The Mental Game of Hockey and Life

If you were like me during the World Junior Hockey final between Canada and Russia, you were pretty confident that Canada would win after the second period. I was so certain of the victory that I took a call from a friend. She asked if it was a good time to talk and I replied, “sure, Canada is ahead 3-0. We know who’s going to win this game”.

Forty minutes later, Canada lost.

When I asked my son’s hockey team how much of the third period of the Canada-Russia game was mental, the unanimous answer was 100%. The last period wasn’t about Canada’s lack of hockey skills; it was about the shift in each team’s mental game.

In an article in the Globe and Mail, former World Junior hockey coach Dave King is quoted as saying that when the Russian players found their confidence and started to play a spontaneous game, their playing became effortless. On the other hand, the Canadian players’ confidence was shaken when Russian scored and Canada started over-thinking its game.

How can you stop a loss of confidence from spiraling out of control? What tools can you use to regroup and return to a positive focus?

In his book, “Hockey Tough – A Winning Mental Game”, sports psychologist Saul Miller discusses methods of sharpening one’s mental game. Miller’s insights apply just as well on the rink as in the boardroom.

I have been practicing three of Miller’s concepts with my son’s hockey team:

  1. You are in charge of your mental TV.  If the channel you’re on doesn’t give you power, change it to a channel that does.
  2. Thinking about changing your thoughts won’t work by itself.  Write a list of 3 – 6 power statements and say them out loud every day.  When your confidence falters, replace the negative thoughts with your power statements.  Some examples are:
    • I am an accurate shot
    • I clear the front of the net.  The front of the net is mine.
    • I make good reads and maintain a good position.
  3. Learn your ABC’s.  Think of three things that you need to do in a specific situation, memorize them, and make them part of your reflex. This is what you will return to in stressful situations. Coach yourself by taking a deep breath and go back to your ABC’s.

In life and work, there are circumstances when you risk losing control of your mental game. When you are overwhelmed, if a meeting gets out of control, and when you feel like you can’t go on, remember Miller’s tools and get back on your feet with a positive mental game.



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