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Hockey Lessons to Break your Slump

Winter Classic Ice by hankzby is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hockey Lessons to Break your Slump

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Have you ever watched a hockey player break out of a slump and think “golly gee good for them! I wish it was that easy for me to turn things around when things aren’t going my way!” Well maybe it is.

Sports are great because they aren’t just about running fast and being strong. I mean, some are, but, outside of my resident cross fit games enthusiasts, we love sports because we relate to the ways that sports mirror the struggle of being a human being. Dealing with adversity, conquering not only your opponent but your own mind, and striving to win your ultimate goal. We see ourselves in it.

So if that’s the case, why can’t a sport teach us how to get back on track in our own lives.

As both an obsessive hockey fan and an obsessive people watcher I think it can. Preachy? Maybe. But read on, and be the judge for yourself. Here are my 4 lessons hockey teaches that can get you out of that slump and back scoring goals:

Keep Moving Your Feet, and Good Things Will Happen

Hockey is not chess. It is not formulaic. A lot of times, slumping players can’t put their finger on what’s going wrong for them, so they don’t know what to fix. In these instances, you’ll often hear this adage. “When in doubt, just get your feet moving, and keep them moving. Good things will happen.” Whether it’s draw a penalty, forcing a turnover, or beating out an icing, often players can turn things around unintentionally simply by continuing to do. In the hockey world, that means skate and skate hard. But in our world sometimes the best medicine for being in a rut is simply keeping productive and busy, even if you’re unsure how it will pay off.

Like hockey, our lives doesn’t have a formula for happiness or success, as much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise. So, even if we can’t see exactly how the things we’re working hard at will pay off in the end, focusing on just continuing to put one foot in front of the other can make all the difference.

Talent is a Baseline, it’s Hard Work that makes you Great. Trust in the Process

This one is similar to the one above. And yet oh so different. Let’s be honest. Sometimes we let ourselves off the hook. Whether it’s a job or a hobby, a lot of times if we feel we are good at something, we expect results to come. Hockey players know that it doesn’t work that way.

For every hard working superstar there is a burnout who had all the talent in the world. That’s because, just to get into the NHL, you need talent. But hard work is, like honing the edge of a blade, what makes you turn potential into results.

If you can trust more in the process and be a little harder on your work ethic, it gives you something that undrafted free-agents turn superstars like Martin St. Louis know. No one is a finished product, and working at something hard and smart can get you in the long term what a talent may only be able to give you for a second.

This can be helpful when you’re tempted to compare yourself to others. That Wayne Gretzky beside you may seem to have everything he ever wanted, but before that jealousy sets in, ask yourself just how hard it is your working, not just whether that person was born “better than you.”

A lot of times, when you realize maybe you just weren’t putting in the extra mile, working just a little bit harder can be all it takes for that slump to end.

Don’t Grip the Stick too Hard

So what if we’re working our absolute you-know-what off with still no results? Maybe then the problem is the opposite.

We want to be successful. We want that puck to go in the net. We just want the slump to be over. We want it so bad we can taste it. A lot of times, when hockey players feel that way about getting that first goal in a long time, you may hear that they are “Gripping the Stick too Hard.”

What this means is the stakes of getting the goal on that very next shot are so high that they’re tense. So tense that their body can’t take over and do what it does best, and therefore betrays them. In the mental game of hockey, many times, you’ve got to relax the stakes on what you want before they happen for you. It’s kind of like getting out of your own way, but in a more Taoist “whatever will be will be” sense.

This one may seem to be counter to the last one, but it comes as a follow up. If you know you’re doing the work, then you can trust your talent. If you feel like you’re doing everything you can possibly do to be your best you, and the results still aren’t coming, maybe you simply are putting the stakes too high.

All it Takes is One to Go In

A slump can end with a single goal. That one goal breeds confidence. That confidence breeds lower stakes and more trust in your process. Those low stakes and trust leads to more goals. And next thing you know, you’re on a 10 game goal scoring streak. So don’t think so much. A slump never last forever. It’s a matter of when, not if, they break. And when they do, you’ll be ready.

Michael is a Pittsburgh ex-pat living in NYC as a working bartender and semi working actor. He enjoys long walks down the Strip District, thinks yinz should go dawntawn 'inat, and knows that when you play Pittsburgh you play the whole city. But he's unbiased. I swear. Michael writes mostly hockey and football op eds for the Turf, but maybe soon he'll try his hand at covering horse racing or hot dog eating. Who knows. The sky's the limit.

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