We all have it.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we all do. How we react to it and what we do with it, is really what defines us.
It, is fear.
Fear is one of the biggest factors in regards to the mental side of hockey. We all have fear, and we all deal with it in different ways. Those that learn to channel fear and turn it into a positive are ultimately more successful than those who let fear control them.
Fear can be debilitating, yet also one's greatest motivator.
The crazy thing about fear is it is something that we create ourselves. Think about it, when you were a little kid you probably did all sorts of crazy stuff and didn’t have a care or worry in the world.
Because you didn’t know that you were potentially in danger or that you should be fearful of what you’re doing.
The same idea can be related to hockey. Fear plays a huge role into how we play hockey.
Fear of failure
Fear of not being good enough
Fear of losing
Fear of being hurt
Fear of letting people down
All of these thoughts have probably ran through your mind from time to time. I know they did for me when I was playing.
A great example for me now with coaching comes through summer hockey. I like to run competitive, yet fairly relaxed and fun, summer skates with current and former players. It always amazes me how good some players look during the summer. They see the ice well, make great decisions, have smooth hands, and can really put the puck wherever they want.
Then the season rolls around and those players don’t execute in quite the same way.
Why is that?
I think a huge portion of it relates back to fear.
In the summer, hockey is relatively care free. You have no pressure or fear of failure.
If you don’t win in a summer pick up game... who cares.
If you try to hit a teammate streaking through the middle and the pass gets deflected or turned over, not a big deal.
All of the little things that cause stress to a player during the season because of a certain fear are removed from how we play summer hockey. Because of that relaxed environment, players don't have that fear of failure in their minds.
This freedom allows players to just play.
Examples like these are why it’s so important for players to harness their mental toughness and learn to use fear as a motivator and driving force and not merely as something that causes them stress and anxiety.
So how do you overcome your fears?
It sounds simple enough, but simply taking action is helping you eliminate fear. It’s easy to say you aren’t ready to play at that level. Or it’s easy to say that you’ll start training for the next season tomorrow or next week. Those that take action are always learning. Things may not always work out the way you hope on attempt number one, but you will learn from the experience and that will make attempt number two that much better.
Think about it this way… would anyone ever get anywhere or accomplish anything if they never started?
Strive for Small Incremental Improvements
I’m a huge believer in never settling and always pushing the limits of what is possible. With that in mind, setting realistic expectations can help you achieve more and do so quicker.
Think of it this way… If your goal for the summer offseason is to gain 15 pounds of muscle, that can be daunting and overwhelming to think about (especially if you struggle to gain good weight). But, instead of thinking about it that way, you focus on your plan for gaining weight and figure that the off season is roughly four months long which really equates to at least 16 weeks. Implementing a nutrition plan, plus a training regime, then all the sudden you can look at your end goal and realize that you really only need to gain about a pound a week. Gaining one pound a week seems much more reasonable than the doubt inducing task of gaining 15 pounds before the season starts.
Learn to break down the things and make them more manageable. This will help keep you motivated and eliminate the doubt from creeping into your mind.
Remember, small incremental improvements over time lead to monumental change.
We’ve talked a lot about building your confidence and its importance. Keep things in perspective and understand that if you want something bad enough you have to be willing to work for it. Know that things are usually never as bad as they seem and that a positive mindset can help alleviate fear. Never forget that the people you look up to and want to get on their level were once sitting in the same position as you. They simply made a decision that they were going to overcome their own inner fears and push the boundaries of what they thought was possible. If you want something, in hockey or life, be willing to fight for it and exhaust all avenues to achieve it.
Channel your fears, keep things in perspective, and most importantly, always be taking action.
Do you ever struggle with letting fear control your abilities?