The crowd cheers and a foghorn blasts over the speakers. The red goal lamp flashes and player on the opposing team celebrates.
There is an incredible responsibility that comes with standing between metal pipes having pucks shot at oneself. Goaltending is often the one position in hockey that is criticized, over analyzed and scrutinized more than any other. Due to the high pressure goaltending is a mental game where the player is his/her own worst enemy because an individual has a lot of time alone to think about what has happened.
Because goaltenders may face psychological challenges, here are some tips and suggestions to improve a goaltenders mental game focusing on concentration, relaxation, imagery and self-talk.
Concentration skills are dependent on the motivation one has to maintain it. There are different times, which call for different kinds of concentration.
Exercise: Use three different colored pucks (red, blue and black). Each color puck indicates what a goaltender should do with the puck. Each colored puck indicates what action goalie should take with it. Black pucks should be stopped in order to stop the play. Red pucks should be stopped and sent to the right of the net. Blue pucks should be stopped and sent to the left of the net to a player. This exercise makes the practicing goaltender concentrate on different tasks on a very micro level.
It is important for players to identify which mental and emotional states are necessary for their own success. One should also know how and when to relax or become energized to enhance performance.
Exercise: Players can use progressive relaxation. This is when a player tightens and relaxes muscles in the body to reduce anxiety. Breath control can also be used by smooth, slow and regular breathing while counting to five for each cycle.
Imagery is the process of creating or recreating an experience in the mind. A goaltender can recreate a scenario in which he or she did not make a stop, but turn it into a vision where the puck was stopped instead. Imagery is a skill that must be practiced in order for it to be effective and help on an event day.
Exercise: Imagery is most effective when all senses are involved. A goaltender should imagine the smell of the hockey rink, the sounds of a crowd and the feeling of stopping. The player should also be in the right mindset and mood in order for the imagery to be effective. All of the images should be positive and not negative.
There are two kinds of self-talk: overt and covert. Overt is out loud and covert is in the players head. Self-talk should focus on a players achievements rather than ability such as using constructive criticism and positive statements over negative comments or putdowns.
Exercise: Self-talk can be used before, during or after a game. It should include instructional and motivational statements. During a game, goaltenders might want to consider creating their own self-talk strategy. For example, stating “focus” during play out loud, or count the number of opposing players to keep them within his peripheral. Goaltenders should also be encouraged to analyze their self-talk to make sure that there are no negatively framed statements.
Using the psychological tools such as concentration, relaxation, imagery and self-talk will help a goaltender be consistent in their play and will lead to optimal play. These skills can be learned with practice in training and competition.
For more information and other resources
Pressure Between the Pipes
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