Hockey, as any player will tell you, is about far more than just getting out onto that ice and attacking the puck like your life depends on it (no matter what it might look like on TV during Hockey Night in Canada). Anyone who plays the sport knows there’s a skill involved – not just motor skills like being able to skate and stick-handle, but the skill to utilize your teammates to complete the play, to monitor their positions, and even to carry out pre-determined strategies for overcoming your opponents’ combined skills.
In short, there’s more strategy to hockey than there might seem from the stands. To our Clarington Thunder players, and to all hockey players, as your youth hockey career progresses and as you mature as a player, strategy will become more important to your game. And strategy is as much a mental skill as a physical one.
This week’s blog post is about visualizing your game, and it is inspired by multi-sports counselor and mental skills trainer Anthony Lanzillo, who advocates for youth athletes to “visualize the play.”
Practicing your drills is more than just getting out there on the ice and doing them over and over again. It’s about seeing them in your head, seeing yourself doing them step by step. When you’re visualizing your drills, you want to imagine the feel of each step, where you’re looking on the ice, and where you are supposed to be in relation to your teammates. It’s as important to commit your drills to your mental memory as it is to commit them to your physical memory (also called muscle memory).
Here are some additional things you want to be doing when you visualize the play:
- Identify one or two positive feelings you’re experiencing as you see yourself successfully performing your role.
- Identify key moments of each drill: where’s your stick; where are you looking on the ice; which opposing player are you covering?
- When you’re done visualizing, identify one or two more of your own personal strengths which you bring to the play. Is it speed? Puck control? Diversion?
What practicing these visualizations and mental rehearsals do is help you to be more composed and confident when it’s game time. As Anthony Lanzillo says, you are creating a mental imprint of how you want to perform. By doing this, you will be better able to deal with any distractions or negative influences at game time.
And with parents and fans of our players as passionate about hockey as we know they can be, there will definitely be distractions at game time.
After all, what’s a local hockey game without a good old cow bell?