3 Tips to Start on the Front Foot

3 Tips to Start on the Front Foot

Hockey Psychology Tips: 3 Tips to Start on the Front Foot

Are you guilty of getting in your own way before a game?

There may be instances when you’re starting your hockey game feeling like you’re on the back foot, where your confidence is low, self-doubts are high, and you feel like you have so much going on in your head.  This can make it extremely difficult to play well, where you often go on to start very tentatively and struggle to gain momentum.   Not only can this impact you as a player, but your team too.   You may even feel your teammates start to worry and begin to lose some confidence in you.   This can be difficult to overcome however here are three tips to help you:

1. Create a Routine

Establishing a routine before you start your match can be a great way of getting into the competitive outlook early on. It can help focus your thoughts on the upcoming match and get yourself in the best mindset to perform at your best when it counts.

When establishing a routine, it’s important to personalise it. What works for you? What doesn’t help? What gets you in the zone? You have to make sure your preparation is right for you. Where the forwards might take time to strike some balls at goal, the defence might go through 1-2-1 tackling. Making sure you are doing what’s best for you is the quickest way to help focus. 

Creating a routine isn’t just about things you can do right before your game starts. It’s important to think about building your routine early. It can start the day before with what you eat to fuel your body, how many hours you get to sleep or what music you listen to when you’re getting ready.  Having a good structure to your routine early on and before you play helps you focus and get into that competitive mindset from the very start.

2. Consider using Imagery

This technique can improve your performance by directly developing skills and strategies or by improving your motivation and levels of self-confidence.  Imagery works best when you engage all your senses; what does it feel like, what is the smell, can you hear anything, what are you touching, what are your emotions? Your brain is more likely to interpret the imagery as the actual event if it is more vivid which increases the effectiveness of imagery. 

There are many ways to use imagery, but the best way is to use a script to start. Write down a situation you want to master in your game, describe everything about it and what happens when it goes well. You may find recording your script onto a device for you to listen to will help with creating vivid imagery.  Here are a few tips to help create the best imagery for you:

  1. Recreate situations in your sport that you want to get better at.
  2. Vividness: Use as many senses as possible to engage more brain and nerve cells.
  3. Use imagery daily to help master the skill: it only needs to be 5 minutes per day.
  4. Pre-competition imagery can help focus and get you in the right mindset
  5. Post-competition imagery will help you reflect and learn from your game, helping you recognise things you want to change and improve

3. Be Strategic with your Self-Talk

The way we feel before an upcoming game is largely dictated by how we view the challenge and our ability to overcome it. If you are nervous, lacking confidence and a bit hesitant to play this likely will reflect in the way that you talk to yourself about it and how your behaviour/physical skills manifest. 

This self-talk is an internal dialogue where you interpret feelings and perceptions, regulate, and change evaluations of a situation, and give yourself instructions and reinforcement. 

Making sure we engage with positive self-talk can directly impact all of these, and help make sure we are focused, confident and playing the best we can to start on the front foot.

Helpful tips for effective self-talk: 

  1. Make sure your self-talk is used throughout the game, not just beforehand! In the match, it can be a great tool for helping you focus, rebound from a mistake and maintain confidence when you play. 
  2. Pick phrases like ‘be in the moment’ and ‘focus on now’ or simple words like ‘focus’ and ‘move on’ to use to help in-moment playing. 
  3. Make sure you create a word or phrase that is personal and has meaning to you or you are working on in practice. Creating this can be a trigger for you to mentally strengthen yourself against distractions and focus your attention.
  4. Use self-talk to effectively reflect on your performance and be positive and constructive about what you want to work on and improve. 

If you enjoyed this post please feel free to share it with your team-mates, friends or coaches.  Alternatively feel free to get in touch with me, I’d love to discuss how I can help you or your team.

Olivia Scott

Best Wishes 

Olivia Scott

Mental Skills Performance Coach and Sports Counsellor located near Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK supporting hockey players, athletes and teams worldwide with Online Sports Psychology Services.  

E: [email protected]

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