Saturday, February 16, 2013

Skill of Letting Go of Guilt and Embarrassment - Something all Players Must Have (Post 2 of 10)

Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals lived a hockey nightmare last May. With his team up in the third period of Game 5 versus the New York Rangers, Ward received a double minor for high sticking. Helplessly he watched the Rangers score with 6.6 seconds left in regulation to tie the game. To make matters far worse the Rangers carried the second power play opportunity in to overtime and won the game on a power play goal. Needless to say, Ward was very upset after the game.

Nicholas Cotsonika of Yahoo! sports wrote about Ward's feelings of letting his team down after the game:

Three times, he said he let down his teammates. Three times, he said there was nothing he could do as he sat in the penalty box. Three times, he said he had been hoping for a chance to redeem himself. He called it "a little mentally disturbing."
He could have just called it "hockey."
"It's a game of inches," Ward said. "It happens pretty quick. We were a few seconds from winning, and it turned into overtime into a loss, just like that." (Ward's late penalties give chance to Rangers,
How disappointing would that be for any hockey player, let alone an NHL player? Ward was feeling guilty and probably a little embarrassed about his penalties and how it changed the outcome of the game.
However, there is no benefit for Ward, or any player for that matter, to dwell on these feelings of guilt and embarrassment. Other than using them to fuel your commitment to preparing for the next game, dwelling on these feelings can become a distraction, lower your energy and confidence.

2. Avoid dwelling on guilt and embarrassment.

Many times players make a big mistake, even a small one, and feel they have to beat themselves up. They feel the need dwell on how bad they feel and how they let the team down. Thinking such as  "I let in a soft goal so I must be a horrible goaltender" can take up too much brain space and cause the player to begin doubting. This kind of permanent thinking lowers confidence and affects future performances - in a bad way.

Why do we beat ourselves; hurt our own confidence? Society trains us to think in this way; you make a mistake and you should feel guilty and embarrassed for some time. Society tells you to take your medicine and be quiet. Go hide somewhere because you screwed up. Go cower in the corner, you let your team down. This is exactly the opposite of what we should be teaching hockey players!

Feeling down, beating ourselves up, and trying to do too much are not good responses.  My response to your guilt and embarrassment after tough games and mistakes - I am giving you the right to not focus on your feelings of guilt or embarrassment. You do not need to dwell on the mistake and how it feels because you feel obligated to do so. Everyone makes mistakes. I promise you that coaches and teammates would rather have a player that bounces back quickly and plays fast, physical, confident hockey than one that sulks when things are not going well. Get over the habit of feeling the obligation to feel bad. Hockey is full of mistakes. Move on!

It seems like Cotsonika was trying to do this for Ward in his Yahoo post. In an effort to remind readers that Ward was a primary reason why the Caps were even in the second round, Cotsonika wrote:

Remember why the Capitals are in the second round in the first place. They upset the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins by winning the tightest series in NHL history – the first in which all seven games were decided by one goal – and they won it in overtime of Game 7.
On a goal by Joel Ward.
That night in TD Garden, the puck bounced Ward's way. He backhanded a rebound into the net.
Remember why the Capitals had a 2-1 lead to blow Monday night. The Rangers' Mike Rupp went off for hooking early in the third period, because he had no other option to prevent a scoring chance.
On a rush by Joel Ward.
When you mistakes as a player you need to do the same thing as Cotsonika is doing. Recognize what you have done well. Remember a mistake or bad shift, period, game is only one instance. It is not going to define your hockey career, unless you let it. And, focus on solutions instead of feeling down because of guilt and embarrassment. Bounce back strong and your coaches and teammates will admire your resiliency. More importantly, you will have exhibited to yourself how you can come back and play great hockey immediately after a mistake or bad shift!

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