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Preserving a Shutout

Digital Number Zero - Image Credit: 123rf.comLast night was the start of the final roller hockey season of 2011. For me this is my second season with the team and we started things off on the right foot with a 6-0, convincing shutout win. I was not keeping count of how many shots I faced, but if I had to guess it was just over 20. Most of the shots taken I had a clear view and made sure to keep a laser focus on the puck all the way from the shooter’s stick blade into my pads. There were a handful of screened shots that were tricky to play, but I positioned myself where I last saw the puck through the screen and was able to get a piece of the puck each time. It wasn’t a cake walk to get my first shutout of the season, but in the end it was pretty sweet when the end game buzzer went off.

The closest I came to losing the shutout happened in the middle of the second period when a Left-Winger got a breakaway. He came in on my glove side and as he got close enough to me, he tried to cut to my blocker side. As the shooter was cutting he faked as if he was cutting back to my glove side and I bit on it. By keeping my eye on the puck the entire time I was able to react quick enough to see that I bit too early and shifted my body weight on my glove side leg to turn and lunge with my stick out towards my blocker side post. The shooter kept the puck on the ice and as my stick slide across the crease he shot it right into the blade. The puck bounced off and he attempted a second shot which I knocked down with my glove and got a whistle from the referee.

There were shots here and there through the rest of the game that were challenging to stop, but towards the end of the game it just came down to surviving the clock. With 15 seconds left there was a defensive zone face-off to my blocker side. We cleanly won the puck and got a 2-1 as the seconds counted down to zero. I did my best Tim Thomas celebration move and I do not think even if you knocked me out cold would you have been able to wipe the smile off my face.

The extra pressure of trying to preserve a shutout can cause negative thoughts to creep in more frequently and in greater intensity. You are going to hear comments from your teammates about how great you are playing. They might remind you that you are pitching a shutout. Sometimes the referee might remind you of how much time is left in the game. Even if the other team is getting blown out late in the game, they might step up their offensive just to spoil the shutout. You could get a glance of the game clock and see the seconds slowly ticking by. All of these scenarios as well as the self doubt that can enter your mind, can throw you off your rhythm and possibly lead to giving up a goal. When I am rocking a shutout, this is why I make sure that my mind is as clear as possible.

During a game when you are keeping every shot out of the net things seem to go your way and the puck is as big as a beach ball. You get the right bounces, you position yourself perfectly through a screen, you get into a rhythm, and your rebounds go out of harms way. One of the major reasons for this is that your mind is clear. You are not thinking about the last play or worrying about what if the other team scores. You are completely in the moment and only focusing on what is happening in the now. By not having your mind cluttered with what has happened and what is yet to be, you are able to get that laser focus needed to track the puck like a hawk.

When your mind does start to wander (which it will) or invite in negative thoughts such as self doubt or worry the key thing to remember is to not resist it. No goalie wants those negative thoughts, so the logical approach appears to be to try to block them out. By trying to block the thoughts out not only are you wasting energy, you are removing your focus from the game. This will cause you to over analyze a play or think about what save technique to use, etc… Carl Jung once said, “What you resist, will persist.” Instead of resisting the negative thoughts, let them in, acknowledge them, and then let them move on freely. Another approach is to let them in and then replace it with an empowering, positive thought such as a mantra or the opposite of what the negative thought is.

During the game last night there were several moments when self doubt tried to work its way in. In the first two periods of the game I was in such a rhythm that it maybe happened 2 to 3 times. However, as the final minutes of the game was ticking down, that self doubt monster kicked it up a notch. I heard my teammates talking about the possible shutout on the bench, then the referee told me that there was two minutes left in the game, and another teammate on the ice told me that I was standing on my head. All of these things gave fuel to the self doubt monster, but I was able to knock it down with just a quick, simple little phrase that I have been using for a while, “Fear is the mind killer.” A fellow goaltender on the Goalie Store Bulletin Board introduced me to the book Dune by Frank Herbert and the Litany Against Fear, which is where that phrase is from. It was something he has been doing for quite some time and I found that it also resonated with myself.

That simple little phrase is a snippet that is said by the Bene Gesserit to calm their minds when in danger. Sometimes when my mind is very jumpy and all over the place I will recite the entire passage. For me it helps distract me and make me realize that I do not need to be fearful and that I am strong. When you believe in a phrase or a mantra strongly enough, all it takes is to repeat it and your body switches to the emotion(s) you had when you first ever read it. The Litany Against Fear makes me feel strong, motivated, and confident. Those are three qualities every goaltender needs to be successful and to enjoy the game they play.

Here is the full passage:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

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  1. April 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm

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