Friday, December 2, 2011

To Perform Great You Need Confidence, Here's How to Do It: Blog Entry 5

Blog Entry 5: Confidence Training Under Pressure

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” - Muhammad Ali

In previous posts about confidence I have presented the pyramid model of confidence. How to know yourself, your strengths and limitations, the importance of preparation, routines, and discipline, and thinking positively and productively (2 Ps). In this post I will put it all together and present what an athlete needs to do to develop resilient confidence: the confidence to believe in your self despite being a slump, losing, or just not having things go your way.

At the top of the pyramid is the ability to be confident in pressure hockey situations - championship games on the road; down 3-2 in the third period, or up 3-2 and trying to finish the game off. To be confident in big games, tryouts, or even in playing in front of your school you have to not only have the first four layers of the pyramid in the right place, but also have trained your skills to work in pressure situations.

You must train under pressure and work on staying positive and productive in your thinking. How? In practice have your coach put you in very competitive board battles or scrimmages where something is riding on it (you win the scrimmage and you have two less sprints in conditioning). And, when put in these pressure situations have a plan for staying positive. Plan for what triggers negativity and then work your plan to stay confident.

A plan or routine you can use in negative trigger situations, like after turning the puck over, is the 3 R’s.

  1. RESPOND – Positive

Have an immediate positive (or at least neutral) response to what has happened on the ice. In the heat of battle no one likes a “sulker” or a “do everyone’s job” player. Instead, treat mistakes for what they are – a single mistake. Learn from it and let it go. And, look forward to tough situations like being down a goal. See it as a challenge and allow adversity to bring out the best in you – the competitor.

So, the response stage is about managing your reactions to negative triggers. Using self-talk (Let it go, Ignore it, Move on) or visualization (see the mistake, erase it from your mind, and replace it with the play you will make) will help you stay positive in tough situations.

  1. RELAX – Breathing

Next you want to compose yourself. Too often players fail to slow down their breathing and their thinking enough to gain control. They get anxious and have negative thinking. This of course hurts their performance.

Slow down to get your game on track. Take slow, deep breaths to compose your self. Slow down to think clearly. While this strategy works very well on the bench between shifts, it can be used during the game before a faceoff or even quickly while you are skating. It takes practice but you can do it. I have seen it with my own eyes and also have used this deep breathing in play myself.

  1. REFOCUS – 2 P’s thinking

The final step is to refocus. You want to get your focus back on playing the game, not on your own thoughts. So, the goal: refocus back on playing hockey immediately. This can be done by using 2 P thinking (Positive, Productive) that gets you focused and playing again. Focusing words or phrases such as “Focus”, “Quick”, “Wall”, "Absorb the puck" or “Sponge” (for a goalie), “Keep Working”, “Stay in It”, and “You can do this” will help to get your mind back in the game. Simple reminders of how you want to play and confidence-boosting statements both can help you back in the moment and playing your game.

To be a confident hockey player you must train your mind in pressure situations. Find ways to put the pressure on yourself and work your plan for staying confident. Follow the steps in this pyramid of confidence to help you boost your confidence and maintain it once it is where you want it.

Now it is up to you. What will you do to become the confident hockey player you have always wanted to be? Follow the advice in this pyramid and you will begin to understand yourself, break your ceilings, develop habits and routines to make you physically and mentally fit, think in disciplined ways to be more positive and productive, and remain confident under pressure.

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