Developing the Mental Edge

Presented By:
Al Bloomer
Rocky Mountain Advanced Caoches Symposium
Jackson, Wyoming

 

 

INTRODUCTION:
Coaches spend most, if not all, their time teaching and developing players’ skills and working on team concepts / systems. Too often we forget about and neglect the importance and impact of our players’ MENTAL PREPARATION AND STRENGTH.  The idea that skill (talent) alone defines the level of success simply does not hold up. Talent is a gift. Skills are learned. Talent and skill are important, but they are not the most important factors. Successful athletes and teams have an additional and critical factor. It is MENTAL TOUGHNESS.  Without it the most skilled athlete(s) or the most talented team(s) do not reach their potential.

      Questions:

  1. Do your players come to the rink ready to compete? Do they come to practice prepared to learn and improve (get better)?
  2. Can your players concentrate on their performance for extended periods of time?
  3. Can you and your players recognize distractions and either ignore or neutralize them?
  4. Do your players trust and believe in their:
    • Teammates
    • Team concepts
    • Abilities (themselves)
    • Coaching staff
       Do your players
  5. HOPE to succeed or do they EXPECT to succeed.  Confidence
  6. Do you practice Team Building exercises? Are they periodically reinforced?
  7. Can your team deal with controversy, chaos, and distractions.
  8. Has your team developed routine(s):
    • Practice
    • Pre-game
    • Post game

 

MENTAL PREPARATION DEVELOPES AN EDGE
PERFORMANCE SELF VS. REAL SELF.  IN THE PROCESS PLAYERS LEARN TO BALANCE STRESS, RECOVER AND THE IMPORTANCE OF AWARNESS.
MENTAL TOUGHNESS IS THE ABILITY TO CONSISTTENTLY PERFORM AT OR NEAR THE UPPER RANGE OF YOUR SKILL, REGARDLESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES

Games are won or lost based on MENTAL errors. The most successful teams make the fewest mistakes. Mental preparation has more to do with outcomes than Physical skill(s). Hockey is 90% MENTAL and 10% PHYSICAL. Attitude is everything.

MENTAL PREPARATION:

1. Varies Depending on:

  1. Age group
  2. Level of play
  3. Time available
  4. Resources available
  5. Commitment

2. Mental Preparation—what is it?

WHAT IS MENTAL TOUGHNESS TRAINING?

  •  VERY PERSONAL
  • AN ABILITY TO REACH YOUR  “I P S”  ( IDEAL PERFORMANCE STATE)
  • AN ABILITY TO HANDLE STRESS –

                      MENTAL

                      PHYSICAL

                      EMOTIONAL

  • CANNOT ELIMINATE STRESS – BUT YOU LEARN TO IMPROVE YOUR RECOVERY FROM STRESS

 

  1. An ability that enables you to bring your talents and skill to life on demand. You may have SKILLS but unless you can perform under pressure—you will fall short of your potential. Performance Level will fall short of Potential (Expectation).

TALENT OR SKILL:

  • EVERYONE HAS SKILL…SOME MORE THAN OTHERS. 
  • TALENT IS GENETIC POTENTIAL. TALENT MAY DEFINE THE OUTER LIMITS OF ATHLETICISM. TALENT IS A GIFT.
  • SKILLS ARE LEARNED—DEVELOPED

THERE ARE SKILLED ATHLETES THAT FALL SHORT OF THEIR POTENTIAL ( PERFORMANCE LEVEL IS WELL BELOW THEIR POTENTIAL ),  AND THERE ARE ATHLETES WITH AVERAGE SKILLS THAT SUCCEED AND EXCEL…..WHY???????

 

b. Ideal Performance State  (IPS)— other than physical skills, what does it take to get you there?  What are some characteristics of athletes you admire?

