By Josie Lemieux – Consultant – @HockeyPsyched – Mental toughness – Emotional control
Following the Boston Bruins’ loss to the New York Rangers last Saturday and the warm welcome offered to former Bruins Adam McQuaid (who will remain a Bruins forever according to my fan friend Claire), the Bruins have reached a point where it is mandatory to separate the season in three compartments in their state of mind.
As I do with minor and elite teams, players must practice what I call ¨ a 3-way mental detachment ¨.
You should see my players’ faces when I say those words in a locker room or during a workshop.
They don’t have a clue what I am talking about.
Well, no hockey player can evade this, regardless of what he might think, regardless of the caliber, NHL or not.
According to the standard definition in everyday life, detachment is a state in which a person overcomes his/her attachment to desire for things, people or concepts of the world and thus attains a heightened perspective. It is considered a wise virtue in various fields like philosophy, psychology, religion and meditation.
In hockey, it is as simple – and complex.
Mentally, a player must practice a 3-way mental detachment during the season: 1-way, 2-way and 3-way. Each way is a mental compartment, completely separated from each other.
One-way – Regular season: the player integrates, develops himself within the team, cumulates points along with his team to gain access to the playoff way. When you know better, you do better. That is the very core of the regular season. So the end of the season can become a point war, as it is right now happening throughout the NHL.
Two-way – Playoffs: the weakest teams have been tossed aside. Remaining players are well aware who they will fight against. Each player has to elevate his training, speed, physical and technical abilities, being one step closer to the final 3-way. Emotional states are high, brawls and tempers flare. Deal with it or you are out.
Three-way: Championship/Stanley Cup: once again, the weakest teams have been tossed aside. Players remaining in the three-way are not only privileged, they did all they could physically, technically and emotionally to withstand the best and worse. So they deserve to be there. At this stage, it all about not only you as a player and your team, but also your opponents. Know your opponents more than they know you. And failure? Not an option. But one team will have to deal with that issue at the end.
Easy right? Hold your horses.
During a hockey season, do not even think of what could happen next. Or who you could play against in playoffs. Of where exactly you will lift any Championship or the Stanley Cup to impress people and yourself even more.
If you finish the regular season in a good position and have high or unrealistic expectations (for yourself and as a team), if you overestimate or underestimate whoever (you, your team or the opponents), if you expect or fear a certain team for the following 2-way compartment (playoffs), if you don’t have a ¨ need for a Cup but a ¨ want ¨ to it, you are not applying the 3-way mental detachment correctly.
Do not play a certain way during the regular season because you want the Cup. You skipped the 2-way playoff compartment in your mind. That is not the way to think.
Even the Boston Bruins cannot think about the Cup right now. And if some players do, they simply are not in the present mental compartment they need to be psychologically to get to the 2-way.
That is the word. That is the danger.
They think, go and play too fast. Their minds won’t follow their game. Sometimes, a regular game is so intense and action packed, it looks like a playoff game. Sometimes, vice-versa. Why?
Mental detachment is not set properly.
If the Boston Bruins can hold on to the concept as a team, they could be serious Cup contenders. But each player must rely on himself first – in a 3-way detachment, practice the present moment, never expect, underestimate or overestimate, never anticipate or fear on how they will end the present season. Afterwards, when their state of mind is in the right mental compartment, they can rely on the entire team.
By the way, to be a Cup contender, there is no other way than the mental 3-way.