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Is It Good to Be An Overthinker In Hockey? (This Might Surprise You)

Most mental coaches will tell you that nearly all hockey players suffer from 'overthinking'.

Overthinking means that a player is thinking too much or more than needed.

They say overthinking is a problem.

This can be helpful advice for some players.

For many years, I assumed that the solution to overthinking was to 'think less'.

Seems logical right?

"If I think too much, I am distracting myself from the present moment".

This is actually wrong.

Overthinking is not the real issue.

Most players do not actually think too much.

It's actually ok to be thinking all of the time during games.

The problem most players have is something I call 'Loserthink' (a word taken from Scott Adams).

LOSERTHINK -> poor thinking that leads to poor outcomes.

Thinking Is Part Of Every Great Game

Thinking is a part of all great performances.

After working with many of the top talents in the world (Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews, Matt Barzal to name a few) NHL performance coach Darryl Belfry even makes the argument that the best players are chronic 'over thinkers'.

He argues that the greatest athletes in all sports actually never stop thinking.

Listen to this clip of Lebron James that Darryl suggested watching:

Does this sound like he was not thinking during the game?

Lebron is deeply aware of what is going on at all times in the game.

He was constant;y thinking of what was happening.

He was basically playing a complex chess game in his mind.

Most, if not all the best hockey players in the world are exactly the same.

They are constantly thinking in the game but in a different way than the average player.

Most players have scattered, confused, and nervous thinking.

That is not what Lebron is demonstrating in the video.

He thinks differently,

Great Players 'Think' Differently

In ALL great performances, each player is not absent of thought.

They are always 'thinking' while in the game.

The key is that they are in the 'flow state' while they are doing this.

The thoughts in their head are not like normal thoughts.

The thoughts are not like the ones bouncing in your head right now or during most people's normal days.

The thoughts are razor sharp.

They are deeply present thoughts.

They are anticipatory thoughts.

They are deeply trusted thoughts.

One may even call them instincts.

Each thought has a purpose and it is directly connected to what is going on in the game.

When a player is in deep flow, and people label him as 'not thinking', he is actually thinking very deeply.

He is in a state like an artist while painting.

Time is slowed down.

The external world has drifted away.

All that exists is the game in front of that player.

This is the flow state and this is where thinking is pure.

This is where a player's true self is found.

Awareness and IQ

Before we talk about techniques or anything else, I want to explain more about the process.

What is happening in these moments of 'no thought' is that our attention becomes centred on the game.

The player is only focused on the important parts of the game.

Notice where the players attention is focused

This is deeply connected with hockey IQ.

Hockey IQ requires a player to have a deep awareness of exactly what is happening around them.

They then take this information and make the most effective decision possible.

This cannot happen if the player doesn't slip into this magical flow state.

As the game slows down, the player can now 'think through the plays'.

This is why Lebron was able to explain in so much detail what had happened.

It's not because he was 'not thinking' instead he was so focused that he was thinking about everything.

He had entered the Matrix of the game and could see all that was happening.

Overthinking = Second Guessing (Loserthink)

Winners do not second guess themselves.

They trust their instincts.

Losers do not trust their thinking and are constantly hesitating to make plays.

This gets labelled as 'overthinking', but it is not.

A player who trusts his instinct is likely 'thinking' as much but they trusted their first thought.

They did not question it, double-take, or hesitate.

When someone gets the label 'overthinker', what they actually mean is that they are a:

  • slow thinker

  • hesitant thinker

If you are struggling with overthinking, you likely have the same problem.

If you want to unlock your thinking ability, you must develop higher-quality thinking.

We must think like the winners think.

Developing Winnerthink (Yes I meant to type that)

Have you ever wondered why some players show up and play so consistently at a high level?

Why are they able to play so well so often?

First, they must have the skill to play well (obviously)

The main reason for this is the flow state.

Simply put, the flow state is when your ability matches the challenge you face and you become deeply focused and present.

This is where the game becomes fun.

You become aware of everything in the game.

The game becomes easy.

Most players ask the question, "So how do I get into a flow state every game?".

Well, the first place to start is being good.

So having high skill and high physical ability.

We teach you how to do this in the Next Level Accelerator by mastering your training systems.

