World-renowned sports psychologist and full-time professor in Boston University’s School of Education Dr. Len Zaichkowsky offers advice to the BU Hockey team as they prepare for the Frozen Four:
1. Enjoy the moment. Smile be happy and have FUN! Without enjoyment success is not likely to happen. The reason is that you are succumbing to pressure; pressure that is self-induced because of your own expectations: expectations of coaches, parents, friends, showing pro scouts what you can do, expectations of the BU community, alumni, and in some cases like Olympic games-expectations of the country. This self-induced pressure results in less than optimal play.
2. Several factors contribute to pressure. The most usual suspect is “overanalysis/overthinking”. The brain should be “quiet” rather than busy. Read and react to situations that have been well practiced; over-thinking results in slow decision making. Do not be afraid to make a mistake. See these “big games” as an OPPORTUNITY to shine not as pressure. You want to be on the ice in crucial situations. Pressure also brings out the loss of EMOTIONAL CONTROL. The thinking part of the brain is connected to the emotional system which is also tied to the motor system. Bad decision and mistakes often lead to anger, retaliation and a “bad” penalty or poor execution. Tennis has a wonderful term for this called “Unforced Errors.”
3. Stay POSITIVE at all times even if the team is off to a slow start. Your self-talk should be “Enjoy and Win this Shift.” Be smiling and show positive body language, rather than showing disappointment. Negative self-talk such as “Don’t turn over the puck” will usually result in turning over the puck. Our current brain scanning research with athletes has demonstrated the power of being positive and happy in motor performance. These are the “mentally tough” individuals. Uncertainty, fear and disappointment shut down the motor system and result in poor performance.
RESULT: A Team or Collective “enjoying of the off-ice and on-ice moments” will result in another National Championship.