In this post, you will learn how to stop worrying about mistakes and start playing with poise. This is so important because everybody at some point starts to play afraid, they start worrying about making mistakes, they tense up, you might feel that you are overthinking, you’re hesitating out on the ice and you are playing safe. So anytime this is happening to you don’t worry it happens to everybody. It will often happen to you in situations where you are facing a lot of adversity, things aren’t going your way, the coach is yelling at you, you’re feeling a lot of pressure, not getting the playing time you want. These kinds of situations can really spark this fear of mistake mentality. 

3 Effective Ways to Start Playing with Poise

These 3 tips will help you be confident out on the ice so that you’re going out making plays and trying things and you are very poised and confident while you play.  These 3 tips work! We use them with our athletes all the time, but you have to apply them.

1. Accept & Let Go the Possibility of Mistakes

The first big thing that I want you guys to understand to start playing with poise is that you actually have to accept and let go that you might make some mistakes. Completely counterintuitive, what most people will tell you is to stop thinking about mistakes, don’t worry about it and forget about it. Well, how the heck are you supposed to do that.  That’s not a real thing. And by doing that you just thinking of it more. And it makes you tense up even more and get more worried and stay worried. So that’s not a real thing and it doesn’t help. So, what does work? First and most important, the number one thing, is to accept it, accept that you might. It’s not saying that you will make mistakes, it’s accepting that you might. Take, for example, I wish I could tell you going into your next game and you will score, you will get the outcomes you want, you will perform well, and you won’t make mistakes. But I can’t tell you that no one can tell you that.  You can’t really tell yourself that because you are human, and we all make mistakes. We can’t guarantee outcomes and results, not necessarily anyways, we could try but often doing that will make you more afraid and it’s not going to allow you to get over that fear of making mistakes. The way I like to phrase this is, it’s a feeling part. So, you’re not actually doing anything. Acceptance is not something you do, its something you feel. Usually, the thing you are worried about the most is turning the puck over, making mistakes, feels unacceptable. So that is why it is so important to be willing to accept it. It’s not an ability problem here. It’s not that some people have the ability to accept mistakes and others don’t – it’s a choice! Are you willing to accept it? One of the reasons to help you to be willing to accept it is to remember that you are human and not perfect. Just like the best players in the world. Take Crosby, for example, had a 20 game plus scoring drought a few years back.  Didn’t score for 20 plus games, one of the best players in the world. It can happen to them, it can happen to you, it happens to everyone at times. We make mistakes and don’t get the outcomes we want. We have to accept it and let it go.

2. Breathe & Relax Your Body

Now the second big tip is to then breathe or relax your body because usually what is happening if you are starting to get worried about mistakes your arousal level is going up which means your mind is racing, your body is tensing up and so that is not going to be good for your performance. To help you further let go of that and play with poise we need to relax a bit. Not to fall asleep relax but get to that optimal arousal level where you’re relaxed yet focused.  Some of the most common things we use are deep breathing or tensing and relaxing your muscles. You want to find something that works for you, that is going to get you back down to your optimal arousal level where you are relaxed yet still focused. And so, you can still be very intense this is slightly different than intensity and a lot of people could get those mixed up. It’s about being relaxed yet focused and so breathing, tensing and relaxing muscles again, all key helpful things for that but I want to reinforce here at this point. Breath, you can do all the breathing exercises you want but if you haven’t accepted and let go of the possibilities or the things you are worried about or frustrated about. The breathing isn’t necessarily going to work that well.

3. Focus on the Process

The third big thing I want you guys to take away and focus on is being processed focused. After we have accepted and let go and we calm down. You want to be very clear on what the process is for you and focus on doing that. Most athletes again are going to get caught up in worrying about mistakes because they are too outcome-focused. I need to get these points, or I need to score, I need to get the playing time. That’s great you can want all those things, but we don’t want to necessarily be focused on that when you are playing.  You want to focus on what you are doing that leads to the outcomes. Protecting the puck, playing with your head up, playing with speed – these are the things that you have control over and that is going to help you get the outcomes. Get clear on those. You want to go play at your optimal arousal level and what you are going to do while you are playing.

Insights on the Reset Routine

You clear your mind by accepting and letting go, then you get clear on what you want to do – now you’ve reset. These tips have given you a bit of an intro about the rest routine we use with all our athletes. It’s about accepting and letting go, calming down and then refocusing on what you want to do.  Lots of big tips in there. This is a big problem that a lot of athletes will experience, at different points in their careers.

Hopefully you take away something helpful from these tips and remember to start applying them to your practices and games. I’d love to hear if you found these tips helpful and any success they help you achieve.

If you have any questions reach out, we have different programs that could help you walk through these concepts in more detail.