In this week’s installment of The Inside Post, we revisit an essential topic about using mental toughness to overcome on-ice mistakes and focusing on the next play, written by our founder Lance Pitlick.


“Competition brings out the best and worst in hockey players. When things are going well, the game is easy and fun. However, even the best prepared athlete will make mistakes from time to time, and when that happens, the game becomes not quite as easy or fun, and creates feelings of embarrassment, frustration, anger and loneliness.


Too often, when a player makes a mistake, they quickly find themselves swimming in a pool of negativity. They beat themselves up with self-defeating thinking, which compounds the stress, intensifies the moment and doesn’t get you any closer to playing better.


This all starts from one simple concept how do you view mistakes? Most of us were taught that mistakes are bad and to avoid them at all costs. Early in my coaching days, I would share the same “Don’t make mistakes if you want to win,” message with my players. But over time I realized the need to separate my own competitiveness from what was best for the player’s long-term development, and thereafter I completely changed my coaching style.


If you look at any hockey game, regardless the level of play, there are sure to be an abundance of mistakes: a missed passed, a wrong defensive read, or blowing a tire that results in a quality scoring chance for the opposition. If every player outwardly verbally vented when a mistake happened, the ice surface would be loud and an interesting listen!


So rather than viewing hockey mistakes as bad, see them as instant feedback that can actually be used to accelerate learning and skill acquisition. If you know that mistakes will happen every game or practice, use that knowledge to your advantage. Instead of getting upset, become a master problem solver.


If something didn’t turn out like you wanted, once on the bench, take a breath and ask yourself how you could have done things differently. Maybe you were trying a new move and steps 1-3 were perfect, but then things went south with step 4. Once you identify what could have been done differently, think through your choices if given that same situation again, then let go of the mistake and focus on preparing for your next shift.


By putting yourself in “constructive thinking mode”, you combat any type of negativity that could surface and you eliminate time spent dwelling on prior shifts that you can never go back to. And the quicker you can let those previous shifts exit your thoughts, the quicker you can start preparing for your next shift.”



Edited in May 2024, from an original blog written by Lance Pitlick in December 2017. Based in the Minneapolis area, Lance is a former NHL player with Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers, played collegiate hockey with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, is a foremost training professional with stickhandling and shooting both in-person and through, and is the founder and former owner of Snipers Edge Hockey.

May 02, 2024 — Sniper Sam
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