Mindset is one of those words that people either understand or they think of as ‘woo woo’. In the tough world of hockey, you might think it’s of little importance. Yet, the opposite is true.
Brilliance comes from having the right mindset. You can have the skill and yet without the right mindset, it won’t grow to its full potential.
For example, a player can practice a play for thousands and thousands of reps. If every time they don’t do it right, they make one small mistake in the play, the textbook play that is, they tell themselves they made a mistake, that impacts their game.
That negativity will take itself into the next time they play or the next time they practise that drill. They will be replaying the mistake in their mind and guess what, they will likely make that same mistake again, at that moment. Why? Because it’s the negative they are remembering.
A number of the mindset gurus will tell you that your mind will focus on the negative above the positive. It will become hooked on the negative.
For players to be great they have the ability to notice the negative thought, when and if it occurs and let it pass. They then focus on and concentrate on making the right play.
There is no dwelling on the negative.
Talking to your child about their mindset and learning to understand where there thinking is at, or what they are thinking, will be a great place to start in supporting them.
Watch them practice. Notice what happens when they ‘make a mistake’ or ‘don’t do it right.’
Notice if they begin to become frustrated or agitated. This is the first sign that they are connecting with these beliefs of having made a mistake or not doing it right.
Stop and talk to them about what they are thinking. Where is their mindset?
Then have the conversation about learning. They are in the process of learning how to make the play. Learning takes time and practice and just because it doesn’t work the first 500 times doesn’t mean they won’t master the play.
They simply need to practice and practice and practice some more, without telling themselves they aren’t doing it right.
In her book “Mindset”, Dr Carol S Dweck explains “When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world – the world of fixed traits – success is about proving you’re smart and talented. Validating yourself. In the other – the world of changing qualities – it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new, developing yourself.
Your goal is to support your child to live life in the world of changing qualities, the learning side of playing. That way they will be less stressed when they play or practice because everything they do, will be a learning experience.
You’ll know you’ve nurtured the best mindset in your child when they come in and tell you they did 500 reps and got one right and they’re happy about that.
Skill develops when their mindset matches what they are doing.
With a learning mindset, their skills will be the best they can be, no matter if they are a natural at the game or not.
A child with a natural skill ability hasn’t yet dropped into the mindset space of telling themselves they aren’t doing it right. It’s when that skill level drops or shifts you know there has been a shift in their mindset.
Belief in themselves is the key to them playing at any level of the sport. A mindset that says “I can do this” without the need of validation from someone else will take them an exceptionally long way. Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche is a prime example of that.
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.