Hockey is a tough sport, it can be very intense and is played at a very high-speed. But you also need to be mentally tough too. As a player you will need to manage your feelings and be able to focus at the task at hand and be at your best. This can be especially important in a high-speed, in your face, contact sport such as hockey.
When you are under pressure you will find yourself, ‘tightening your grip’, ‘trying to hard’, ‘chasing the puck’, and maybe even retaliating when you know you shouldn’t.
But we as coaches and players ask ourselves why do we do all those things and how can we control them?
What is the relationship between athletic performance and emotional arousal? As emotional intensity increases (A), performance improves until it peaks (B). Therefore increases in intensity (arousal) causes players to get to ‘pumped’ or even to ‘tight’ and lead to a reduction in performance (C).
The easiest and best way of controlling the emotions that you feel during a high intensity game is to learn how to breathe effectively.
Researchers have said that there is 3 things that happen when you focus on your breathing. First, it unites your mind and body. When you don’t play well it usually means your body is out of line, you are not ‘one’.
Second, breathing makes you focus on the present. Players will come back to the bench feeling anxious and worried as they might of made a bad play. They worry about the mistakes they made or want to avoid. Worry lives in the past and future. Power is in the present. Focus on the breathing brings your consciousness (mind) into the now (present) so you can concentrate on the game in hand.
LEARNING TO BREATHE
A very simple process can help you accomplish the right way to breathe. Try this, sit back and try to experience these three things in your breathing – rhythm, inspiration, and direction.
Breathing in and out and actually feeling this is called a rhythm. Feel the breathe and consindrate on it, the key is time. As you inhale, allow time for the breath to come all the way in. As you exhale, allow time for the breath to flow all the way out. Sit back and relax, feel it. There is power in simplicity.
Now focus on the in-breath. If breathing is respiration, then in-breath is the inspiration. To play winning hockey you need to be inspired or want to be inspired. So to inspire yourself, focus or tune into your own breathing. Where ever you are if you focus on the in-breath you will gain energy and you will gain the energy around you. Tap into it. Remember first experience a smooth breathing rhythm, then draw in the power (energy).
Now that you have started to have a good rhythm to your breathing and you can feel the energy you are drawing from it, you have to direct that energy. The direction can be internal and external. We must first look at the internal direction which is your hands, feet and eyes. You are feeling this energy as you breath now and you start sending it into your body parts like your arms, shoulders and hands. Now imagine that you have your stick in oyur hands and the energy you are sending down to it to help you create chances. Breathe smoothly and easily. On the in-breath, feel yourself breathing in energy. On the out-breath imagine energy flowing down to your hands and into your stick. See the play in front of you and work into it so you can get the shot away. This is what some call ‘visualization and breathing techniques’ that many professionals use on a daily basis. Try it you will be surprised how well it does work!
Next time we on The Ultimate Hockey Source we will go over Releasing Tension. How certain things you do before, while and after the game that will help you control yourself and your surroundings. Hope you check it out!
By Warren Nye, UltimateHockeySource.com
Photo by Les Stockton
July 9th, 2011