Boosting Mental Toughness in Hockey
The New Jersey Devils lost in the first round of the playoffs 1-4 to the Philadelphia Flyers last week. Despite their loss, the team recognized the importance of staying mentally tough.
New Jersey’s Dainius Zubrus said, “You’re playing the same team until you move on. Mental toughness is probably the most important thing you have to have. Throughout the game and the series, the momentum can shift either way. If the other team scores, you have to have mental toughness to stay the course, especially because in the playoffs, you’re playing the same team, so you know each other quite well. I think most of it is mental, because there’s no bad teams. Whoever stays stronger and is more ready, better prepared, that’s who’s going to move on.”
David Clarkston added, “It’s a different type of hockey in the playoffs. It’s do or die. There’s no 82 games. You can’t lose four games, so mentally you have to be strong and you have to have leadership and guys that have been there. That’s what we have in here. We have leadership, we have guys that have been there, we have chemistry, we have the right group of guys. Now we just need to go out there and play a full 60 minutes.”
Playing in the playoffs or any important game for that matter can create mental challenges for you or your team. Some teams might have high expectations, feeling that they need to beat a team or have a perfect performance, which can create pressure and undermine confidence. Other teams might psych themselves out, freeze up in competition, lose confidence and trust in their skills. Some might look ahead to the next round and let up in the current game, causing them to under perform.
How can you or your team boost their mental toughness?
You’ll want to downplay the importance of the game. Many teams get caught up in the hoopla, teams’ records or other unimportant information. You’ll want to look at this game as the same as any other game during the season. You’ll want to focus on your team’s strategy for the game and what you can do to execute that strategy. Rely on your practice and preparation to get the job done.
You’ll also want to let go of any expectations you (or others) have for your performance. Many teams focus too much on results or what it means if they win. When you focus on results, you lose focus on the current shift. You’ll want to refocus quickly when you get distracted and focus on what you need to do during the current play or shift. That may be to focus on good passes or staying with your competitor. By focusing on the process, the results will eventually fall into place.
Want to learn all my secrets for Focusing your best under pressure? Check out The Focused Athlete at Peaksports.com.