Tag: Hockey

Mental Toughness A Myth Or A Must In Hockey?

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Without question, playing hockey requires toughness.

But that’s toughness of the physical variety — defined by the ability to take and deliver a hit, to hold your ground in the crease or the corners, to leap over the boards for one more shift when your legs and lungs are screaming “no.”

What of mental toughness? Maybe more to the point: What is mental toughness?

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi defined it thusly: “Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind — you could call it character in action.”

Feelings Aren’t Facts

Some sports psychologists will tell you mental toughness is a myth, arguing that convincing yourself to be constantly tough is to live perpetually in denial, and further such denial is a tacit admission that you don’t know how to handle negative thoughts and emotions. Some would argue the semantical flip side, that what the above argument describes — conceding you have to learn to handle those perfectly natural thoughts and emotions — is the very definition of, or at least the pathway to, true mental toughness.

Perhaps, though, mental toughness is best thought of in terms of Mark Twain’s classic definition of courage: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

Components Of Mental Toughness

Complete mental toughness is the sum of many parts, but no one ingredient is more essential than preparation. An athlete who knows he has given his best to prepare his body will not doubt its readiness for those “crunch time” moments that arrive in every contest. And an athlete who has given his best to prepare his mind will trust conscious training that has become subconscious instinct.

So, it takes work. But work on what? What are the components of mental toughness? It depends on whom you ask.

Some cite determination, concentration, self-confidence and poise. Others prefer flexibility, responsiveness, strength, courage, ethics and sportsmanship. Nearly everything you’ll see on the subject of mental toughness, however, will deal in some way with the notion of resiliency, or failing well.

This is to say, learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make them (as long as you’ve not crossed that line from max effort to out of control). Be ready to endure the downs that inevitably arrive, remain optimistic, and be willing to make adjustments.

Head Games and Hockey Games

On the ice, opportunities to be mentally tough will manifest in essentially three ways:

When factors are out of your control: A mentally weak player will give full throat to his displeasure over a lousy referee — no doubt creating a ref willing to give him more reasons to yell. A mentally strong player will realize most refs, if they know they’ve blown a call, will try to even it up — and if the refs are just bad, it’ll even up naturally.

Similarly, concede that there are other things out of your control — ice conditions (hey, they’re the same for everybody), hostile crowds (won’t it be great to shut them up?) — that can be viewed either as bad breaks or opportunities for greatness.

When you’re off your game: This goes back to preparation. Do you know why 3-point shooters in basketball can keep shooting even though the best of them miss more than half their shots? Because they’ve seen thousands go in at practice. They always believe they’re going to make the next one.

Confidence comes from preparation. Preparation doesn’t guarantee you will never fail, but it helps you bounce back when failure inevitably arrives.

When you’re in pain: We’ve all been hurt enough to be affected by the injury, but not so hurt as to stop playing. In those moments, we turn to our minds — our mental toughness — to get us through.

Distance runners might close out thoughts of pain by consciously running for all those who can’t, but hockey players might better concentrate on “why.”

Not “why am I doing this?” Don’t ask in the moment. Know before you step on the ice. Your “why” is your strength.

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. Lee was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and has yet to put it down. He played hockey at Illinois State University while earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing. 

At Premier Sport Psychology, we help athlete’s train their mind to manage fears and still perform under pressure, on demand, and when fatigued. To work on your mental toughness and other mindset skills, check out our Mindset Training Program at https://www.mindsetprogram.com

 

Stanley Cup Playoffs

By: Premier Sport Psychology

The Stanley cup is the oldest and most revered trophy in professional sports. Originally donated to the “professional hockey club of the dominion of Canada” in 1892, it has since become the crown jewel of the NHL, traveling to the headquarters of each NHL champion since 1958 (Schwartz, 2017). Players not only leave their legacies engraved upon the cup, in a tradition unique to the NHL, they are each allowed one day with the cup to celebrate how they please. The cup has traveled to Europe, been used for baptisms, schlepped up mountains, and has even been shared with the winner of the Kentucky Derby (Anderson, 2016). Yet despite its many travels and travails, there are 11 teams who have never won the Stanley Cup.  

So what helps teams and organizations put themselves into a position to raise Lord Stanley’s cup?  One philosophy and contributing factor is infusing an adaptable playing style in high pressure game situations. “What compels adaptability are two things: the skill to notice a gap between where you are and where you need to be to be effective, and the will to close that gap” (Boss, 2016).  It will not solely matter if a team has a head coach that has been to or won a cup before in order to make it there this playoff season.  It is eminently more important a coach makes it a point to tweak lines and game plans based on the strengths of the team members. An example of this is Minnesota Wild’s Bruce Boudreau’s development of an up-tempo attacking style for players like Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund who both had career-best totals last season with 42 and 44 points respectively. By using their strengths of speed and agility to their advantage, both players have already surpassed their previous season point totals with flying colors prior to reaching playoffs this season (Dowd, 2017).  

