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.

High Performance Hockey Event Day #2 –Don’t Get Noticed

You want to be noticed.  Many times coaches and scouts notice you something that you don’t want them to see.  Many coaches view body language as a window into your character and mental toughness.  You may be a skilled and talented hockey player.  Many players don’t often recognize that managing your body language is a skill and a talent that needs to be developed. If you display the body language of a quitter, whiner, complainer, or a head case, it will be noticed.

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 and your game.  In order to control your body language you need to know if you are too tense, too relaxed or in your Optimal Performance Zone.  If you are in your Optimal Performance Zone (OPZ) your body language will reflect it.

Being in your OPZ means you are confident, your focused on the immediate moment, time flies, and your having fun.  Nothing can take you off your game and your excited to start the next shift.

If you are too tense, you are probably being hard on yourself, angry, and anxious.  You may have difficulty managing your emotions, your body and muscles are probably tense and your mind is racing and worried about what everyone else but yourself is thinking. People watching may think you are playing out of control, choking, and see you as rattled.

If you are too relaxed, you probably have low energy and enthusiasm.  You don’t really care about what you are doing and feel like there is too much to pay attention to in order to perform.  You may appear to be going through the motions and people watching may think you don’t care, didn’t show up, have not heart and are disinterested.

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:

  • Reboot 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.

High Performance Hockey Event Day #1 – Capture the Moment

Being selected to participate in a High Performance Event (no matter what sport) often triggers players to feel pressure and butterflies.  Why? Because it is a great opportunity to showcase your skills with the hope of continuing your hockey career at the next level of play.

Capture and use your excitement as opportunity to fuel your play.  Feeling butterflies is normal and means you care about what you are about to do.  Don’t view as an obstacle or something to fear.  Don’t let your first impression be viewed as scared or tentative.

The athletes who have played in these events in the past have the benefit of hindsight. They often tell me they wished 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.

Those same athletes have said that it is important to remember that you cannot play 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.

Instead, remember you are here because you have been identified as a player who has the ability and potential to play at another level.  Play your game and play to your strengths while learning how you can improve and develop.  This weekend may change your future.  Play with the enthusiasm it deserves.

If you struggle to capture and use your emotions effectively, there are many ways we can help you benefit from our knowledge and experience in helping players maximize their potential.

Don’t Just Hope for Great

When your dreams on are on the line, you want to do more than just hope for greatness.  You want to make sure you have prepared yourself for this moment.  Will you be ready for “Your time?”

When your time arrives you need to have the confidence that you have prepared yourself for it. Many parents and athletes often ignore the most important of part of physical training by ignoring the most important part of their physiology – their brain.

I have all too often seen physical training rendered meaningless because an athlete’s brain goes into a default mode that triggers muscle tension, elevated heart rate, and quickened breathing.  Simply put – they choke.

Being ready for your time and preparing for Great Performances takes planning, practice, and an awareness of how your own mind and body work together.

The preparation for dealing with this starts with your mindset toward development and failure.  A mindset that many of the athletes we have trained find useful is what I call the developmentally competitive mindset. This mindset simultaneously focuses on your development and your ability to compete against your opponent and your own progress.

This mindset is adapted from the work of Carol Dweck and her book Mindset.

Dweck identifies fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.  A fixed mindset is one that is overly focused on judging yourself and your development solely on where you “should be” based on the abilities or qualities nature has given you. Fixed mindset thinking is alive and well in our sports and social media cultures.  A “Sports Center” mindset has developed in which we generally label athletes as naturals or busts.

Such a mindset creates two separate but distinct default futures.  The natural envisions a future in which they are entitled to success and believe they don’t have to devote too much effort to achieve their dreams.  The bust thinks “It’s over and nothing can be done to change it.”

The appeal of each mindset and the futures that go with them results from our need for certainty and predictability.  The “Sports Center” Mindset creates an illusion of predictability.

When the body and the mind faces uncertainty, the fight, flight, or freeze appears.  This response triggers gripping the stick tighter, playing not to lose, and dumb mental mistakes.  At best, it limits an athlete’s ability to perform at the level they are used to, and at worst, it leads to a complete shutdown or an aggressive and out of control performance.

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. In your development failures and

The first of these characteristics is the most important to master.  In order to finish your game, whether your team leads, trails or tied, you need to have skills that “reboot” your brain.

When this fight, flight, freeze reactions hits it creates an emotional distraction.  To manage that reaction you need to use a sensory distraction to reboot.

Here are a couple of examples. Try them and see what works for you.

  • Eye Movements or Fist Squeeze -Move your eyes back and forth without moving your head or alternately squeeze your fists. This activates all parts of your brain and allows them to work together.
  • Count – Count back from 100 by 7’s.
  • Drink water
  • Centering Breaths – Breathe in to the count of 5, hold for 2 and out for 7.

These techniques will help you to manage the physiology of your brain.  Practice them in multiple tense situations.  Each time you practice the effectiveness grows.  Learn which one works best for you and use it when you need to finish your game.