This past week I had the pleasure of speaking at a hockey prospect camp where I conducted seminars based around mental resiliency and the lifestyle habits required to take a competitors game to the next level. We went over the usual: finding your zone, discovering your performance mindset (alter ego), triggers, etc. But, what took me by surprise was the lack of purpose that some of the athletes possessed when approaching a training session. The majority of them had their yearly goals set, and they all were sounding great, but each athlete was delaying their progress because they lacked the purpose to execute their goals. So many coaches preach that one must “practice like they play,” and it couldn’t be more true.
There was one situation in particular that stuck out to me; in short, there was an athlete who could play 2 and a half periods consistently. He had no issues throughout the game, but come the last 10 minutes of the 3rd period he completely checked out. To most this performance lapse would be attributed to a lack of focus, and to be fair he was given some very poor techniques to use to deal with it by a sports psychologist (not bashing anyone here, but when an athlete is told to inhale and count up four seconds, then exhale and count down four seconds, and finally to pretend there is a “little man” sitting on his left shoulder shouting in his ear to “tell the voices in your head to shut up” I have to question a lot. The poor kid is now thinking of everything except the task at hand). I looked a lot deeper than the mental/psychological aspect and analyzed how he prepared for games.
When I went to observe his training session on ice I noticed the exact pattern that translated directly to his performances. For the first 4 repetitions of a drill he was fully dialled in; his movements were crisp and every action looked purposeful. For the 5th and final rep however, he completely checked out; his movements were slow, purposeless, and completely deflated (it almost looked like he thought in his head “good enough,” and everyone knows how I feel about that term…). I observed this pattern over and over again and noticed it was continuing for his entire skate; the first chunk of repetitions were done with a purpose, but the last chunk wasn’t. We spoke after his training session, he fixed it for his next one and ended up getting a shutout in his final scrimmage game in the camp. A simple fix that literally just rearranged his purpose and focus, versus rearranging his entire process.
This is why I preach that being mentally resilient is a lifestyle and not just a psychology; so many athletes, and competitors in other realms, think that they can get away with “flipping the switch to on”, come performance time. Performance goes way beyond game day, and is much more than just a psychology or physical attribute; it’s a consistent lifestyle that has to be carried out.
When competitors don’t prepare with a purpose it leads to them slowing down their process that is geared toward achieving success. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who started experiencing performance slumps and couldn’t understand why. They had flawless preparation methods set out in front of them and matched it with an outstanding action plan, but still they weren’t performing. A lot would assume right away that it’s the action plan, when in reality its the purpose behind the actions. You cannot expect results if you’re not putting in PURPOSEFUL work. See, that’s the key a lot of competitors miss out on - it’s not enough to “put in the work”. THE WORK MUST HAVE A PURPOSE. And this can’t be something that’s done for one or two sessions leading up to a performance, instead it must be something done for every session leading up to a performance. I’ve seen way too many great athletes, and business professionals even, who have outstanding skill, talent, and work ethic, but lack the purpose or intent behind their actions to execute effectively.
For a very simple fix follow these simple steps:
A) Set your long term, short term, and micro goals
B) Understand what your strengths and work-ons are
C) Prioritize your preparations based around your work-ons and complimenting each session by working on your strengths
D) Come into every session leading up to your performance with a purpose regardless of how far out you are from performance
E) Watch this translate to your performances and experience results
Do not give yourself a hard time when it comes to your preparations; you cannot expect to become successful in your craft without preparing with a purpose. It just doesn’t work. And if you are someone who finds themselves in this position, where they have the right action plan put together, but can’t find results, then try just rearranging your purpose. Try rearranging your focus and intentions and watch how quickly you can change your results.