This adaptive mentality can be beneficial for all coaches and players alike. Coaches who know the chemistry of their players/team members can use adaptability as a tool to develop effective game plans for their team’s success. Additionally, when players and coaches work as a cohesive unit, adapting to each other’s strengths and weaknesses, it is then that the team is able to produce optimal levels of performance. Coaches that depend less on one or two of their players and instead adapt and mold players together will be hard to beat.

With all of that being said, coaching takes commitment and hard work-Not only to teach concepts and strategy to the players, but to really learn and understand the environment that each player thrives best in. Whether that means a player performs better with one teammate than another, or he needs the speed ramped up to be more successful, a good coach will do whatever is needed to get all players playing at their best. It may take some compromise along the way, but with the help of careful thought and deliberate change, adaptations will greatly be to the coach’s advantage.  

As the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, I encourage you all to think about ways in which you too can add adaptability into your sports repertoire. Displayed by both hockey players and coaches alike, you will find that team performance is greatly enhanced when each member can play to each other’s strengths, not just their own.

Katie Lubben

References:

Anderson, C. (2016). The 10 Craziest Stanley Cup Celebrations

http://www.goliath.com/sports/the-10-craziest-stanley-cup-celebrations/

Boss, J. (2016). The Most Effective Teams Adapt to Change

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2016/06/07/the-most-effective-teams-adapt-to-change/#6e918ad279b7

Dowd, J. (2017). The Minnesota Wild Will Avoid Its Annual Collapse This Season
http://www.hockeywilderness.com/2017/1/12/14235208/minnesota-wild-will-avoid-annual-collapse-bruce-boudreau-has-team-playing-well-coaching-life-cycle

Schwartz, J. (1997-2017). Legends of Hockey- NHL trophies- Stanley Cup https://www.hhof.com/htmlSilverware/silver_splashstanleycup.shtml

“Concussion” — Not Just the Movie

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

 

In the new movie Concussion, premiering Christmas Day, Will Smith plays a Forensic Pathologist who discovers neurological deterioration (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in football players. He goes on to spread the word about concussions to help keep athletes safe. This blog aims to do the same.

What exactly is a concussion? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a concussion is a traumatic brain injury where a blow to the head causes the brain to move back and forth in the skull. This movement in the brain can change chemicals in the brain and bruise it. Concussions can also lead to more serious issues later in life, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

What sports are they most prevalent in? For male athletes, they are most prevalent in football and hockey, whereas for female athletes, it is soccer and lacrosse.

How do I know if my athlete has a concussion? Symptoms of concussions include: loss of consciousness, memory, or coordination; headache or feeling of pressure; nausea or vomiting; fatigue or sluggishness; and ringing in the ears. If you suspect your athlete of having a concussion, it is important to bring them to a doctor right away.

What is the best way to overcome a concussion? The only way to recover is giving the brain time to recover. This involves restricting activity as well as giving it the rest it needs, which includes reducing screen time on computers and TVs as well.

How can we prevent concussions? The only way to fully prevent sport-related concussions would be to abstain from sport; however there are preventative measures that can be taken to reduce risk. Make sure that you wear the proper equipment for the sport, use proper technique for physical contact sports, follow the rules when it comes to tackling, checking, etc., and have good sportsmanship.

Concussion premieres December 25th. Be sure to check it out!’

 

The Rarity of Feats Like Horseracing’s Triple Crown

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Horseracing’s Triple Crown has only been achieved eleven times since its first winner in 1919. Of those twelve, only four have occurred since 1948—3 in the mid 1970s and then American Pharoah this past weekend. The media has been talking about how rare the Triple Crown is, but just how rare is it? Compared to other sports, is winning the Triple Crown really as profound as we all make it out to be?

Horseracing

The Triple Crown has been won 12 times in 97 years, or once every 8.0833 years.

Baseball

In Major League Baseball’s modern era, (1900-present) pitchers have thrown only 21 perfect games. That’s 21 perfect games in 115 years, or once every 5.476 years. Think about it this way, there are 4,860 chances for a perfect game in each year that has 162 games, meaning that there have only been 21 out of approximately 780,000 chances, or 0.00269% of the time.

Hockey

Only 60 times (44 players) has someone scored at least five goals in a single NHL game. Over the NHL’s existence, that’s one every 1.324 years.

