So, let’s talk real quick about the benefits of having strong focus skills in hockey.
Strong focus skills in hockey means your head is in the game. It’s what coaches call hockey sense or hockey IQ.
Let’s face it, what you focus on will expand in your brain and take your attention.
Research shows us that we can’t focus on two things at once … it might feel like you can, but you can’t, you’re just focusing on two things by switching your focus super-fast between them. So, WHAT you are focused on becomes incredibly important.
Focus means knowing the situation on the ice … it’s knowing how much time is left in the period, … it’s knowing who you’re matched up against, what’s the score, what is the other team doing on the forecheck, what is your team’s strategy for taking away the middle, and it’s remembering what the coach told you right before you hit the ice on remembering to keep 5 players in all 3 zones.
All of these things you’re processing in microseconds. Specific things, general things, things that you have time to think about, and others where you have to react quickly … and in a fast physical game like hockey you can’t focus on any one thing too long or the game will whiz past you.
And focusing on the wrong thing causes you to make mistakes and miss important cues that allow you to be your best on the ice.
So, being able to focus means knowing how to read the play, what do to, making quick decisions … when to poke-check or when to take the body.
It means anticipating where your winger will be in the next millisecond so you can sauce him the puck, and then where to go to create space and a scoring opportunity.
It’s all of this and it all happens lightning fast.
So, it’s clear that focus is important, but how the heck do you practice it?
The good news is there are great strategies you use starting today to improve your focus in hockey.
The bad news is you need to know what they are, how to do it, and here’s the really important part … YOU NEED TO USE THEM!
So, here are 3 simple exercises to get you started …
The following is an excerpt from my workbook called TheFocusedPlayer … COMMENT on this post to get your free copy today!
1 - Remember your ABC's
What are 3-things, 3-skills, that when you execute them well, allow you to have a great shift? Keep your feet moving, keep players to the outside, 3rd guy high, get pucks deep … whatever they are, pick 3 of them and label them your A-B-C’s.
Now. it's important to do this BEFORE the game. Pick them out during the week in practice. Pick them out in the room while you’re getting ready. Pick them out with your coach to keep them in sync with the skills you’re developing.
Whatever they are PICK 3 (A-B-C) and put them in the front of your mind during the game and whenever you lose focus, get distracted, get frustrated or mad, pull these A-B-C’s to the forefront of your thinking in the exact moment you find yourself slipping off task, and then do what you do best. Execute these skills with everything you have and you can have a great shift!
2. Get into the Right Zone
Focus is about being able to see the big picture as well as the fine details. That means being able to know the situation on the ice (where your teammates are, score of the game, time of the game, who’s on the ice for the other team), and then in a millisecond, be able to execute an indirect pass to a wingers skating into the zone for an odd-man break. It’s having a BROAD focus and then going to a very NARROW focus to execute a skill, and then back to a broad focus to go to space and create a scoring opportunity. Focus is also defined as being external (knowing what’s going on out there) and internal (knowing what’s going on inside you - your thoughts, feelings, distractions).
So, with broad and narrow, external and internal you create 4-zones of focus that you can be in at any given time (broad-external, broad-internal, narrow-external, narrow-internal).
As you can see, being in a narrow-internal focus state (thinking about yourself) when the time is ticking down and you need to get pucks on the net can be a disaster. Likewise, focusing on the score, or fans in the stand or a chirpy player on the other team can play havoc with your ability to keep a 3rd guy high to help the D or being first on the puck in the offensive zone and hitting the 2nd forward driving the net.
Know when to go broad and when to go narrow. And pay attention to whether your thoughts are internal or external. Your ability to be in the right zone of focus can be the difference between having a great game or riding the pine.
3. Use the 3-R's
Focus is great when you have it, but when you lose it, your ability to get it back is critical. I always tell my players that focus is great, but RE-FOCUS is key. We’ll all lose focus from time to time and without the skill or awareness of being able to RE-FOCUS, you’re shifts can be a disaster.
RE-FOCUS is about being able to remember your 3-R’s - RECOGNIZE, REGROUP, REFOCUS
RECOGNIZE - you need to be able to recognize when you’re off focus. This is usually a situation when you’re zone of focus is off as as being in a broad focus mode when you need to be focused on a specific skill or strategy. Your ability to catch yourself off-focus gives you the ability to get back on focus quickly.
REGROUP - ok, so you caught yourself focused on the wrong thing at the wrong time, now what? - Regroup. You’re human. We all lose it sometimes. It’s cool. But rather than give yourself crap, put your attention on something that matters and get back in the game.
REFOCUS - remember the ABC’s we just talked about. That’s why you want them in your pocket before the game starts! When you have them locked and loaded and ready to go when you need them, then you are able to quickly refocus and get back on the right task in the moment and prevent the slip of focus to impact your play.
Remember, focus is more than just where you have your attention. It’s about how you are using your mind to enhance your performance. It’s a critical skill in your mental game that ensures you have your attention on the right thing, at the right time, and in the right way.
When you improve your mental focus you will;
- IMPROVE your hockey sense
- IMPROVE your ability to execute specific skills and strategies on the ice
- IMPROVE your ability to incorporate team strategy and the game plan with your individual skills and contributions to the team.
- HELP YOU ACHIEVE your game goals, individual goals, and team goals.