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Making Daydreams Come True

November 13, 2011 General No Comments

This first appeared in the 08/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®

Making daydreams come true
By Mitch Korn

Preparation, both mental and physical, is critical to a goaltender’s success. The physical preparation required is fairly obvious: drills, exercises, stretches and flexes can all be designed to fine-tune a goalie’s game. But since most goaltenders will tell you that a large part of their game is “mental,” how does one best prepare a goalie’s mindset?

Today, sports psychologists play a greater role than ever before in helping players develop routines to properly prepare themselves mentally for a game.

With the Buffalo Sabres, both of our Sports Psychologists, Dr. Dan Smith and Dr. Max Offenberger, spend a great deal of time helping players deal with the pressures of the game, the gaining and loss of confidence, and their overall mental preparation.

The mental-preparation buzzwords these days are “mental imagery” and “positive visualization.” These describe the process of thinking good thoughts and visualizing positive situations — like making big saves — and concentrating on how you feel while all this good stuff is happening.

In truth, this sophisticated 1990’s concept is nothing more than a fancy label for exactly what I did when I was a kid — daydream. Back in my youth, daydreaming was frowned upon because some believed it promoted a “loss of focus and preparation.” It’s funny how time changes things, because today mental imagery is encouraged in order to enhance focus and preparation.

In addition, this kind of mental exercise builds a player’s confidence — because they can “see” themselves succeeding in big situations, when it counts the most.

Picture This

By using mental imagery, a goaltender can literally practice “reading and reacting” to game situations, and physical-skill executions, in their minds.

Picture the other team’s best player (a right handed shot) coming at you on a breakaway. You come out five feet past the top of the crease and slowly back up. The gap between you closes. The player fakes to his forehand (your glove side) then cuts to his backhand on a deke. You make a quick transition from the small shuffle you took because of the fake, push with your left leg and make a great two-pad slide to your stick side (originating from the top of the crease, moving diagonally to just outside the post), and make a magnificent save. Naturally, the rebound goes harmlessly to the corner.

Wasn’t that fun and easy? By preparing for this situation in your mind’s eye, the next time it happens on the ice, you’ll be ready! The goaltender can do this kind of mental routine for as many situations as there are in a game.

If a goalie is giving up too many goals — either on the ice or in his mental imagery — there may be a confidence or self-esteem problem. But all those saves he visualizes himself making will go a long way toward enhancing a goaltender’s confidence and self-esteem. If a goalie feels prepared for success, the odds are better that he will experience it.

See, mom? Daydreaming isn’t so bad after all.

Mitch Korn is the goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. In addition, he is an administrator at Miami University (Ohio) and directs the 8-week Summer Hockey School. Miami has Division I ice hockey in the CCHA.

This first appeared in the 08/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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