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Goaltending: Dealing with Distractions

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GOALTENDING:  DEALING WITH DISTRACTIONS

The mental aspect of goaltending is extremely important as any hockey fan knows. Athletes are faced with a multitude of distractions in their daily lives which can affect athletic performance. Goaltenders, in particular, need excellent concentration and focus in order to do their job with any proficiency. How do the elite goaltenders perform so well while others fail? The professional or top-flight collegiate goalie knows how to tune out unnecessary distractions so the focus of the game is solely on stopping the puck. Let's examine some hypothetical situations and how to cope with the related distractions.

1. DAILY LIFE

You have a big game tonight at 8:00. In the meantime, you need to get out of bed and face the day. From breakfast until game time, you obviously need to deal with non-hockey issues. You have classes, tests, a dentist appointment, household chores, homework, interaction with friends, lunch, dinner, etc. While all these things are a regular part of your daily routine, they still affect your frame of mind come game time. Learn to live in the present while mentally preparing yourself for the future. Concentrate in class, but once the class or test is over, don't let worries or concerns interfere with your hockey preparation as you leave for the rink. If you did poorly on a test, worry about it after the game since you can't do anything about it now. If you had an argument with a friend or family member, don't carry the emotional baggage with you onto the ice or in the locker room. Turn those thoughts off and think hockey until you leave the rink, then deal with the problem head on.

Lunch or dinner decisions can affect your play. Was it really wise to chow on burgers, fries and shakes with your buddies two hours before game time? How about your sleeping habits? Why did you stay up until 2 AM in the dorm shooting the bull with your roommates? You won't be mentally sharp if you have to catch up on your sleep on the bus or car ride to the game. All of the eating, sleeping, studying and socializing issues affect the state of mind you will have during the game. Make decisions wisely and learn to think hockey during hockey time.

2. PRACTICE DISTRACTIONS

There are a myriad of excuses at your disposal during practice: "I'm tired", "I'm sick", "My skates aren't sharp", "My pads are loose.", "I've got a big test today", "I'm saving my energy for the game", "I'm sore", "The rink is too cold", "The rink is too hot", "I'm not motivated today", "The shots are coming too fast", "I'm getting cold standing around", etc., etc., etc.

The coach and players don't want to hear you rationalize why you look awful. They want to see effort, hustle, determination, and a never-say-die attitude. When you stand around and watch shooters score on stoppable shots, why do you think the coach will play you in the next game? Be real. No effort, no game time. You must constantly move and look like you care about your performance. Practice allows you to prove to your teammates and coaches why you deserve to play.

3. GOALIE/COACH RELATIONSHIPS

Perceptions you have towards your coach can be very distracting. Rather than letting your distorted thinking run amok, ask your coach what he or she thinks of you. Have the courage to meet any situations honestly by developing an open relationship with the coaching staff. Don't assume negative things. If you see the coach looking at you funny when some goals are going in during practice or if he tells you to work harder, don't get defensive. The coach wants to bring out the best in you and that means there will be times he will push you. If you can't handle being challenged, you are in the wrong position. When you start thinking "the coach hates me" or "why is the coach always picking on me", you are not concentrating on what you can control - your game. When you start tuning out the message because the messenger is angry, you miss the point. Hear the coach!

No matter what the distraction may be, you must learn to put it aside for when you are not playing. Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, Michael Jordan, and Drew Bledsoe all have the same day-to-day problems you do but they learn to put their game face on and put off "the real world" for the game. Learn to objectively assess your days and prioritize what is important and put aside distractions for moments when they can be dealt with.

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie

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