Consistency is what builds confidence. Consistency is what makes you feel confident going into any situation. It is another very important aspect that will help mold a better mindset. Consistency can be daunting though, and you can can become obsessive when you strive for consistency. Which is why you must always understand that you are not perfect, you will make mistakes and not everything will go your way.
Consistency is formed though by persistence effort, practice and most importantly a clear head space. When I say a clear head space I am referring to one's ability to switch their conscious brain off and allow their subconscious brain to be in control for the next hour, two, three hours however long your sporting event is.
Conscious vs Subconscious mind
Something, especially young athletes are unfamiliar with is the concept of is the conscious vs subconscious mind.
The conscious brain is what a lot of people refer to as where we live day to day and who we are. The subconscious brain is what people refer to as the storage of memories and in contact with the unconscious mind, a part you do not communicate with daily. For example the conscious mind is what we speak to everyday, it is that little voice in your head that you communicate with when no one is around and that part of the brain that filters anything out before you speak, it is that part of the brain that communicates with others. The subconscious mind is filtered by our imagination, our beliefs and habits. The subconscious mind communicates through feelings, emotions, sensation and imagination.
Think of playing a sport, when you are playing, in large part if you are playing a sport that is very active and back and forth your subconscious mind will be working most of the time. You will trust your subconscious mind to stir you in the right direction. One of the reasons you perform poorly, or have a bad shift, or are not noticing improvement is because of your conscious mind. You are allowing your conscious mind to control your head space and captain the ship during the game. Some games you may play so well and feel as if you have no idea how it all happened. Why? Because your instinct and habit kicked in and you shut off your conscious mind and allowed the subconscious mind to be in control.
Examples of conscious vs subconscious mind
Therefore, the reason why this is the biggest key for consistency is because, if one game you can control the conscious mind but the next you have trouble controlling the conscious mind. Then you will notice a big gap in your performance. You have to learn how to trust your instincts and habits, shut the conscious mind off and let the subconscious mind be in control.
A great example I read about the other day referred to a golfer. Golf is relatively a mental game, if you cannot control the conscious mind, good luck with golf. The book I am reading spoke about what golfers do to control the conscious mind, a pre-shot routine, talking to themselves about what is for dinner later that day on the way to the next hole or shot are examples of shutting down the chatter (conscious) in your mind. If a golfer allows their brain to think negative and look at the negative on the way to the next hole or shot, they will tense up and shoot poorly usually. Like a baseball player at bat, their will be a period where you have a bad at bat and have to wait two more innings until your next at bat. so you have to be able to control the chatter upstairs. Same goes for a hockey player, you get out their have a bad shift, you come back to the bench and dwell on it. Now, you are all tense, you are speaking all negative to yourself and when you get back out there you mess up again. Goalie covers it, you approach the face off dot and get ready for the draw, your conscious mind is buzzing now, negative thoughts are swarming your head and you cannot stop it, you feel tense, nervous during the game and continue to turn the puck over or mess up!
Be in control of your mind!
This is why being able to control our conscious brain, quiet our brain and shut the chatter down for two, three, etc hours is extremely important for consistency. Time and time again we see kids or even professionals allow their conscious brain to take control and cause havoc upstairs in their brain. Which then turns to poor performances and lack of confidence. Something I always tell my players was "forget about the last shift, think ahead to the next shift" I constantly beat into their heads that they are not perfect and they will make a million mistakes time and time again but we have to learn how to bounce back from those mistakes and learn from them. The most important thing you can understand about this is that YOU have full control of what goes in and out of your mind. You have full control of how you perceive things, therefore train the conscious and subconscious brain like you would a muscle!
To end the article, here is a tip for all the hockey players or athletes out there that need a little help controlling the chatter upstairs leading up and during a game. (1) Treat every game like it is the same, the moment you tell yourself "oh this is game way more important than last game" you put more pressure on yourself and your anxiety starts to run. (2) Develop a pre-game routine, intra-game routine and post game routine. Don't obsess over your pre-game routine either, some days you won't be able to stretch for 30 minutes before the team warm up, some games you may have no internet connection at the rink and your music won't play, etc. Problems will occur so always have a routine but a back up routine on board too. For me during the game, when I was on the ice and we had down time, waiting for the face off for example I would sing songs in my head, on the penalty kill waiting for the team to break out I would constantly think ahead of the game and just focus on my side. After the game is usually where the most self criticism starts. Learn to reflect for 10-15 minutes after the game and then disconnect, whether that is playing a video game, reading a book but usually the one that always helps is being with teammates, friends, family or a significant other to help decompress and step away from the game once it is over.
I hope this helps, and always feel free to let me know what you think of the article via Twitter or Instagram (@santageetee). Good luck!!