  1. Confident
  2. Committed
  3. Competitive
  4. Determined
  5. Attitude
  6. Relaxed
  7. Focused
  8. Disciplined
  9. Energized with positive emotion
  10. Resilient under pressure
  11. Enjoyment—fun

c, Emotions have high impact on your mental state.  Emotions run the show. Biochemical---

  1. Positive Emotions (EMPOWER):
  1. Confidence
  2. Determination or Drive
  3. Energy
  4. Persistence
  5. Fun
  6. Humor

 

2. Negative Emotions (DIS-EMPOWER):

  1. Insecurity
  2. Fear
  3. Confusion
  4. Fatigue
  5. Anger
  6. Frustration

 

MENTALLY TOUGH ATHLETES HAVE:

  1. Emotional Flexibility—deal with distractions, remain calm, balanced, utilize a wide range of    positive emotions.
  2. Emotional Responsiveness --- remain alert, engaged and involved under pressure…do not withdraw and sulk or pout.
  3. Emotional Strength---- stay in contest-no matter what, regardless of the circumstances.
  4. Emotional Resiliency---Quick recovery—come back quickly from a disappointment, mistake or missed opportunity.

 

MENTAL TOUGHNESS CAN BE LEARNED-ANYONE CAN LEARN TO BE MENTALLY TOUGHER

MENTAL TOUGHNESS IS THE ABILITY TO BRING YOUR SKILLS AND TALENT TO LIFE ON DEMAND. THE ABILITY TO PUSH SKILLS TO THE LIMIT

IPS – IDEAL PERFORMANCE STATE WILL BE ACHIEVED WHEN THE ATHLETE IS AT THE OPTIMUM STATE OF PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL AROUSAL. PEAK PERFORMANCE.

MENTAL TOUGHNESS IS THE ABILITY TO CONSISTENTLY ACCESS POSITIVE EMOTIONS DURING COMPETITION AND PERIODS OF STRESS.

EMOTIONAL CONTROL LEADS TO PHYSICAL CONTROL - DISCIPLINE

d. Physical conditioning impacts mental Preparation. :

  1. Level of fitness
  2. Proper Diet
  3. Proper rest-quality and quantity

 

MENTAL TOUGHNESS IS NOT ALL MENTAL. PHYSICAL ASPECTS ARE VERY IMPORTANT.
Example: With your computer—you can have the top of the line sophisticated software; but unless you have the compatible hardware and disc space you have nothing.

WHEN THE PHYSICAL DEMANDS OF THE COMPETITIVE EVENT EXCEED THE ATHLETES CAPACITY FOR COPING—THE “IPS” IS OVER AND THE PERFORMANCE DECLINES VERY RAPIDLY.

THE MOST POWERFUL FORCE IN AN ATHLETE’S LIFE IS NOT HIS/HER SKILL --- BUT THEIR MENTAL ATTITUDE AND TOUGHNESS.

ANYTHING WORTH DOING, IS WORTH DOING RIGHT

IF YOU DO WHAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS DONE, YOU WILL GET WHAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS GOTTEN

DON’T MAKE EXCUSES. AN EXCUSE IS A POOR JUSTIFICATION FOR FAILURE

 

3. Developing Mental Preparation—Mental Toughness

  1. Physical Conditioning – Mental Toughness can be accelerated with better fitness and skill development.
  2. Visualization – this is a very underrated technique. It requires practice. Prepare mentally and emotionally for what lies ahead.
    1. Ask you players to recall their best hockey performance. Then ask them to remember what they did prior to the game. What did they do the night before. How did they prepare?
    2. Practice visualization in a relaxed state.
    3. Visualize overcoming your greatest fear or playing weakness.
    4. Visualize success
  3. Take responsibility---this is very difficult for young athletes. Those that can take responsibility for their performance and their thoughts are well on the way to MENTAL TOUGHNESS.        
  4. Most athletes cannot “switch on—switch off” Mental Toughness. It takes a period of time to prepare the mind and body to compete..Preparation can be facilitated through a routine. Develop a pre-competition routine.  
  5. Positive Thinking—tough minded. Learn to push negative thoughts out of your mind. This takes practice.  Never think or say can’t---Never think or say hate..When negative thoughts invade your mind—think of something funny.
  6. High Energy  “ Isn’t this fun”? “ I love this game”? “ Isn’t this game exciting”?
  7. Learn to think in the present and to the future…Cannot worry about what is past…Concentrate on what you can control. Maintain focus.
  8. Learn from mistakes…use adversity to get stronger…

