looking for may be quite different than the other.  Or the needs of their specific teams may not fit the skill set you carry.

Focus on your game and learning from the process.  This will not be your last tryout.  You are here because you have been identified as a player who is a high performer.  Use the skills that got you here and don’t try to do too much.  Remember that those who are evaluating you are professionals who can see both big and small and subtle ways you are skilled.  If you have what they are looking for you don’t have to “flash” for them to see it.

If you struggle to ignore they noise and keep yourself from over performing, there are many ways we can help you benefit from our knowledge and experience in helping players maximize their potential.

High Performance Hockey Event Day # 3 Finish Strong

The end of the tryout process may be catching up to you.  The combination of stress and playing a lot can take its toll on you.  If you have played well so far, the tendency may be to mail it in because you are already satisfied.  If you have not played as well as you thought, you may either play with too much to prove or believe that you cannot do anything to make a good impression.

The key to finishing strong is to have a short memory.  No matter how you have played so far, your last impression may be the one that coaches and scouts remember.  Continuing to play well or play even better on last day shows character.  Recovering from a bad game or a couple of bad games shows character as well.  No matter the level or the sport our experience tells us coaches everywhere value character.

If you have played well, find small ways to challenge yourself and to push yourself outside your comfort zone.  Grab your love for the game and show the people watching that you love game in the way you play.  Play with the same enthusiasm you did when you were a mite or squirt.

If you have not played as well as you have liked so far, you should challenge yourself to recover and self- forgive.  Often we see the biggest obstacle players create for themselves is to not get over yesterday’s mistakes.  We often confuse forgiving ourselves for our mistakes as not taking accountability.  Learn how to be self -forgiving.  Think about the process you go through when you forgive your parents or your girlfriend or your friends.  Apply that same process to yourself.

I know that is easier for me to say and harder for you to do. If you find yourself skeptical of this idea, you may have just identified a challenge you need to meet.  The challenge is to create a process for forgiving yourself and change the way you view mistakes.  Doing so will allow you to focus on the immediate moment and access your self- confidence.  You will feel a weight lifted off your shoulders and as a result play in your OPZ.

If you have questions about how to meet the challenges presented, check out how we can help you change your mindset and develop a plan to help you transform your performance.