If you are a goaltender you are going to suffer from poor games now and then. Face it, the position of goaltender is tough. Everybody knows when you make a mistake, the puck ends up in the back of the net. So, any goaltender recognizes that the key to success is not being perfect, but instead being able to bounce back from poor games.
The way we think about our losses is important to either bouncing back and playing well or beginning to lose confidence and potentially spiral in to a slump. You want your thoughts to be flexible, focused on what you control, positive and productive.
Martin Brodeur of New Jersey was pulled from Game 3 in last season's first round of the playoffs against the Florida Panthers. There were questions, at least in the media, as to whether he would start Game 4. Brodeur not only started Game 4 he shut out the Panthers. Read carefully Brodeur's quotes about bouncing back from the poor performance in the Fire & Ice blog.
Fire & Ice blog from April 18, 2012 Brodeur never doubted he'd get Game 4 start...
Brodeur was able to keep the loss in perspective and spin his thinking so he did not get down on himself. For instance, instead of thinking "I am getting old, have I lost it" Brodeur said in the media that, “For me, I know what I can do and what I can bring and I’ll try my
hardest all the time. I’ve played a long time in this league not to have
doubts in my mind when I’m coming down to the end here.”
Brodeur's thoughts about playing Game 4 are flexible in that he understands that he can bounce back and that he has not lost his skills. He does not feel sorry for himself and he does not make permanent claims about how poorly he is playing. Too often I hear goalies say "I have no confidence" or "I don't have it". Marty trusts himself and knows that he will play well in the next game.
Marty's thoughts are also very positive and productive because he is reminding himself of his accomplishments and that he can do it again. It is this self-reassurance that stops the dwelling and allows the goaltender to focus on the next game.
Finally, Brodeur was very clear about focusing on what he controls - trying his hardest all the time. He was accepting of his poor game and took strides to make sure he was ready to play Game 4. Instead of wallowing in self-doubt Brodeur trusted himself and prepared to play the next game. Brodeur's thinking is adaptive and is one of many reasons he will be in the Hall-of-Fame.
The take home message here is to pay attention to how you think about your poor games. If you are dwelling on how bad you feel, played, or the fact you let your team down you are not being resilient. Bouncing back starts with changing your thoughts. You control the way you think and how you respond to the bouncing puck. You don't control the bouncing puck.