13 March 2011

The power of positive thinking

It is well known in psychology that visualizing your success is a very good way to improve your performance. This is especially true in sports, which is why professional athletes sometimes hire a sports psychologist.

Take hockey, for example. A goaltender can visualize how to stop a player on a breakaway. A forward can think about how to win a faceoff or where to go when attempting a one-timer. According to an article in USA Hockey Magazine, a big part of the mental game is "focus and elimination of negativity, no matter what happens."

The article emphasizes over and over again the importance of being even-keeled and mentally tough. Larry Lauer is a coach who works with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USNTDP) on the mental aspects of the game. He says:
I try to eliminate the triggers that create negativity. If you missed an open net, or if you're a goalie and you let in a weak shot, focusing on those things can lead to negative thinking. When you get caught thinking in the past or in the future, you're unable to do your best in the present.

You like players that don't ride the emotional rollercoaster.
Many coaches agree that the many of the best hockey players are "mentally strong." Don Lucia, the head coach of the University of Minnesota men's hockey team, says:
They have short memories. They don't allow what happened yesterday or a previous play or the previous period inhibit what they're going to do in the future. You can't get caught up in what happened, you've got to always be looking ahead.
But what about the successful people we know, who are emotional? It seems like they can get away with this.
The top players are better able to play a more emotional game because they come with a reservoir of confidence that few people have.

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