But, once you have the skills it doesn't guarantee you will be in the flow state every game.

Which means you will be inconsistent.

Mastering Flow State Entry

The best place to start with your mental game is to start training your ability to focus.

Focused attention is the root of hockey IQ.

Focused attention allows you to see everything that is happening on the ice.

Focused attention is at the root of every dangle because you had to be aware of where the opponent is to deke him out.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

If you still don't get it, let me ask you this question:

"Have you ever had a great shift where you were not focused during that shift?"

The answer is always going to be a NO.

Sure, you may have lacked focus before or after the shift, but that was not during the shift.

During the shift, I guarantee that you were deeply aware of what was going on.

Playing well REQUIRES a high degree of focus - this is a non-negotiable.

That is why focus matters.

How do you train it though?

Training your focus is actually much more simple than you think, but it is very hard to get good at.

What I mean is that it takes very little effort to start, but much time to get very good at.

The most simple place to start is not actually meditation (I know you thought I was going to say that).

The most simple place to start is actually just being more intentional about your focus each day.

Pay attention to the thoughts in your head.

Pay attention to the feelings you are experiencing.

Pay deep attention to what you see, touch, taste, and smell.

Mindfulness means: paying attention to what you are thinking, feeling, and experiencing.

It may sound corny or woo-woo, but mindfulness is what all the best athletes in the world have mastered.

Many of them do not realize that this is what the mental training world calls that skill.

Mastering Winnerthink (for most players) starts with mastering your mindful awareness.

You want to work towards living a life where you are in a continuous state of flow.

Doing this is about making your whole day about paying deep attention to what you do.

Everything you do can be an act of focused attention (which is ultimately the definition of focus).

Each time you improve on your focused attention you develop it like you develop your muscles working out.

Each time you focus deeply on something it's like doing a set of bicep curls or pushups.

And in a world of constant distraction, developing a strong focus ability will be your superpower.

Now what if you want to speed up the development of your focused attention?

This is where meditation comes in...

The Power of Meditation

Now, if you want to speed up the development of your focus and attention muscles there is a way.

It's through meditation.

Kobe Bryant explains why he used meditation here:

Meditation is the act of focusing on something.

It can mean focusing on your thoughts, feelings, breath, sight, sounds, touch, taste, smell or any combination of things in your experience.

Like how training your stickhandling skills in isolation versus playing a game.

Training your focus and attention in isolation (through meditation) is the same approach.

Focus is a skill that you can train and master.

Of course, you don't need to train your stickhandling in isolation to get better at stickhandling, but it sure seems to make a difference.

Is it a coincidence that all great stick handlers stickhandle off-ice all the time?

The same thing is starting to happen with meditation.

Players are realizing that they do not NEED to do it, but it sure seems to make a difference in their focus levels.

When your focus goes up, so does your confidence.

When confidence goes up you start playing to your potential.

Now do you see why mediation is valuable?

Now do you see why great athletes are now beginning to train this as their own skill?

It's not because they 'have to', it's because it gives them an extra edge, like working on your stickhandling.

When the big moments come in your hockey career, will you want high-quality focused awareness?

That's your answer.

So let's get you started on this path right now.

In that video, I take you through a 3-minute meditation.

So to get back to the idea of overthinking one last time.

Now it's clear to see that we are not trying to remove thinking from our game.

Instead, we are trying to improve the quality of our thinking.

We do this through focused attention development.

We want to focus our attention so deeply on the game that we feel as though we are a part of it.

This gets us into the flow state.

When we do that, we unlock a new level of our ability.

So what should you do next?

You have 2 action steps Leaving This Letter:

(If you want to take your game to the next level)

1. Be intentional about your focus and awareness throughout the day (work to have your whole life in a flow state -> which I am also working on)

2. Begin meditating daily to develop your deep focused awareness (for 10 minutes per day using a guided meditation of just silence and a timer)

These two steps have the power to take your game and life to an entirely new level!

There is much more to discuss when it comes to high-level thinking in hockey.

But, we will save that for next time.

If you want to learn the whole system with step-by-step guides to master your mental game and enter the flow of every game -> Check out the Next Level Accelerator.

Ethier way - keep crushing it, my friend.

Talk to you soon.

- 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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