When you think of someone with skill, isn’t it true that you watch that person and you see someone who knows what they are doing? You can sense they are locked on, focused and know exactly what it is they are to be doing.
Nathan MacKinnon is a great example of that. He is a very skilled hockey player. You watch him and he seems a natural at shooting, passing and skating. He’s just got it.
Yet he is also a great example of where mindset nearly overpowered skill.
Several years ago MacKinnon got into a place where he was not having much success on the ice. He couldn’t score. Something that is key for a first-line forward. His job on the team was to score goals.
Watching him you could see he became more and more frustrated with what was happening on the ice. It was hard to tell if he was mad at himself or his teammates. Maybe it was a bit of both. He even had a yelling match with his coach, Jared Bednar, whilst on the bench.
Not what you would expect from a professional and talented hockey player.
His mindset was overpowering his game.
You become frustrated when you THINK you should be doing things differently to the way they are playing out.
I imagine he was telling himself over and over and over again that he should have been scoring goals. And yet, the reality was different. The truth was, he wasn’t scoring goals.
He was arguing with the reality of the situation and it didn’t get him anywhere.
My belief is that whilst all this negative self-talk was going on his body was tensing more and more. He was feeling emotionally wound up, as you would if you kept telling yourself this same thing.
Now is that conducive to scoring goals? No way!
His mind was running the show, rather than his natural and innate talent.
Our talent or skill level is bought about by us being free of the mind chatter. We don’t tell ourselves negative things. We haven’t yet learned to take on other peoples criticism or advice. We simply do what we do.
Skate down the ice and shoot the puck at the net, and score. It’s that simple when you take all the emotion out of it.
Something that Nathan MacKinnon was extremely good at when he wasn’t being tagged by other players. The players whose job it was to stop him from scoring because of how good he was at it.
When MacKinnon was in this rough patch of not scoring he forgot how good his own talent and ability was.
He was focusing on what he wasn’t doing and the negative mind chatter ruled the outcome each and every time. No goal. Sometimes not even a scoring shot.
And we all know that pucks on the net are what matters most in a hockey game.
This is a great example of where mindset overpowered skill. Will you let that happen?
Maybe it’s time to investigate the mind chatter that runs in your player's mind during their day. Quiet the mind chatter and you let their innate instinct, skill and ability shine through.
Nathan MacKinnon has been working with a mindset coach and it has changed his game. He no longer lets his emotions, run by his mind, rule his game. He’s gone back to being the instinctively skilled player that he used to be before his mindset changed 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.