APPLICATION:

1. Locker Room

  1. This is the Players’ place---a place to prepare, to relax.
  2.  Keep the room clean, neat, take pride. Well lighted.
  3. Assign seats
  4. Inspirational messages---reinforcement
  5. A place to bond
  6. What goes on here stays here.

2. Practice

  1. Start on time---end on time.
  2. Post lesson Plans
  3. Demand periods of high concentration and allow periods of relaxation.
  4. High Pace
  5. Create confusion and chaos on occasion—discuss how the players reacted..
  6. Get better- skill development as well as mental developmen

​3. Off ice Team Building---Training

  1. Discuss mental preparation – mental toughness – practice.
  2. Team building exercises
  3. Build trust
  4. Prepare team goals and expectations.
  5. Discuss player(s) roles and accountability.

4. Pre-game

  1. Establish a routine---pre-game routine can not win games, BUT poor preparation can certainly loose games. Let players participate in establishing this routine:
  1. Dress code
  2. Team meal
  3. Time of arrival ( be on time )
  4. Meeting with coaching staff (game plan)
  5. Team stretch
  6. Music-Type
  7. Warm up ( arousal is increasing) -- Pace

b. Players understand that when they arrive-they are to begin preparation to compete. Focus, visualization, positive thinking.

c. Eliminate/Neutralize distractions.. Players prepare differently-respect these differences, BUT one player’s preparation should not be a distraction for others. Some examples of Distractions:

  1. Parents
  2. Hostile competitors
  3. Hostile crowds
  4. Bad officials
  5. Mistakes
  6. Late arrival
  7. Equipment
  8. Poor lighting

d. Coach’s preparation establishes confidence within players.

Have you ever been in a situation when you knew your team is not mentally ready to play?  What did you do?

  1. Disciplined thinking-concentration, imaging , visualization
  2. Disciplined physical acting—act the way you want to feel. “The strut”..Wear the mask of confidence until you do not need the mask any longer.
  3. Emotion response—work at it..team cheer, pats on the butt..

 

5. Game

  1. Coach(s) maintain discipline and focus.
  2. Coach(s) cannot get overly excited—remain calm
  3. Show outward energy
  4. Skate away from mistakes—show confidence that it won’t happen again
  5. Disciplined and precise
  6. This is tough but I am a whole lot tougher
  7. Visualization continues
  8. Coach(s) must communicate clearly—think ahead
  9. Players remain positive. I / we can do this.
  10. Hang in there keep working-things will go our way

6. Post–game

  1. Remain positive---talk about the things done well.
  2. Set time to review game tape/game performance
  3. Don’t get too emotionally high with victory or too low with a loss.
  4. NO EXCUSES
  5. Set practice time—review mistakes and things to work on at beginning of next practice.
  6. Try and relax

 

CONCLUSION:
MENTAL PREPATION AND MENTAL TOUGHNESS are on going challenges…As in most things it starts with the coaching staff.. The players will follow your example. Players and teams will take on the Coach’s personality.

The game puts players under some stress. Stress causes expenditure of energy. Players that can mange stress through Mental Preparation and Mental Toughness will be more successful and are more likely to reach their highest potential. Disciplined teams are mentally more prepared than undisciplined teams

 

REFERENCES:

         Delozier, David; Development and Maintenance of Ice Hockey’s

                                     Inner Game, USA Hockey Master Thesis  1995

         Loehr, James E. , The New Toughness Training For Sports, 1994

         Riley, Pat; The Winner Within, 1994

 

         Ansley,        Power Play, 1991

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