Whilst habits and rituals in the normal context of raising children create stability and a sense of comfort, taking habits and rituals to an extreme can cause problems.
Colin Wilson who played as a Forward for the Colorado Avalanche up until earlier this year took habits and rituals to an extreme and it impacted his whole life.
Why am I writing about this on this website for Youth Hockey? I’m writing because it is an important subject that should be talked about. In Colin Wilson’s case he suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Obsessing about things because they weren’t perfect.
They Start Early
Wilson talks about when his obsession all started at the age of eight, he thinks. He then talks about worrying about injuries in his junior hockey days. Simple things that start out small, yet manifest into a serious mental illness and something that has ended his hockey career.
“It was that feeling of a lack of control that eventually triggered the negative thoughts – the ones I used to have during pregame skates” Colin Wilson
Good and Bad Habits
There are good habits like getting to the rink early or getting together as a team and cheering loud before the game. These are positive habits that create a good feeling inside.
The other habits are the ones that create not so good feelings and can be based on fear.
Habit are ways of doing things or saying things that we form when we create a pattern or method that we lock ourselves into and can’t give up. Sometimes these habits are unconscious. They happen without us even realizing them.
The habit of putting the left skate on before the right one, for example. It’s a small thing, yet your son may start doing it and can’t stop, so it becomes a habit. Then he starts to believe that if he doesn’t put that left skate on before the right one something bad will happen. That’s when a habit turns into a ritual.
But notice what’s caused this to be the case – FEAR.
Before he knows it he is so obsessed with needing to dress this way for a game that it becomes the focus and his thinking and turns to “if I don’t do this… I’ll have a bad game” or some other reasoning for why it’s not okay to change.
Feeling a Lack Of Control
Colin Wilson described the whole pattern or ritual or habit for him as being centered around not feeling in control and I am going to use those words deliberately. Another way to describe it is like this: he was fearful that if his skates weren’t laced correctly something bad would happen, so he felt fearful and told himself that he wouldn’t have a good game. This in turn, deep down led him to think that how he played was out of his control.
I am hoping you are starting to see how much thoughts impact on how much fun your son has on the ice, how he shows up, and how much his life in general is impacted.
Let's Talk About Them
Are you noticing any habits or rituals that your son has created? Are you open to talking to him about them and what had him start them?
You want to understand what he is feeling, then thinking. This helps in supporting him to realize that he has full control over his game. How he plays, how he responds, his whole game plan all comes down to him and of course how what he is thinking, or his mental game.
What habits or rituals can you create for fun? How can you support him to change up habits or rituals so they generate positive feelings?
If you are noticing any obsessive-compulsive behavior you might want to seek more help for your son.
Having trouble with the mental side of the game of hockey? Karen Cherrett, Mental Skills Coach can help with that. She coaches players to understand how their thoughts impact their game; Parents how to support their child's mental wellness; and Coaches to understand mental skills management for their players.