Last minute nervousness and self-doubts are VERY NORMAL!
So you’ve got that really big tryout coming up and you desperately want to play your best, so you can make the team. However, as those tryouts approach, you’re having a hard time slowing your mind down and calming your shaky nerves. The typical pre-tryout negatives are beginning to persistently bop around in your head and they’re keeping you up at night: “What if I get too nervous? What if there are much better players than me? What if I choke? What will the coaches think of me? What if I don’t make the team?”
However, before you go and hit that panic button, there are some very specific things that you can do to better handle the stress of any important tryout and insure that you play your best when it counts the most!
The secret to playing your best under pressure is MENTAL!
One of the main reasons that a hockey player under-performs at critical tryouts is because of what goes on between their ears! That is, they tend to over-think going into the tryout and then focus on all of the wrong things during it! If you don’t control your “mental game,” then you’ll lose your confidence and get too nervous to play to your potential. Follow these simple DO’s and DON’Ts guidelines to mentally insure that you play the kind of tryout hockey you’d be proud of:
1. KEEP YOUR CONCENTRATION ON YOU BEFORE AND DURING – One of the biggest mistakes athletes make at tryouts is to allow their focus of concentration to drift to all of the other players competing for spots. DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF! Save your mental energy and conserve your confidence! Keep your focus only on what you are doing and how you are playing and on no-one else.
2. LEAVE YOUR GOALS AT HOME – Of course you want to make the team. This has been one of your big goals! However, in order to increase the chances of this happening, you have to learn to leave that goal at home! Do not bring your goals onto the ice when it counts the most! Leaving your goals at home will help you stay calm and focused on the right things. Bringing your goals onto the ice will make you too nervous and distracted to play your best. Remember, your big goals are a motivational tool for training only! Never, ever bring your goals onto the ice when it counts!
3. DON’T FOCUS ON THE COACHES – Another common mental trap that athletes fall into is thinking too much about what the coaches are thinking of them during the tryout. Forget about the coaches and stay focused on the drill, play or scrimmage that is happening in front of you. Keep your focus on the ice, away from the coaches and on what you are doing!
4. STAY IN THE “NOW” – Another common mental trap that hockey players fall into under try-out pressure is to allow their focus to jump ahead to the future and whether they’ll make the team. Instead, you want to discipline yourself to keep your concentration on what is happening in this moment on the ice, one moment at a time! “Time traveling” ahead to the future and the outcome of the tryouts will get you much too nervous to play your best. Discipline yourself to maintain a “NOW” focus both before and when you get onto the ice!
5. STAY AWARE MENTALLY – You’d never go into a tryout without your stick! That would be silly! And so is going onto the ice without maintaining an awareness of where your focus is. If you notice that your concentration is on the coaches and what they might think of you, then quickly and gently return your focus to you! If you notice that you are comparing yourself to other players there, then quickly and gently return your focus back to what you are doing! If you notice that your focus has jumped ahead to the future and whether you’ll make the team or not, then quickly and gently bring yourself back to the now! Stay aware of what is going on for you mentally and when you get off track, quickly return your concentration to the important task at hand. This will help you stay calm and confident!
6. LEAVE YOUR MISTAKES BEHIND YOU – When you mess up during the tryouts, which is normal, don’t emotionally beat yourself up! Leave the mistake in the past where it belongs and move your focus on to the next play. The time to work on your mistakes is never when you’re under performance pressure and always when you’re relaxed and in practice. Keep in mind that during tryouts your mistakes aren’t the problem. What is the problem is how you respond to them. Stay in the now, leave your mistakes in the past!
7. HAVE FUN – This might sound really weird given how much pressure you’re feeling at a tryout, but you want to embrace the challenge in front of you! You want to try to enjoy everything about it! You want to have fun! If you’re having fun, you’ll stay loose and relaxed and this is the only way that you will play great hockey. So, stay away from putting all kinds of pressure on yourself and getting so serious.
8. DON’T WORRY ABOUT DISAPPOINTING MOM OR DAD – Keep in mind that hockey belongs to you! You should be playing because you love it and not to make mom or dad happy or proud. The very last thing you should have inside your head at a tryout are thoughts like, “what will mom or dad say if I get cut?” You’d never go out on the ice with mom and dad strapped to your back physically! If you did, you wouldn’t be able to move, right? So don’t put mom or dad on your back mentally! Don’t carry them around with you when you play!
9. REMEMBER, GETTING CUT OR FAILING IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD – Keep in mind that over your hockey career, you will have many successes and failures. While, both are important to your development as an athlete, your disappointments hold the secrets to you ultimately reaching your goals! When you fail, you learn valuable information on what you did that didn’t work and what you need to work on and do differently next time. Without failing enough, you can never reach your dreams. So keep the tryout in perspective. If it doesn’t go the way you’d hoped, then find out what you did wrong and work on changing it for the next time!
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