Be honest with yourself, have you ever felt like you were going to lose before you even played the game?
I’m guessing that if you’re being completely honest with yourself, then everyone reading this will be able to answer ‘yes’.
Isn’t it crazy the mind games we play with ourselves from time to time?
Whether we look at the team we’re playing and assume they’re better, or maybe we’ve lost to them in the past, or maybe we know some of the players on the other team and know how talented they are, or maybe it’s just that they’re physically bigger…
Whatever it may be, we’ve all played the mental battle with ourselves and put ourselves behind the ball before the game even starts.
It’s amazing to me as a coach how often I see this and how much this truly dictates the outcome of the game.
I’m a firm believer that if you go into a situation expecting to lose, or fail, you’re probably going to.
However, on the flip side, if you go into the situation knowing, and expecting, to win you’re already ahead of the curve.
I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to coach some very good, and successful, hockey teams.
When people ask me about what made those teams different, this is usually one thing that I always bring up right away. Those teams had the confidence, and swagger, to walk into the rink every night knowing and expecting to win.
They didn’t care who we were playing, they looked at it as that team had to come play us.
It truly played to our advantage.
You could sense, and see the intimidation on the opposing teams in warmups and that only added to our teams confidence.
In fact, I used to talk with my assistant coaches about how you could tell what type of game it was going to be that night depending how the other team showed up to the rink.
You could get a sense if they were focused, excited, and ready for the challenge, or, if they were just there because they had to and hoping to survive the next few hours.
It always amazes me how the mind tricks we play on ourselves really effects so much in our performance.
So what do you do with all this?
First off, don’t beat yourself before you even get started. Hockey, and life, is a competitive venture where realistically you’re not going to win every night. But, if you go in without the expectation of winning, you’re almost always guaranteeing your outcome.
Rise up to the challenge. If you’re playing a great team, visualize the victory. Know in your heart that you’re going to leave it all on the ice, and remember, that’s why we play the game. Think of all the amazing underdog stories you’ve heard about in sports throughout your life. Why did those happen? Because a team of people came together with the belief that they would be able to create greatness for that night.
Be prepared. It sounds simple, but it’s so true. Control the things that are in your power to control and make sure that you’re doing everything in your power to give you the best chance at being successful. Know that it won’t be easy, but challenging and pushing our limits is what makes us grow and get better.
On the flip side, if you’re a great team use that confidence to your advantage. Have a great warmup, start quick, and don’t give teams lacking confidence a chance to recover and think they have a chance.
Remember that your mind is an incredibly powerful tool.
It can be used to help you, or hurt you.
Make sure that it’s helping prepare you for the challenges you face and always go into every battle with the optimism that greatness is going to happen in your favor.
So to sum everything up in one statement, don’t beat yourself before the game even starts.