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Mental coaching in hockey: collective aspects

This article is following the article: Mental Preparation in Hockey : Individual Aspects
It was written by Manuel Dupuis, sport psychologist who has been working as a mental trainer with hockey players and teams since 2003. This article is the result of his personal experience and is therefore not to be considered as exhaustive.

Mental skills in hockey: collective aspects

Some recurring elements

Here are some common elements which I usually encounter in my practice and with which I deal individually and / or collectively (see the chapter below on coaching approaches) :

Team cohesion

It is important to emphasize that team cohesion is a key factor in group performance, and so it is in hockey. It must continually be maintained by the coach, the players and the whole staff. It is sometimes undermined by a change of coach or changes among players and staff members, by deficiencies with regard to the objectives and common values of the group, by a lack of homogeneity, by interpersonal conflicts, or by difficulties about facing adversity or defeat.

Leadership

It’s essential to develop leader skills such as : a positive and effective communication with other players, the ability to recover from a failure, the ability to influence the group positively (to give confidence, to manage stress, to create motivation, ...). It can be helpful to work with leaders about these aspects in small groups and / or individually. A very important leader is obviously the coach (T1, T2, physiotherapist, ...) therefore the mental trainer should be enabled to work with him in particular.

Positive communication

This aspect is practically always the object of training, both at individual level with the players and with the coaches and the staff members. It is fundamental for everyone to express oneself, to find one’s place and to assert oneself within the team (and so to gain confidence in one’s playing), and to transmit any important information. Positive communication also helps to spread a constructive dynamism within the team, especially in difficult times (during a bad game sequence, when a goal has just been conceded, ...). It is important to manage frustrations and to get over then collectively, especially through positive and effective communication, which keeps each player focused and activates self-confidence.

The spirit of the team

Self-confidence, combativeness, motivation and the ability to manage stress are elements that can be kept alive and even improved. They are essential to achieve performance, which is sometimes compromised by situations of failure, such as a recent defeat, or when during the match things unexpectedly go wrong. The prospect of important games, such as those implying promotion or relegation also requires mental preparation.

Some mental coaching approaches of the team

The collaboration with and the coaching of the coach

Sometimes mental preparators work with the coach specifically or else in addition to their work with the players. The coaching of the coach aims at developing his competence to motivate his players, to give them confidence, to use adequate speech during coaching and to manage the group, but also to work on himself in order to be mentally at his best. It is obvious that a coach who is himself confident, calm and collected and capable of controlling emotion and stress, will be all the more effective in his role.

At last, it is must be emphasized that the setting up of mental preparation sessions with players and team can only be achieved in conjunction with the coaches, who need to be involved in the working out of the action plan.

Leadership development

The mental training of leaders is important. By "leader" we mean a player or a staff member who can have a positive psychological influence on the team (someone who can motivate, reassure, help others to remain combative in case of difficulty, ...), and / or who can be an example to others.

The mental preparation of these leaders is twofold. First, they need strengthening their own mental abilities : a mentally superior leader can better influence positively other players. Then one can pass on to more specific work about leadership, especially about communication and the values and fundamental rules of the group.

Mental preparation in connection with the group

Some large-group sessions can be organized, during which team building cohesion and impregnation with and commitment to the common values of the group are worked out. The main purpose of these sessions is to gather common objectives and to unite the group. Mental trainers also work on certain mental abilities, most often concentration and self-confidence, and, when a match is in prospect, the management of pressure.

Talent development

More and more football and hockey clubs, and also individual athletes, are setting up projects that aim to form potential players, who are chosen by the staff for their technical and physical, but also mental qualities. If these players are given the opportunity to complete their training by mental preparation, they enjoy the "privilege" of making use of complementary tools to maximize their potential on the field, especially in competition.

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