Golf

With four major tournaments each year, you’d think this would occur more often, but only 25 times has a golfer won back-to-back majors. That’s 25 since 1860, or once every 6.16 years. 

Basketball

The NBA quadruple double, or when a player records at least 10 in four of these categories—points, assists, rebounds, steals, or blocked shots—in a single game has only been achieved four times since steals and blocked shots began being recorded in 1974. This is one quadruple double every 10.25 years.

Football

The Heisman trophy has been awarded each year since 1935, but only once did the same player win it in multiple years. Archie Griffin, who ended up playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, won it twice—1974 and 1975.

Achieving any of these feats would require different time, talents, and skill, and no one team or athlete is guaranteed at having equal chances of them occurring. We should consider the perceived rarity of this one incredible endeavor—the Triple Crown—and perhaps lend some of that awe, spectacle, and inspiration to others.

Congratulations to American Pharoah and his team on winning the Triple Crown!

In the Midst of the Stanley Cup, the Lightning’s Home Ice Advantage Should Not be Overlooked

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

In a comeback victory last night, the Chicago Blackhawks took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals from the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1. The two teams will face off again Saturday night in Tampa for Game 2 of the seven game series. Both teams showed promise as the Lightning dominated for the first period and the Blackhawks controlled the third. The Cup could go either way, so we wanted to take a look at one advantage that is out of either team’s control: home field advantage (or, in the case of hockey, home ice advantage).

With 108 points in the regular season compared to Chicago’s 102, the Tampa Bay Lightning secured home ice advantage for the series, which will give them an upper hand if the series goes five or seven games. Playing at home can benefit players because it may make them more relaxed than if they were on the road. They are in a place that is comfortable and secure—players are able to sleep in their own homes and prepare in their own locker rooms and clubhouses.

Also, when at home, players are playing in front of their own fans. While this may not seem like it has a profound impact on players, think about 20,000 people cheering you on. Or, if you’re the away team, 20,000 people being so silent when you’ve just scored that you could hear a pin drop. With the Chicago win last night, if you’re a Blackhawks fan, you might scoff and say that the fans are unimportant and therefore the Lightning don’t have an edge, but not many of you have stood in front of thousands of people screaming for your success and against your opponent’s. To come back in the third period last night, Chicago used a significant amount of mental focus and determination in addition to the X’s and O’s to overcome the crowd atmosphere cheering against them and take Game 1 of the series.

Premier’s own Dr. Alexandra Wagener was on Minnesota’s local CBS station, WCCO, to discuss why fans are so crucial to a home team’s success:

“We know that we are more aggressive, we have more motivation and we are actually more confident when we’re at home,” she said. “There’s also research to show that when we have the crowd behind us it can influence referee calls to an extent. Be supportive, be excited, and be in the moment. When the players look up, see people on their feet, we see them chanting and cheering—it can provide that extra edge to skate a little stronger.”

In fact, the presence of fans is so important to the Lightning, that this year they are imposing a new rule: All fans sitting in “premium” areas are required to wear Lightning paraphernalia or neutral clothing—absolutely no Blackhawks apparel allowed. Bill Wicket, the Lightning’s Executive Vice President for Communications, told the New York Times that the team is trying to create a “hometown environment for the Lightning players and our season-ticket holders.”

The assistance that fans provide as Dr. Wagener has previously stated helps solidify this fact. The Lightning organization has recognized the fans’ importance, so they are trying to do whatever they can in order to give their team the best shot at winning the Cup. Teams are putting more stock into the mental game, not just one-on-one sessions or workshops with coaches, but trying to channel group mentality within the stadium as well.

What do you think? Should the Lightning restrict what fans wear, and what impact does this rule have on the players? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook!

 

 

 

 

The Wild Go Wild

By: Premier Sport Psychology

By: Premier Intern Staff

The 2014-2015 NHL Season is officially underway, and with it comes Minnesota sports fans the country over hoping for a successful season. After an MLB postseason without the Twins, and with the Vikings off to a shaky start, Minnesota sports fans really need something they can put their hearts into.

As of right now, the Minnesota Wild look like just that something.

Starting their season with an impressive 5-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, the Wild look like a team going in the right direction. Proving they can produce on the offensive end, while also showing stout defensive and goaltender play, the team seems to be firing on all cylinders.

It’s still early, of course, and we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, but this could be the start of something special. With an initial optimistic outlook on the season, and a huge boost of confidence coming from their opening win, there seems to be nothing that could hold the Wild back. You could even say they’re going wild this season.

Moving forward with heads held high, confidence at a maximum and a positive outlook on the rest of the season, the Wild look like Minnesota’s team. The physical talent is there, and the mental strength is only helping to make it better.