Just Don’t Try!

In this post there are no specific hockey training tips, this post gives you a strategy that you can use to become a better hockey player, a better student or better business person.  You see I have been watching Revolution athlete Damian Warner compete in the Olympic decathlon over the last few days – he did amazing by the way!  A kid who was 18th at his first world championships last year pulled off an amazing 5th place finish.

As you may know the decathlon consists of 10 track and field events performed over two days.  After day one Damian was in 3rd place so he got a little interview on TV and he said something that was music to my ears… he said something like ‘my coach tells me when I try, I suck’.  So his goal on the second day was to go out and have fun and not try.

Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  In the biggest event of his life, he is trying not to try.  Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it?  Let me tell you that I could not agree more.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t compete well, I am saying he should not ‘try’ there is a difference so let me explain.

What happens when you try harder…

  • You tighten up
  • You try to force your movements
  • You are working against your body rather than relaxing and letting it go
  • You over think what you are doing

What happens when you compete well…

  • You trust in your training
  • You do what you have done everyday in training (this is why you train as hard as you are going to compete)
  • You are focusing on the 1-2 technique points that will contribute to your success
  • You keep taking steps forward, even if you get knocked down, you are unflappable

I want to share a mental drill that I have used – first when I was an athlete during the time I was a competitive rower (wish I had known this when I was a skier), stepping to the starting line of three marathons and even when I release a new off-ice hockey training product.

I learned this technique from Olympic champion and former Revolution client Marnie McBean.  If you don’t know Marnie, she is one of the wisest people I know and as mentally tough as they get.  This is what she taught me and I have used it with every elite athlete I have ever trained.

Here it is…

Picture a cup (since I am in Starbucks right now, let’s picture a Starbucks cup).  Now, every time you do your stretches, every time you do your leg workout, every time you say no to the fried chicken and opt for the grilled chicken breast and salad, you get to put a grain of rice into the cup.  Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year – picture the cup; see it slowly filling.

Can you see it – pick it up – it feels heavier in your hand doesn’t it?  That is how daily choices affect your future successes.

So now you have done all of the training and that cup is full, it is actually overflowing and there is some rice on the table around the base of the cup.  You might think the hours of training are all that matter, but you are wrong.

When you step on the ice for your camp, tryouts or first game, reflect on that cup overflowing with rice, let that vision give you confidence.  Let it give you confidence that you have done the work, confidence that you are as well prepared as you can be.  Now all you have to do is go out and do what you have done for the past 187 days in training – perform.  No magic tricks, no herculean effort – just compete.

When athletes are going into their most important competition of the season (for some that is tryouts, for others that is the championship game) there is a tendency for them to panic and want to do extra – ‘just-in-case’.  I tell them ‘this is why we don’t take days off in July, so we don’t have to panic in February’.

Stay loose.

Have fun.