Brady the Hot Head

We have all heard coaches say, “You need to be more mentally prepared for the game.” 

What exactly does that mean? How do you prepare for your game 7 days prior to game day, 3 days prior, or on game day? 

The following provides all the tools necessary to become mentally prepared for every game this season. 

Playing competitive hockey requires a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Maintaining a high EI requires mental toughness and hockey intelligence on and off the ice. Most of us have witnessed a player making a decision to be hockey tough for the team or their ego. Without high EI, these hard decisions will often do more harm than good for the individual and the team’s emotional state.

A key to playing tough, smart, and maintaining high EI is having focus, discipline, and emotional control. Emotional control and discipline go hand in hand. 

We have all experienced or watched this story: 

Brady had played hockey his whole life. He was not a fast defenseman, but he had great positioning and a hard slap shot. Everyone liked Brady but sometimes (when we were losing, didn’t matter if it was the 1st or 3rd period) he would get of out of control, slashing or punching players that would get close to his goaltender. Brady looked like he was in control, but as the conflict and pressure got tougher, he would start to lose it. Brady would consistently get penalties, game after game. In the 1st period of the game, his team was down 2-0. Brady was slashed in front of his own net, and he retaliated. Off to the box, as parents and fans sigh, “Brady is going to the box…again.”

One minute into Brady’s penalty, the other team scores on a power-play goal. Brady took two strides out of the penalty box and starts chirping the ref for helping the other team score. The ref doesn’t tolerate the chirping and Brady goes right back into the penalty box for 10-minute misconduct. Brady is officially in a Low EI state. Three shifts after Brady is out from his misconduct he gets another penalty. This time, he snaps and starts punching a player. Now he is in the sin bin for a five-minute major. The team is not in a position to win, and Brady has lost all control as he cements his Low EI state. High EI means not allowing your emotions( Right Brain) to override your focus (Left Brain). 

Playing hockey with High EI means we are playing unselfish hockey. It means we are team-focused, practicing self-discipline, and doing what is in the best interest of the team. Real strength means not responding to every bad call by the ref or getting upset with the coach because you are not on the PK or PP. Being mentally strong requires a clear focus and actions of purpose, emotional intelligence, and hockey intelligence. Being mentally strong means you are in control of your emotions. High EI helps teams win games in the face of challenges and adversity. You are not the challenge and adversity; rather, you can be the blessing in a challenge or adversity. When confronted with emotions such as negativity, frustration, or anger, you have the choice of maintaining focus on the right hockey play and controlling your emotions to be hockey tough. 

So, how do you become mentally tough? It all starts with proper mental preparation. Let’s begin to untangle how to mentally prepare by evaluating weekly routines and rituals leading up to game day.