Alrighty, first tour of the year has come and gone. Honestly I don’t have a whole lot to report about the trip. It was a short training tour consisting of 4 games vs. the US and things were pretty much business as usual. I’m happy to say that due to focusing on our own game for the past 10 months or so, the team now has a strong foundation and understanding of our structure. Therefore we no longer feel as though we’re starting from square one every tour. After our performance I’m excited to see how much we are able to build onto this foundation in the very busy year ahead!
Playing 4 games this past series has landed me a grand total of 99 international games played for Canada. Being so close to the big 100 benchmark has gotten me thinking about what my experience has taught me, and if there are any solid take homes I can share….and I came up with a lot of different answers! And all of these answers were so interconnected it was hard to sculpt out one useful message…hence the delay of this post! Here’s my choice, and I hope it’s helpful!
The answer I chose to write about is somewhat of a continuation from my last post. I finished my last post encouraging you to take your strengths, and unique talents and use them to your advantage. So I’m taking that idea and transferring it directly to the pitch, sharing with you a trait of mine that I have managed to turn into a strength on the field. In the last post I mentioned I have a slight problem with over analyzing. Off the field it’s a bit of a burden, especially when it comes to field hockey and feedback from coaches. I will take a message think it and re think it, apply it and interpret it in a million different ways until I come to some kind of a conclusion of how it applies to me. I think (after over analyzing it) I do this because it’s how I like to learn. By asking many different questions it forces me to look at things in many different ways. This style of learning, asking questions and searching for answers, can be exhausting and time consuming. So you can only image the possible disaster if this thinking was to manifest itself after a mistake on the field….
For many of us, when you make a mistake you start questioning yourself, thoughts like “OH SH…just kidding….questions like: “am I nervous?” “Am I having a bad day?” “How many mistakes am I going to make this game?” “Is my hit just off today?” The problem with these questions is that there are no real answers and therefore no solutions. If I can’t come up with answers and solutions I keep analyzing, and this will continue until I’m so into my own head that I would probably forget how to hold a stick. So how do I turn this analyzing into a strength?
I have learnt to shift my questioning and mentality to problem solving. The reality is, I know I can hit a ball, and my fundamental ability to hit a ball is not going to change throughout the course of the game. So there is absolutely no use in questioning that, so what changes in a game? In a game your skills are affected by factors like time, pressure, and positioning. So when I miss a ball, I question why, but the questions I ask are: did I give myself enough time? Was my spacing right? Did I pre-scan and know where I was going to hit it? Did I lift my head? The key to this questioning is that there are simple answers available and therefore potential solutions. This thinking shifts your mindset from questioning your ability, to questioning what’s inhibiting your ability. The first set of questions you’re analyzing why YOU can’t hit the ball, but in the second you’re questioning what factors prevented you from hitting the ball. This is a very subtle shift, and even typing it I feel as if I just said the same thing twice. So to better explain, let me address how this shift can help your game.
This thinking benefits your game in a number of ways; firstly, you’re increasing your game sense, analyzing your positioning and learning how to improve it. Everyone needs time to execute skills, learning these simple and effective ‘tricks of the trade’ to find time gives you much better understanding of the game and how to manipulate space. Secondly, this thinking keeps your head in the game; in order to analyze your positioning you have to be constantly aware of what is going on around you. Thirdly, and I have saved this for last because I think it is the most important, yet the hardest to explain…. This subtle shift in mindset detracts you from questioning your ability. Focusing on only your ability places the responsibility on internal factors, which are immediately unchangeable, and therefore will erode your confidence during the game. Instead, what the shift does, is focus on the external influences of the mistake, which leads you to problem solving in your environment keeping you in the game and adding to your confidence. You’re no longer blaming your skill (which is immediately unchangeable) but your decision making and positioning that can easily be changed, offering you hope and encouragement.
Some sport psychologists tell you snap a band on your wrist, forget a mistake and move on. But in a math class if you get a question wrong, you don’t give yourself a slap with a ruler and forget about it, you learn from it. For me I need answers and I need to keep learning. Every game, every play, and especially every mistake is a learning opportunity. Overanalyzing is how I like to learn, and I have found a way to make it work positively for me.
Here’s a photo from my first International Competition: 2009 Pan Am Cup, Bermuda