No Red Lights: Hockey: The Paradox of Realism vs. Fantasy in a Goalie's Mental Game - Goalie News And Instruction By Roxanne Gaudiel

The Paradox of Realism vs. Fantasy in a Goalie's Mental Game

This article is from the Tampa Bay Lightning Care website. My two favorite suggestions are to eliminate distractions/'uncontrollables' and to stay positive. Even though these two suggestions are important, they are paradoxical.
In order to achieve both of these state of minds, one must frame their mind in two contradictory states; realism and fantasy. To only worry about things that we can control, a realistic state of mind must be embraced. Goals will go in; flukes will happen; and a person can only be so quick. But in order to remain positive, there must be an aura of invincibility - that you will get that next goal; that you are quick enough; and that anything is possible. Essentially, the goalie must live in a fantasy world, where every shot can be saved. Starting to see the contradiction?
How can a goalie be realistic by understanding that goals will go in, yet believe that everything can be stopped? Realistically, no goalie has saved every shot (ever... unless they played once and got a shutout). But if a goalie does not believe they can stop a shot, they may not save the puck. This is the self-fulfilling prophecy attitude (I can't save that, so why should I try so hard). Even if these are not the exact words or feelings of the goalie, just thinking that a shot cannot be saved maybe subconsciously affect a goalie's play.
In the end, use these suggestions depending on the environment in which you find yourself. The realistic approach is more of a after-game method of analysis. Basically, save your sanity because you are human. Understand that goals do go in, but try to learn from those mistakes so that next time, you will be able to stop that shot. During the game, the fantasy/positivistic mental approach should be used. Focus on that next puck because you can (and will!) get it. This will allow you, in the costume of your gear, to play that fantasy role of being the best in the business, giving you that mental edge.

Here is the article
Ten Ways to Improve Your Player's Mental Strength

Keeping players mentally strong is half the battle in growing a strong and positive athlete. The following article provides ten useful tips to help them grow mentally tough and improve overall performance.

Sport psychology is a growing field, and there are many mental performance skills described in books, videos and seminars. Here are ten that can help an athlete stay focused and breakthrough performance anxiety.
  1. Breathe - Before a performance, slow, deep breathing helps an athlete relax and focus on the performance at hand. During a performance, a slow deep breath can help an athlete put a mistake behind them and refocus on the moment.
  2. Relax - Progressive relaxation can be used to ease tension and get muscles ready for performance. Progressive relation simply involves contracting and then relaxing each muscle group from the toes, feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, stomach, lower back, upper back, chest, fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, and neck. These exercises can be done before a practice/game, or while sitting on the bench waiting to enter a game.
  3. Visualize - Studies show that athletes can benefit from visualizing themselves completing individual skills, team strategies, or both. Sometimes visualization is easier after the athlete has done their breathing and relaxation exercises. The mental pictures should be highly detailed, and always result in successful completion of the play. If the athlete needs help with this, a coach or parent can act as a “visualization guide,” suggesting things to focus on.
  4. Eliminate distractions or “uncontrollables” - Some athletes are easily distracted by uncontrollable factors such as crowd noise, an unfamiliar playing field or gym, or other factors. For these athletes, it can be helpful to name those distractions beforehand, and label them as uncontrollable will not interfere with performance.
  5. Focus on the process - Some athletes can become anxious by thinking too much about the outcome of their play. For example, instead of thinking about the implications of striking out, an athlete should think about keeping an eye on the ball and taking a level swing. The trick is to avoid being too mechanical. The athlete should focus on achieving a swing that “feels right” rather than an A-B-C-D sequence of mechanical movements. In other words, focus on “feeling the groove” rather than every mechanical element.
  6. Physically rehearse - For some athletes it is helpful to physically rehearse a skill just before performing. This can be done before the game, or in some sports, during the game. Common examples include the baseball batter taking practice swings in the on-deck circle, a golfer practicing a swing before teeing off, or a basketball player practicing a shooting stroke before shooting a free throw. Physical rehearsal reminds the athlete to complete the skill properly, and assures that the muscles are ready to perform. Then the athlete can relax enough to “feel the groove.”
  7. Stay in the moment - One of the most common mental mistakes made by athletes at all levels is to focus on the last play rather than the next play. They worry about missing the last shot instead of making the next play, and this shakes their confidence. Athletes can overcome this mistake by reminding themselves to “stay in the moment.” The last play is gone forever; all that matters is the next play.
  8. Practice positive self-talk - Negative self talk — or “stinkin’ thinkin’” — has been the downfall of many a fine athlete. Athletes can combat this tendency by proactively replacing negative talk with positive talk. This means replacing “I can’t believe I dropped that last ball” with “I’ve caught a thousand balls before this, and I will catch the next one too.”
  9. Practice positive body language - In addition to positive self talk, doing something physically positive like bouncing on toes, stretching, or clapping hands can help restore positive emotions. One of the most powerful forms of body language is to simply stand tall with shoulders back, chin up, and hands on hips. Suggest this stance to a struggling athlete and notice what a difference it makes.
  10. Trust yourself and let it happen - During competition, the key to mental performance is self trust. If the athlete has done the work in practice, the mind and body should go into autopilot and play on instinct. The athlete should simply get involved in the flow of the game, and let the mind and body do the rest without over-thinking. This is how the great performers deliver day after day. We can help our athletes tremendously by reminding them to ‘trust yourself and let it happen.’
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Elevating Athletes for this article.

This article was brought to you by former NHL player Jeff Serowik and Pro Ambitions Hockey. For more information about Jeff and his hockey boarding camps, please click here.