It's about that time of year again...playoffs!
For many athletes and goalies, playoffs are looked forward to throughout the season. For some, it may be a season of angst and nervousness.
As athletes, we play our best when we're feeling happy, relaxed, and focused. But with the higher stakes and often "one and done" playoff formats, we often get bogged down in the mess of the stress.
Here are some mindset tips that can help you go into playoffs confident and ready for anything.
1. Just Be You. With the more intense games, the pressure and desire to win causes many goalies to try doing things they wouldn't normally do. They might do things that are contrary to their good habits that got them into playoffs in the first place! For example, a goalie might think that because it's playoffs, they need to play the puck more or challenge more or change the way they hold their hands. This is the time of year to stick to your roots, be confident in the practice and tools you've developed over the season, and don't try to be what anybody else wants you to be! Just play the way you play...your style.
2. Simplicity. With the above in mind, it is important to remember that oftentimes less is more in playoffs. Be simple with your play, especially puck play. Instead of recklessly playing the puck, trying to force plays up ice, maybe simply set it for your D and get back in net. Risk mitigation is huge in playoffs.
3. It's just another game. This ties in with the "Just Be You" idea above. The game doesn't change because it's playoffs. The puck is the same size. The net is the same size. The players are still trying to score on you, and you're still trying to stop it. Approach games with an "I've seen this before" or "It's just another game" mentality to reduce nervousness and calm your mind.
4. Breathe. Don't forget to breathe. Yep. Breathe. Oftentimes when we get stressed or nervous, we don't breathe properly, and this restricts oxygen flow to the brain and muscles. In between whistles, think about taking deep, smooth breaths. This will help you clear your mind and reset for the next play!
I think the most important of these four tips is to just be you. Play the way you play. Have fun with your teammates, and enjoy the process of competition...no matter the result.
Good luck to all our goalies as the playoff season begins!