Whether it’s a mid-season tournament or end of the year playoffs, when hockey teams are faced with a ‘win or go home’ scenario the anticipation, excitement and adrenaline are always running at peak levels. The big question is, how are these emotions managed and how do they translate into your play on the ice?
It’s amazing to me to see how players react when the stage keeps getting bigger and bigger. Some players simply have the uncanny ability to keep bringing the magic that it takes to win. These players super-size everything, have ice running through their veins and never seem to get rattled, regardless of how big of a pressure cooker the situation is. It almost seems as though these players thrive off of the intensity. You see these types of players rise to the occasion consistently in playoffs where there are several rounds leading up to the finals, and also regularly in over-time games at the youth levels.
When it comes to the big games, I see players fall into two categories: players who want to be on the ice and want the puck, and then there are those who would rather watch the game unfold. Sure, everyone dreams of scoring the triple over-time, championship goal, but lets face it, there are only a handful of players that can actually pull it off. Why isn’t every player the same?
I believe that only a small percentage of players understand a very important concept when it comes to performing, and winning, on the biggest stage: in order to earn the big prize, you have to risk everything. You can’t be worried about the potential mistake or what might come from it. The great players don’t concern themselves with the ‘what-ifs’, instead they lose themselves in the moment and possess the confidence to know that if they get the puck, they will score.
Other players might say they want to be on the ice, but the fact of the matter is they really don’t want to be out there for fear of failure. They don’t want to be the player responsible for losing the game from making a costly error. Mom and dad may say their son/daughter lacks confidence, resulting in them not wanting to be put in the spotlight.
Confidence is a key characteristic in these situations, and is something that is earned. Based on my observations both as a coach and player, these are some common traits among players who succeed in the biggest moments:
- They are the hardest workers, both during practices and games
- They constantly practice skills off-ice, including stick handling and shooting
- They WANT to be out there
- They WANT to lay it all on the line
Big time players live for big time moments, because they know they are ready for what ever is to come. The bigger the situation, the more excited they get. Cocky? I prefer to think of it as confidence; the type of confidence that has been earned through countless hours of practice and preparing to score the big goal when the game is on the line.
Sure, most players dream of this situation, but trying to achieve a goal without a plan is just a wish. Executing a development plan over time will give yourself the best chance to reach your dream and make that wish come true.
Good luck in your big game, and remember to work hard and dream bigger than everyone else!