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Gary Roberts Performance
November 27, 2023
Are you ready to take your hockey game to the next level?
A strong mind is essential if you want to succeed as a hockey player. Developing a champion mentality will give you more confidence on the ice and help you become resilient and motivated once things get tough.
This blog post will cover our keys to creating and maintaining a strong hockey mindset that will help you perform night after night.
You'll learn the following:
Growth vs. Fixed – The difference between these two hockey mindsets and why only one leads to success
The BIG 3 – These are the three things every hockey player must control for a championship mindset
A Personal Story - A story of one of the top players in the game using these techniques in REAL LIFE
Visualization - What it is and how to use it to elevate your play on the ice
Let's get started!
We don't think anyone would disagree that having the right hockey mindset is important for success. The season can be really tough, especially when you're in a scoring slump, don't like your game, or are dealing with an injury. In those times, having a strong hockey mindset gives you something to fall back on.
So, what is a mindset?
In simple terms, mindset is how you think about yourself and the world around you. It has a role in how you approach new challenges and opportunities, as well as how likely you are to keep pushing in the face of failure. To put it another way, mindset is your inner dialogue – the things that you tell yourself – and it influences your emotions, thoughts, and behavior.
Because every player is different, you and your teammates will have slightly different mindsets, but they will follow into one of two categories. Therefore, knowing where you fall with your hockey mindset is very important!
Because every player is different, you and your teammates will have slightly different mindsets, but they will follow into one of two categories. Knowing where you fall with your hockey mindset is very important!
Growth vs. Fixed
In the late 1970s, a researcher named Carol Dweck studied student motivation and the idea of mindset. She identified two different types, growth vs. fixed.
A fixed mindset is when people believe that their characteristics, like intelligence, talent, or personality, are static traits that cannot be changed or developed.
On the other hand, a growth mindset means believing that any mental ability can be cultivated through hard work, actions, practice, and dedication.
Can you see why these are so important for hockey players?
If a player has a fixed mindset, they may attempt to avoid challenges which can lead to potential failures. They avoid trying new things, especially if they are hard. They're also more likely to develop negative feelings and be a bad teammate when things aren't going well.
On the other hand, hockey players with a growth mindset will embrace challenges since they view them as an opportunity for improvement and success. They will be good teammates even when the team is struggling.
Which hockey mindset do you think is better?
Remember, you already learned all the amazing skills necessary to play the game – how to skate, shoot, pass, back check (everyone better be back checking!) – so why can't you improve your hockey mindset? It's just another skill that requires reps.
Of course, it helps to have a few things to focus on when you're working to develop a strong hockey mindset, so that leads us to the BIG 3.
The BIG 3
The BIG 3 are the only three things you can control as a hockey player.
What do we mean by that?
Well, things happen. You can play the best game, catch a rut in the ice, fall, turn the puck over, and they go down and score. Not ideal. Or, you can break a skate lace before practice. Or, even worse, you could get injured and miss 6 weeks of games and practices.
None of those things were directly in your control.
But the BIG 3 are.
Effort, Attitude, and Focus are the three things that you, as a hockey player, can always control. As a nice special bonus, they cost absolutely nothing!
Putting effort into your game has an immediate payoff. In fact, it can make or break your team!
Putting effort into a practice or game makes you a better teammate and shows the coaches that you care. Even if you're not the most naturally athletic hockey player, effort can be an equalizer.
Remember the famous Kevin Durant saying, "hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard."
Well, if that's true at the top, it's definitely true for you. Effort doesn't cost a thing and can have a massive impact on your hockey mindset.
Attitude is a huge factor in hockey, as it can make or break any game. So it's not just about having the right skills and physical ability. Attitude is also critical in finding success.
Players with a positive attitude can communicate better with their teammates and make better decisions on the ice. In addition, a great attitude can inspire others around you to work harder and give it their all when they hit the ice, while a negative attitude can disrupt the team dynamic and cause significant problems during games.
It also lets the coach know you're a player they can rely on—someone who's there in big moments and worthy of leadership. There are so many reasons why the right attitude is so essential for hockey players – without it, you can't be successful!
To be successful, you'll need to develop your focus on and off the ice. The skill is becoming increasingly important as the world becomes more distracting. (Cellphone, youtube, tik-tok, Instagram, and the list goes on)
On the ice, focus lets you read situations quickly and make smarter decisions, like where to pass the puck or when to jump in the play. Maintaining focus for 60 minutes can be the difference between a great game and an average one.
Off the ice, focus plays an important role, too; it helps you navigate studying for your exams or getting the most out of your training sessions to become an even better player.
We've worked with literally hundreds of professional players, and not one of them brings their phone into the gym with them. Why? Because they know the importance of focusing on their training to get better!
Now that we've worked through the importance of a growth mindset for a hockey player and what contributes to it, how can we improve our BIG 3?
Being aware of them is one method. You can write the letters EAF on the top of your stick or put a couple of cue cards in your bag with the words on it. (Put them in plastic as well to avoid having them disintegrate!)
Another method we like and use regularly is visualization.
Mental visualization in sports is an idea that has been around for almost as long as sports itself! It was first explored by the notable psychologist Dr. Maxwell Maltz, who asked athletes to visualize their performance before taking action. Since then, it's become an extremely widespread practice, and many hockey players find it essential to their success.
It's when you take the time to visualize and practice the moves in your head before you attempt them on ice. Visualizing the actions can help ensure that the movements are second nature when it comes time to perform them in an actual game. It's also proven that visualizing success before a game or practice can lead to improved concentration, motivation, and performance, making this technique even more important for hockey players!
It's also important that you FEEL the emotions, not just the physical movements. Feel yourself performing with focus, having a positive attitude on the bench, and putting in as much effort as possible.
Some of the best visualization techniques include picturing yourself executing each part of the play flawlessly and imagining how different outcomes could go and how you would adjust accordingly. By regularly visualizing desired results, hockey players will be better able to focus and perform on their next game day.
It will take some practice to get good at this, so set aside 5-10 minutes every day for at least 30 days. Be diligent with your routine but patient with results.
We promised a personal story, so here it is.
In the last game of the 2018/2019 season, one of our players flew down the ice at breakneck speed, got tripped up, and went into the post. (I'm sure you can figure out who this is.)
He was hurt, bad. The options looked pretty bleak. Undergo surgery; that might work. Forgo surgery for a rehab approach that might work.
He chose the latter, and we went to work with the rest of his rehab team. During that time, we spoke a lot about the BIG 3 and how to apply them.
Effort – Not something we even really think about with this player. He's spent the last 20 years of his life working as hard as possible to reach his sport's peak. But he cultivated that effort, and you can as well.
Focus – We spent some more time on focus. We were being growth and process-oriented instead of constantly thinking about the outcome. We also made sure never to refer to the affected knee as the hurt knee. Instead, it was the left knee or right knee. This helped to accept the situation for what it was and move forward.
Attitude – We also spent a fair amount of time on attitude. Talking about how fortunate he was to play hockey for a living and how being a pro athlete rehabbing was still a pretty extraordinary life. Perspective is hard to come by at times, but we would talk through the problems over and over again.
So what happened?
Well, he got better, came back, and has smashed records every year since the injury. We're lucky to play a small role in his career, and being able to use and prove these mindset ideas in a practical setting was amazing.
- Develop a growth mindset – You can always improve
- Take care of the BIG 3
- Visualize with as much emotion incorporated as possible.