Breaking Barriers With Mental Toughness
What factors contribute to athletic success? Is mental toughness critical to achieve and succeed in hockey? Success in hockey requires a blend of both mental and physical skills. Mental toughness is the one mental characteristic that can provide a significant advantage for an athlete. Mental toughness can often make up for differences in athletic abilities and talents. Mental toughness is the unique skill that hockey players and teams overcome mistakes, setbacks and adversity. Mental toughness is the ability to grind out a victory despite the odds. In essence, mental toughness is the difference-maker in competitive sports.
At the Sochi Olympic Games, the Finnish men’s hockey team was a model of grit and determination. Finland’s mental toughness would be tested as they faced off against the overwhelming favorites, the US team, for the bronze medal. The US team entered the Games as a potential gold medal favorite, but the Finnish team’s refusal to concede propelled Team Finland to victory. Not only did Team Finland win the bronze medal, they routed the US hockey team, 5-0.
Finland took a two-goal lead after two periods and still pushed the pace in the third period. Finland continued their aggressive style of play scoring on two power plays to start the third period. Then, Finland capped their victory with their fifth goal late in the third period as they dominated the US team. Veteran Finnish center Olli Jokinen pointed to his team’s desire, determination and mental toughness as the keys to victory, “I think we wanted to win this medal more than they did.”
Teemu Selanne, captain of the Finnish squad, characterized the very essence of the mental toughness of his team, “I’d do anything to win a medal for my country… including losing six teeth.” Mental toughness pushes a player to his maximum level in order to find a way to win. Finnish Goaltender Tuukka Rask credited Finland’s will to win and mental toughness for their success, “It’s amazing, nobody ever picks us to win anything, but somehow we always find a way to win one.”
Challenges are inherent in hockey. All hockey players face adversity such as injuries, setbacks and other stressors that can interfere with optimal performance. Mental toughness pushes hockey players through barriers instead of leaving the sport altogether. Even training requires a high level of mental toughness in order to push an athlete beyond their current level of comfort. Mental toughness allows an athlete to take full advantage of their assets, strengths and abilities.
Keys to Mental Toughness in Hockey
- Top hockey players have a high, unwavering level of self-belief. You must have a high level of confidence in your unique qualities and your ability to achieve your goals. See The Confident Athlete to boost your confidence for hockey.
- Great athletes are highly motivated. Motivation to succeed will help you bounce back from setbacks with increased determination. You can’t teach motivation, you can only foster it.
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