Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MSNBC article is good, but misses on need to teach emotional toughness on the ice

The hockey world is continuing to look at the incidences of concussions, and with recent traumatic injuries to teens playing hockey, how to make it safer. Here is an article from MSNBC...

After tragic teen hockey injuries, can a rough sport become safer?

I agree with the comments made by Dr. Tator and Dr. Stuart in this article. Players do need to strengthen their neck muscles. I remember doing this as a teenager. I do believe it made a difference in me being able to take a hit, control my head, and keep myself out of dangerous positions.

I also agree with the idea that players need to play safe and heads up hockey. No doubt about it. This goes without saying. The stop signs on the back of players' jerseys is a good reminder to not hit from behind. At the end of the day players need to respect each other...

At the end of the article the author started to get at the core issues with these quotes:

“We’ve witnessed, I think, more violence and aggression than there should be,” Tator explained. “This is one of the things that has been looked at carefully – increasing the emphasis on fair play and trying to reduce the influence of the win-at-all costs attitude. So when parents are in the stands shouting ‘kill em’ or ‘get em,’ they need to realize this isn’t conducive to safe hockey.”

Stuart agreed. “There is a certain culture in sports that overemphasizes winning to the point of promoting intimidation in order to achieve the goal of being victor. We have to teach sportsmanship and respect,” he said.
There is one missing piece here, however. Players most be taught the emotional coping skills to make good decisions under pressure. The game is fast and the mind has to make split-second decisions. If players are focused on how mad they are that their opponent cross-checked them in the back and didn't get a penalty, added to the fact they haven't scored in 5 games and their coach is about to take them off the power play, and you will get emotional decision-making.

Emotional decision-making is rash. It is based on feeling not on rational thoughts. Emotions are based in the immediate, not on stopping and thinking through situations. Thus, players must be taught to control their emotions and be emotionally tough - to stay positive and productive in adverse situations. This is why I created the Playing Tough and Clean Hockey Program, and the coach version Coaching Tough and Clean Hockey. Coaches are not necessarily equipped with the skills to teach players to manage their emotions in intense games. We need to teach these skills to coaches, parents, and players!

Winning-at-all costs does play a role in these horrible injuries. But, so does the macho attitude of hockey players. An eye-for-an-eye attitude leads to emergency room visits and suspensions. Let's change the course of hockey by teaching players to think clearly and make good decisions. To teach them to Play Tough and Clean Hockey.

Contact me if you want to learn more about Tough and Clean Hockey and incorporating athlete, parent, and coach education and skills training in to your hockey program.

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