Last week I talked about the importance of your mental game, but I feel like I need to help you put that into practice. You probably already have a routine in place but likely haven’t given it much thought. I would like to encourage you to do so because you are likely already doing things in a certain order so you don’t forget anything, and this has already become routine for you. Many players aren’t consistent, and they can’t figure out why, and this is going to not only help you be more consistent at first, but also help you tweak that to improve your performance.
The first step to forming a routine is to write it down. Then follow it. Take note of what you do to get ready for practice first, and write it down. You don’t need a fancy journal--a plain old notebook will do. Now, I know it sounds almost too simple at this point, but the point is to create a routine that works for you, and you need something to measure it by. You need a starting point. Your starting point is what you are already doing for practice, for game days, at home, and at the rink. Break it down that way, and just start by writing it down and then following what you wrote down. Also make notes to yourself of how you feel you performed and note if you did anything different that day.
Maybe you grab a snack, change into workout clothes, then pack your hockey bag, then tape your stick, load your gear into the car, and head to the rink where you drop your gear off in the locker room. Whatever you do before you leave the house is probably the same every time, but what about when you get to the rink? Does it all fall apart there? Are you consistent? Do you joke around with the boys when you get there? Do you have a warm up you do before you put your gear on? Do you show up with only enough time to get your gear on?
Once you have a couple weeks of tracking what you are doing and how it is affecting your performance, you can begin tweaking your routine. You can add things in or take them out, but I will caution you to only make one change at a time, and give that change time for you to gather enough data to know whether or not it makes a positive difference for you. If you change too many things at once, you won’t know which one of those changes made the difference.
This isn’t going to be a quick process, and your goal here is to find what works for you. What makes you perform your best at every practice and in every game? The very act of thinking about your routines is going to make you a better player because you are giving thought and focus to it. You are creating mental cues to let thoughts about the rest of your life go when it’s time to step onto the ice. No more thinking about that English paper when it’s time to think about where the puck is going next. You are forming habits that will lead to your success.
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