Among the many sacrifices that Junior Hockey players make for their sport, the most difficult is usually moving away from their family and friends. This can be amplified for players who move to Canada from other continents for their chance to play professional hockey. Richard Panik (Norfolk Admirals, AHL) was drafted from the CHL. When asked about added pressures for a European player coming to Canada, he said,
yes it was really difficult but i left my country when i was 15 i went to play hockey to czech republic..i lived by myself but my parents were coming visit me every weekend cause it wasnt too far..but when i went to canada it was different and more difficult…the biggest problem was language..i thought i can speak english cause at school i had Ases but when i came there it was harder that i thought…after 6 month it was better and after first year it was ok..another thing was different food..
Sometimes players are overwhelmed by the pressure, sacrifices and emotions. They can find it difficult to focus and become motivated which in turn can be damaging to their self-confidence.
Focus is the ability to devote your full attention to the task at hand, tuning out distractions. This ability is, in many ways, one of the single most critical factors determining your athletic success. (Wiley, 2010, pg.72)
The best athletes in the world are masters of focus. (Wiley, 2010, pg.71)
Players need to balance and be mindful of their short and long-term goals. Their decision making in regards to what they do or don’t do each day will have a cumulative effect on their development.
Every time you say yes to something that is unimportant, you say no to something that is important. The best among us get that. Know your priorities. Know your goals. Know what needs to get done. (Harper-Collins, 2006, pg.41)
Keeping focus during competition is crucial for a player to play at their maximum level. They need to learn how to block everything out and not become distracted. This requires the ability to “be in the moment” and not allow thoughts of other things to enter their mind.
Key to achieving success in sports is learning how to focus on the task and not let negative thoughts intrude. The mind can concentrate only on one thing at a time. So, rather than suppress what you don’t want to happen you must focus on what you do want to happen. (McGraw-Hill, 2001, pg.9)
Motivation is the fuel that powers your goals toward becoming a reality. If you’re not motivated and inspired by your goals, you won’t achieve them. (Wiley, 2010, pg.30)
Goals are to motivation like thirst is to water. You wouldn’t go to the effort of pouring yourself a glass of water if you weren’t thirsty. If you don’t have goals, then there is no need for motivation.
Goals must be high enough to excite you, yet not so high that you cannot vividly imagine them. Goals must be attainable, but just out of reach for now. (McGraw-Hill, 2001, pg.62)
Junior hockey players have BIG short and long term goals, so they need lots of motivation to fuel their journey.
Motivation primes the brain to see rewards even when they are a long way off and, indeed, even when there are no guarantees those rewards will ever come. (Perseus, 2011, pg.41)
Motivation can come from within simply for the love of the game and desire to become the best they can be or from external rewards such as trophies, fame and money.
Teresa M. Amabile has made a career studying the effects of intrinsic versus extrinsic reward on creativity and productivity. Focusing on the cash, trophies and other types of material gain is often a performance killer. (Perseus, 2011, pg.75)
The key is to find reward somewhere in the journey. (Perseus, 2011, pg.76)
External factors can certainly boost your motivation for short periods of time, but research shows that the single most powerful motivator is the love of the game. (Wiley, 2010, pg.12)
What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are. Tony Robbins
Great athletes say that confidence is knowing they are prepared physically and mentally. Experience tells them what to do and confidence allows them to do it. Confidence is the emotional knowing that you are prepared, mind, body, and spirit for anything. (McGraw-Hill, 2001, pg.156)
The confidence cycle is think positively, take risks, experience success. (Wiley, 2010, pg.59)
The more confident you are, the more risks you’ll take, and the more rewards and positive consequences you’ll experience. All successful athletes know that when they’re confident and comfortable, their chances of success are dramatically higher. (Wiley, 2010, pg.12)
The confidence of a junior hockey player can be a fragile thing. Their confidence may be affected by a bad game, opinions of fans or pressure from the media. They may know that they haven’t done their best to prepare for competition and may develop feelings of self doubt.
Confidence is the result of preparation, and preparation begins with forming a mental game plan. The great athletes visualize not only the best case scenarios but also worst-case scenarios. They don’t imagine failing, but they do mentally plan how they will respond in unpleasant and difficult situations. (McGraw-Hill, 2001, pg.157)
Athletes at every level often interfere with their own performance. They get in their own way with their fears, their doubts, and their self-condemning nature. (McGraw-Hill, 2001, pg. 40)
If you don’t feel good about yourself, you tend not to perform well. Those who have a negative self image find ways to self-destruct. (McGraw-Hill, 2001, pg.41)
As players mature and gain more experience with the pressures of playing junior hockey, they will get tougher mentally, but confidence is something even the most seasoned athlete struggles with from time to time.