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How to Shift Your Hockey Identity Pt 1 (Negative Self-Image)

It is far too common to see a great hockey player not get the attention they have worked for. To not express their full potential. They put hours in the gym, on the ice, in the film room, and still they don't get better. (Well maybe they are getting better, but you're not TRULY separating from the pack) Maybe you feel similarly. You feel like you are doing everything right, but you are not playing as well as you should. Usually, the first place we go is to search the internet for quick fixes. So you try some:

  • Goal setting

  • a little visualization

  • some night affirmations.

They help you a little bit. But when you get on the ice, you still feel pretty much the same. "Why is nothing working!!!" you keep screaming in your head. Well, let me explain the reason these things don't work. It has to do with this diagram

If you clearly have good skills in practice, but when you show up to the game, you just don't make the right plays... Then you have a self-image problem. The Self Image (The Foundation of Your Identity) Right now you have a self-image problem. A common example of this is with body dysmorphia. This is defined as a mental disorder characterized by distorted body image and obsessions about perceived physical shortcomings. There are two main examples of people who suffer from this:

  1. They are very skinny, but they have the Self Image of an overweight person. (That's what people with anorexia struggle with, particularly in the model & film industry.)

  2. The person is very muscular, but they have the self-image of someone who is not very muscular. (Gym bro who thinks is too small but looks like Bradley Martin)

In both cases, these people will then destroy their bodies. Because they believe they are "fixing" their bodies, which causes them to take unhealthy actions. Of course, this never works, because they already are the way they want to look. The root of the problem is that they have a negative Self Image. They are caught in the blue zone. The process looks generally like this:

  1. They have a negative self-image

  2. So they attempt to fix it by under-eating

  3. They then end up feeling poorly, and getting skinnier.

  4. Their self-image has not changed though

  5. So they go on repeating this process endlessly (which is why this is so dangerous).

*And if the people around them make comments about their bodies, it will make it worse (because it reinforces their negative self-image). Keep in mind this is a very simplified version of this disease. The point is to introduce you to how dangerous this stuff is. The Law Of The Player Self-Image Do you see how this might translate to on-ice performance? This is similar downward spiral that so many hockey players face with their abilities. The way a hockey player sees himself has a direct impact on how he plays. If a player is on the first line, but his true self-image is of a 4th liner, he will slowly gravitate to the 4th line. This also tends to happen the other way. If a player is on the 4th line, but deep down sees himself as a 1st liner, he will gravitate to the 1st line. Now let me be very clear. This does not mean you say "I am a 1st liner!" and you just appear on the 1st line. I mean that if deep down your Player Image will drive you to take the long-term actions, that will get you there. Again when we look at this image it starts to become much more clear.

Why Does This Happen? This happens because your subconscious mind is like a self-driving car that takes you to where you tell it to go. The problem is that the only way to communicate with this self-driving car is through experience. It needs to see and experience what you want to create. Then it can go out and do it. The problem is that most players have endless memories & future projections of failure playing in their heads at all times. They make 10 good plays in a game, make one mistake, and then replay the mistake in their head over and over. Every time they replay it, they reinforce a negative self-image. This leads them to subconsciously see themselves as someone who always messes up. Then they wonder why they play so fearfully. The car assumes that you want to make mistakes and be fearful because that is the only experience you give it. This all shapes the player we believe to be. If we want to change, this has to change. Changing Your Beliefs First, we are going to start at the root. Your beliefs. Fundamentally, your beliefs are what make up your Self Image. Beliefs matter so much more than we realize. As we mentioned earlier, they matter because they influence what actions we take. If we look at a task and think "This is impossible", then of course we will not try to complete it. But instead, if you look at something and think "This might be hard, but it can definitely be done"... ...your actions will change to align with your beliefs if you also have a desire to do that thing. Therefore, we want to construct and integrate a series of beliefs that allow us to naturally pursue our goals through the right actions. Most players are stumped by this because it goes against everything they have been taught about success. You are accustomed to starting on DOING something physical first. I’m telling you there needs to be a foundation of rock-solid beliefs if we want to do anything special. And sure you may have doubts, but the belief in yourself must be stronger. That is confidence. But why do so few players have this type of confidence? School Teaches You Bad Habits At school, your first step is always action. To understand your teacher would make you:

  • DO exercises in the textbook

  • Read papers

  • Practice exercise problems.

You physically did things to progress from one point to another. The problem is that if you do not do well at these things right away, your self-image is negatively wired. If you suck at math early on, then you likely assume you will suck math in the future. This is the Actions Before Beliefs Trap To get to where you want to go, you have to change your beliefs, not your actions FIRST. It sounds a little crazy, but on a fundamental level: Actions follow beliefs. This is what actually allows players in our programs to:

  • 5x their goal totals from one season to the next.

  • Go from 4th line to top scorer.

  • Go from Tier 3 Junior with no offers to Tier 2 Junior with several NCAA offers

The key thing we taught them is that:

  1. First, you change your beliefs

  2. which will lead to new desirable actions

  3. that lead to your desired goals

  4. Which reinforce beliefs

Think about setting up the right beliefs as paving the road or setting up the railroad for you to travel to your end destination.

It’s still natural to scoff at such an idea until you begin to analyze your own behaviour. To score more goals:

  1. First, you must believe you can be a goal-scorer

  2. Then you will give yourself permission to shoot the puck (the precursor to scoring)

  3. Then when you score it will reinforce your belief in scoring

To make more moves:

  1. If you want to make great moves you have to believe you can make great moves

  2. Then you will give yourself permission to try great moves

  3. Then when you make great moves it will reinforce your belief

Sure you can try to do it the other way around, but you are swimming upstream. It's much harder that way. If your subconscious beliefs (self-image) are telling you that you aren't a goal scorer, you might score a few goals. But it will feel weird and unnatural. On a subconscious level, you will feel more comfortable being frustrated about not scoring versus being a scorer You will want to return to your Old Subconscious Self Image. CRAZY RIGHT!? You might not believe me now, but play out the rest of the season and watch what I said play out in front of you. What is next Coach? How can I fix my Self Image? Fixing Your Player Self-Image? Now the question becomes how do I make this shift? How do I shift my beliefs? This is the first step to shifting your Hockey Identity. It's also the first step to becoming the player scouts drool over. This first article was made to make you aware of the problem. Not to overload you with information. I will be releasing 3 more free articles! Each one takes you deeper into this side of mental performance and answers the questions you have! In those articles, you will receive expert breakdowns and instructions on how to shift your Hockey Identity and improve your on-ice performance. So please subscribe to my free newsletter where you will receive my free articles when they are published, and please keep your eye on my Instagram for when the next lesson drops. Hope you have a great week - go make some s*** happen on this ice! - Corson

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Who is Corson Searles?

I am a former player & mental/performance advisor for AAA, junior, college, and pro hockey players. I am obsessed with dissecting atheletic performance potential, lifestyle design, and hockey development.


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