Do you remember in a few of my earlier posts I have talked about the mind chatter that happens, well that is going to be one of the things that has likely triggered you noticing your goalie has become unsure of themselves?
It might be that the Coach suggested to them about how to better approach the puck coming from the left. Pretty simple comment and yet that is not what your Goalie heard.
The thing is that the minute we begin to doubt ourselves, which happens really quickly at times, our mind chatter takes what we hear and distorts it. For your child, the story going on in their mind, related to what the Coach said could be “He told me I didn’t do it right” “She said I needed to move to the left and hold my glove up more and that means I didn’t do that, and I should have”, for example.
Your child’s inner voice, the subconscious one that they aren’t even aware of, feels hurt at what the Coach said.
Sure, it was an innocent and totally okay comment that suggested how they might play something like that in the future. For the Coach it was advice and a learning tool.
But when that inner voice kicks in what is heard is a criticism, which in turn makes them feel sad, unhappy, or even hurt. Its once they drop into this emotional space, that they become unsure of themselves.
You will likely notice right away that their inner voice has kicked in by the way they are responding to the play on the ice.
How to Support Them To Stay Confident
Once they leave the ice the one thing you don’t want to say is “I noticed you put your head down and was having trouble focusing” or something similar.
Your child is already going to be feeling bad and inner self criticism mode. I know that as a parent you think you are doing the right thing and being caring by commenting. You are and it’s not only about what you say, but when you say it.
Wait. Let the day settle. You might choose to talk to your child at bedtime, or better yet, wait until the next day at breakfast.
Approach the conversation by asking how they felt about yesterdays game. And notice I am suggesting you talk to them about their feelings.
How they feel is a great indicator of what their mind chatter is like. And be okay if they don’t find it easy to describe how they are feeling. Young children don’t always have the words to describe a feeling. You may need to help them by talking about feeling sad.
Sadness is something that most children comprehend easily, because they have watching enough TV shows that have helped them understand what the feeling is.
Talk to them about what you feel like when someone says something to you that you think is them saying you aren’t doing something right. You are guessing about the conversation that occurred with the Coach, and what you will notice is that if that is what happened, they will connect with you right away.
If, however you notice they aren’t connecting, it might be that isn’t what they are feeling, or is not what was said. But believe me, if you say something that resonates with them, you will pick up straight away that’s the case by their response.
Once you understand the emotion, they are feeling you can then explain that they feel that way because of that little voice inside their head that might be saying “You’re not doing it right.”
Then you can talk about how this whole game of playing hockey is about having fun and learning. That no one knows how to do everything right all the time.
You can reference how even the best NHL goalies mess up sometimes. And when they do, they get down on themselves too. But they tell themselves they can learn to do that differently, and they do.
Your ultimate aim of having the conversation is to have them realize that they are still learning how to play. That being sad and being down on themselves doesn’t allow them to have fun when they play.
That the little voice inside their head doesn’t have to be what they listen to. Remember its about learning and having fun.
February has been Goalie Month. Come visit the blog in March when we focus on Mental Skills for Defenseman.
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.