PLAYER TIPS: Self confidence is a key to optimizing your hockey

A hockey player’s mental state has a vital impact on performance; training the mind for success is an essential ingredient alongside the physical, technical, and tactical training and preparation to achieve high performance goals in competition.

One key that unlocks an optimum mental approach to performance is self-confidence.   Self-confidence is a quality that seems to separate good from great performers. Those who perform at the highest level seem to be endowed with an abundance of self-confidence. Unfortunately, low levels of self-confidence can also undermine performance. Most of us, at some time or another, have struggled to find and maintain that inner belief that can spur us on to a greater hockey performance. What is self confidence? It is the strength of your ability to perform your desired outcome. Here are five helpful tips that you can use to build your self-confidence:

1: Generate Performance Accomplishments.
The most important source of confidence is the sense of belief and satisfaction that you get from executing a skill well. There is nothing better to promote self-confidence than the knowledge that you can perform. If you are low on confidence start by setting up a series of drills designed to practice the skill that may be the source of your doubts. Start with an easy drill that you know you can complete successfully, and progress gradually to harder tasks. Once you master each task progress to an even harder task. Once you have mastered the skill during relatively difficult drills, be sure to challenge yourself during training sessions by seeking out opportunities to use your skill. Keep a mental note of all the times you do it well. Meditate on the good performance.

2: Contagious Confidence.
Watching other people perform successfully can give you a sense of confidence that you can also perform successfully. This is especially true if the person that you are watching is of equal skill and ability. Pick out somebody that you know to be of similar ability to you and take note of how well they are performing. It would be even better if you had some video footage of yourself that can watch. Make a highlights package of your best performances and watch it – it will be sure to give your confidence a boost!

3: Hearing is believing.
Most of us would have experienced the confidence that comes from hearing somebody say that we are capable. If you can, find a coach who knows your ability and with whom you can chat about your performance. These trusted sources of verbal persuasion can serve to boost your confidence. More importantly, you should also be mindful of the things that you say to yourself. If you say and think negative things to yourself such as “I’ve lost my touch” or “I can’t do this” you will come to believe that this is true. Replace any negative thoughts that you have with positive statements such as “My first touch is an asset”. The ability to recognise your automatic negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones is a critical skill to have. If you say something to yourself enough times, you will come to believe it!

4: Physiology.
The feeling of being strong, fit and relaxed brings self-confidence. In order to boost your confidence get yourself into peak physical condition, including both strength and endurance. Appropriately designed strength and conditioning programs can be a great source of confidence. In addition, learn to control your physiological and emotional state through relaxation techniques. Two popular relaxation techniques include progressive muscle relaxation and the five breath technique. You may want to seek a professional to help with these.
5: Visualisation.
Try recreating the feeling of being confident and performing well. Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and imagine the feeling of a time when you had a confident and successful performance. Imagine what you were doing in as much detail as possible, including what it felt like, what you thinking, what the opposition looked like, and what you were saying to yourself. Visualisations such as these recreate the experience vividly, and the brain activity is surprisingly similar to the actual performance, and thus increases

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