What causes some hockey teams to panic when times are tough?
Have you ever played in a game where you had a solid game plan and felt confident in your ability to execute the plan, but the opposing team jumped out to an early lead?
Many teams panic in these situations and lose trust in their game plan.
In games where you feel you have to quickly “get back in the game” or you will lose increasingly builds pressure.
You may start to doubt the game plan or predict you will lose the game, even when plenty of time remains. The buildup of anxiety causes you to press, leading to errant passes, bad decisions, and mental distractions.
Placing more significance on a game, such as playing against a rival or being in the middle of a losing streak, further increases pressure.
The panic becomes more pronounced as you become more aware of the boos or taunts from spectators. Teammates start to blame each other, and team confidence and morale plummet.
Patience is a crucial mental skill, especially under adverse circumstances. Ultimately, patience and regaining your composure improve the odds of your team winning.
Regaining your composure requires a reset or mental rebooting. Resetting helps you regain your focus and re-immerse yourself in the game. Resetting calms your mind and settles your body. It allows you to see opportunities to impact the game and maximize your opportunities.
Resetting is no different than resetting your computer. It interrupts the extraneous distractions to improve performance.
In hockey, you have about 3-5 minutes in between shifts. That is more than enough time to implement a resetting strategy, reboot your mind, and refocus your attention.
1. Take a couple of deep, slow breaths.
2. Use a cue word to bring your attention back to the present moment, such as “Now,” “Refocus,” or “Engage.”
3. Remind yourself of the game plan or plan for your next shift.
For example, the Edmonton Oilers started the 2023-24 NHL season with a 2-9-1 record. It would have been easy for the team to hit the panic button.
Instead, the team chose to hit the reset button and ran off eight straight wins towards the end of November to reach a winning record of 13-12-1.
After a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton center Leon Draisaitl commented on the ability to focus and remain patient.
DRAISAITL: “I love the way we stuck with it. We didn’t [deviate] from our game plan and stayed really, really patient. It was a very mature win.”
Sometimes, patience is difficult. However, elite teams recognize when they feel a heightened sense of pressure and panic creeping in and have the ability to reset and re-engage in the moment.
Many athletes try implementing mental skills once or twice, and when their attempt fails, they erroneously believe that the strategy is ineffective.
In regards to any skill, the key is consistency. Continually work on developing and honing your resetting strategy.
Resetting is a skill, and skills require repetition for successful implementation.
Related Articles on Hockey Mental Game:
- Be Ready when Your Number is Called
- How Hockey Players Cope with Difficult Conditions
- Hockey Players That Worry Too Much
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