The psychology of “keeping your eye on the puck” – Part 1

How to “Keep Your Eye On The Puck” + 2 Exercises

I stumbled across an article on sport psychology for hockey goalies – it caught my eye because it was co-authored by one of my classmates at Grad School, Krista Munroe. She has done a lot of applied sport psych work with hockey players out of the University of Windsor.

Anyway, you can check out the article HERE

…and I will give you the summary version here (and the two exercises).

Number one is focus and concentration. You probably knew that already, but it a goaltender’s motivation and skill at focusing will have a big impact on the game. This is why opposing teams try to get under your skin – it can distract the focus of a less disciplined goalie.

The two exercises recommended in the article to help with your narrow focus are:

1) Focus on a detail of the puck rather than the puck itself – something like the label, the seam between the top and the side, the texture, the spin. Taking this fine approach forces you to focus a little harder because of the smaller area. It will also allow the puck as a whole to appear relatively bigger.

2) Use three different coloured pucks during a shooting drill. Each colour will have its own spot on the ice where you must put it after the save is made and the puck is controlled. For example – the orange ones go in your right corner, the white ones in the left corner and the black ones behind the net. This forces you to make the save, interpret the colour and chose the correct response based on the situation.

Anxiety Will Harm Your Performance

That is an anxiety inducing statement itself isn’t it? 

The article quotes findings from a study by Dunn (the reference is in the article) where he examined the cognitive anxiety of collegiate ice hockey players and found they worried about fear of failure, negative social evaluation, injury or physical danger, and the unknown. 

These are many of the factors that proper preparation can take care of. The better prepared you are, both technically with your on-ice training and physically with your off-ice goalie training, the better equipped you are for success with less risk for injury.

Other than knowing you have prepared yourself for success as a means of decreasing anxiety, Krista and her co-author Ryan also recommend the use of breathing as a way to “centre”.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the ice or anything, simply inhale for a count of 4 through the nose and exhale over a count of 4-6 through the mouth. As you do that you can visualize that you are blowing out the tension or you can repeat your focus phrase.

Your focus phrase is like a self talk primer so it should be short and task oriented, something like…

  • Low legs. Great saves.
  • See the puck. Stop the puck.
  • I am ready. I am focused.

You get the idea.

There is other great stuff in the article – in fact. I will make this a two part article. That’s it for now – check back later in the week for part two!


PS –  I will also hit you later in the week (not literally) with two of my favourite performance enhancing apps – one of them fits very nicely with this article – unless you are the goalie who is WAY to relaxed before a game – I have something in there for you in part two of this article.