Control your emotions and take charge
of your game
By Coach Warren Nye
Hockey is a tough sport. It can be very intense as it is played at a very high speed. To play the game you need to be mentally tough too. And to be at your best, you need to control your emotions and be able to focus at the task at hand.
When you are under pressure, you will naturally find yourself tightening your grip, trying too hard, chasing after the puck, and maybe even retaliating when you know you shouldn’t.
But coaches and players must ask why we do those things, and how we can control them. There is a strong relationship between athletic performance and emotional arousal, which is why you must learn to control your emotions.
As emotional intensity increases, performance improves until it peaks. An increase in intensity (arousal) can cause players to get too “pumped” or even too “tight,” which can lead to a reduction in performance. The easiest and most effective way to control your emotions during a high-intensity game is to learn how to breathe efficiently.
Researchers have discovered that a number of things occur when you focus on your breathing. For one, it unites your mind and body: When you don’t play well it usually means your body is out of line; you are not one.
For another, breathing makes you focus on the present. Players will come back to the bench feeling anxious and worried, as they might have made a bad play. They worry about the mistakes they made or want to avoid. Worry lives in the past and future. Power is in the present. Focus on your breathing to bring your consciousness (mind) into the now (present), so you can concentrate on the game at hand.
Learning to Breathe for Better Results
A very simple process can help you accomplish the right way to breathe. Try this: Sit back and experience these three things in your breathing—rhythm, inspiration, and direction.
Rhythm Breathing in and out and actually feeling this is called a rhythm. Feel the breath and concentrate on it; the key is time. As you inhale, allow time for the breath to come all the way in. As you exhale, allow time for the breath to flow all the way out. Sit back and relax; feel it. There is power in simplicity.
Inspiration Now focus on the in-breath. If breathing is respiration, then the in-breath is the inspiration. To play winning hockey you must have the need or want to be inspired. So to inspire yourself, focus or tune into your own breathing. Wherever you are, if you focus on the in-breath you will gain both energy and the energy around you. Tap into it. Remember to first create a smooth breathing rhythm, and then draw in the power (energy).
Direction Now that you’ve established a good rhythm to your breathing and can feel the energy you are drawing from it, you have to direct that energy. The direction can be internal and external. First look at the internal direction, which is your hands, feet, and eyes. You are feeling this energy as you breathe now, and you start sending it to your body parts like your arms, shoulders, and hands.
Now imagine that you have your stick in your hands, and the energy you are sending down to it to help you create scoring chances. Breathe smoothly and easily. On the in-breath, feel yourself absorbing the energy. On the out-breath, imagine energy flowing down to your hands and into your stick. See the play in front of you and work into it so you can get the shot away.
This is what some refer to as ‘visualization and breathing techniques,’ which is what many professionals use on a daily basis. This is the essence of learning to control your emotions.
Try it for yourself. You’ll be surprised how well it works!
Coach Warren Nye is the founder and CEO of UltimateHockeySource and the UHS ProShop. He has served as player, coach, and manager, and has coached many players who have gone on to play professional hockey.