I was never the best hockey player on my team. I didn’t have the best hands. I didn’t have the hardest shot. I never led my team in points. I always worked hard, respected my coaches and teammates, and loved the game. I played smart, minimal-mistake hockey. As I got older, I began to realize that hard work and smart hockey didn’t impress people as much as points did. I quickly noticed that people never asked how many shots I blocked or how many passes I picked off. Everyone asked the same two questions: 1) Did you win? 2) How many points did you get?
It didn’t take long for me to start believing that if I wasn’t a goal scorer or a playmaker, then I wasn’t truly a good forward. I started to make one of the biggest mental game mistakes – directly tying my confidence to my stats. If I didn’t get any points, I wasn’t happy with myself or my game. If I wasn’t getting points AND I was making mistakes defensively, I didn’t believe I deserved to play. I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t think my coaches or teammates trusted me. I relied on lucky hats and ridiculous superstitions to tell me if I was going to have a good game or not.
If you think that was bad, I found ways to make things even worse for myself. As a girl in a male-dominant sport, I felt that I needed to prove that I was tough. The big problem was that my definition of tough was questionable. I thought it meant being excessively hard on myself, never showing emotion, and tearing myself down when I made mistakes. By that definition, I sure was tough.
Simple mistakes felt catastrophic. Adversity completely derailed me. My reaction to negative situations was totally backwards:
- Turn the puck over in the first period? I suck today. This is going to be a rough game.
- On for a goal against? I am a liability. I can’t afford to make another mistake.
- Coach yells at me? Great, my coach hates me. I’ll never get another shift.
It’s safe to say that my mental game was somewhere between non-existent and trash for most of my career. I had unrealistic expectations of the kind of player I should be. I treated myself horribly. I played through injuries and caused long-term damage to my body. I ignored my deteriorating mental health. I thought that’s what hockey players did. Ironically, all of those factors contributed to the end of my ice hockey career.
Fortunately, I rediscovered my love of the game in roller hockey. I felt so much less pressure and found myself having fun again. I stopped trying to be the player I thought I should be, and I let myself become the player I know I can be. I stopped wishing I could lead my team in points, and started appreciating how good I was at winning faceoffs, penalty killing, forechecking, backchecking, and blocking shots. And not to pump my own tires, but I got really good at those.
Once I started to shift my mindset and own my strengths, I started playing more. Coaches knew what they were going to get from me every time they put me out there. They trusted me in high-pressure situations, but more importantly, I trusted myself. I trusted I’d win the faceoff. I trusted I’d get in front of the shot. I trusted I’d do my job on the penalty kill.
Around the time I switched from ice to roller, I was also doing my Bachelors in Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. After taking a few sport psychology courses, I started to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. After graduating, I went to the University of Kentucky where I obtained my Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology, then went on to become a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC). As a Mental Performance Coach, I’ve worked with professional hockey players (AHL, ECHL, NWHL/PHF), amateur hockey players (NCAA, OJHL), and collegiate athletes across various sports.
In hindsight, I made a lot of mental mistakes throughout my career. I struggled and refused to ask for help. I was my own worst enemy. There were not enough bag skates and hockey camps in the world to make up for my mental game. I needed to get out of my head. I needed to ask for help. I needed a Mental Performance Coach.
My goal as a Mental Performance Coach is to make sure athletes don’t make the same mental mistakes I made, own their strengths, and stay connected to their love of the game. I firmly believe that the days of old-school, “tough guy” hockey are gone. Truly tough athletes are able to admit they don’t have all the answers and are willing to do something about it.