John Stevenson Audio Podcast- The Mental Component to Goaltending

Listen to John talk about the Six C’s and how you can improve your Focus through simple therapy.

A Sports Psychologist Shares The 6 C’s For Mental Performance

Welcome to smart search and media podcast. I’m your host, Chuck Fasty. My guest today. I’m very excited to welcome John Stevenson. John Stevenson is a sports psychologist and a psychotherapist out in Edmonton, Alberta with Zone Performance.
John is most notably known for working with rookie sensation goaltender Carter Heart of the Philadelphia Flyers and also with Braden Holtby from the Washington Capitals, the Vesna trophy winning goalie and Stanley Cup champion.

We’re going to be speaking about eight different topics today and I’m really excited about sharing John’s insight with you as well and we’ll look forward to talking to John and getting your feedback on the back end of the show.

Hello and welcome to smart search media podcast. I’m your host, Chuck Fasty. We’ve got John Stevenson, sports psychologist, in the studio today and we’re going to be talking about goaltending. John Stevenson, are you there?

I am Chuck. Good morning. Well, thanks a lot for being on the show today. Really excited about having a chat with you about goaltending. Obviously, you know, you’re an old goaltender yourself as well as I am.

But I thought I’d start off right away with just jumping in on the mental aspect of the game. Cause obviously it’s the toughest position in sports. So I thought I’d talk about the mental aspect of the game more with you today.

Just to get your take on that, like how important is the mental aspect of the game? Inside of like being an elite goalie?
Well, I think the, the big thing is when you get to the upper levels, Chuck everybody is, good. Everybody’s technically sound. You know, each individual guy might be a little bit stronger, more flexible.

The Mental Game from A Sports Psychologist

But if you look at the goalies and the NHL, what determines the guy from being, you know, who’s first in the league and you know, last in the league. It’s that mental component on a, on a daily basis, you know, being able to be more in the moment. If you have a tough game, being able to let that go real quickly and getting back on task.

I mean, obviously there’s tools that you’re going to teach these kids and elite goalies and we’re going to get more into that as we go along in the podcast.

You have a mantra of the six CS and we’re going to talk about that in another podcast.

But just thought I’d asked you, what are the six CS that you use as tools to help your goal is be in the moment and develop that mental toughness?

Well, it’s interesting, like when I go and do clinics as a sports psychologist, you know, at goalie schools, I always ask, ask the kids or the parents you know, when a goalie’s playing well, you know, what’s their focus like? And you know, I’ll say, is it poor, average, good or great?

And often they’ll say, well, yeah, when he’s in the zone, he’s in, his focus is really good. And then I’ll ask, okay, you don’t want to goalie or he’s in a slump, you know, what’s his focus like? Then you know, as a core average good or great, and they often say, well it’s poor. And I’ll say no.

In fact it’s actually really, really good. And I get a lot of really strange looks. And you know, when we work with goalies, the first thing we talk about is you have to think of your focus like a flashlight. So wherever your flashlight is going, that’s where you’re sending 100% of your energy.

Concentration | The First C

So I always use the joke, you know, you’ve often as a goalie Chuck, you know this, Hey, there’s a minute left in the game. The goalie’s going to get a shut out. And then you’re just, you know, you’re cursing. You’re like, who the heck just said that?

Yeah. And, and my goalie coach, who wasn’t a sports psychologist, you know, one of the things he explained to me is he literally, we wrote in on a dark ice surface and he brought up one of these coal miner helmets.

And literally we, he said, put this on. And, and he said, okay, imagine you know, you’re up one. Nothing was a minute left in the game lineup. You know as if the face office to your glove side. And so he said, turn the light on right now and well where’s your flashlight?

Well, it’s at the face off. And then he goes, well what happens if your flashlight goes up to the scoreboard? Because you’re thinking about that shutter. Well, if your flashlight is on the scoreboard, guess where it’s not on the pocket and the play in front of you.

So the first see that we talk about, and I think this is, you know, when you’re actually playing this is the key is concentration.
And so you know when you’re playing well, your focus is good because you’re focusing on the right thing at the right time, in the right way. When you’re playing poorly, your focus is great, but it’s on the wrong thing at the wrong time, in the wrong way.

For example, we’ve got Alberta cup coming up here in Alberta and that’s the top bantams. While it’s amazing how many kids, whether you’re for defenseman or goalie, you know their flashlight goes up into the stands because they’re worried about what the Western hockey league Scouts are thinking.

Commitment | The Second C

And if their flashlight goes up there well it’s not on the ice surface and man, I always joke with the kids, you know, the, the, the next C is commitment. You know, how committed are you to improving your physical, technical, tactical, mental part of the game and your lifestyle.

And if you’re and I always ask the kids, you know, like what do you do all this training for, you know, like what do you do?
All this power skating, what do you do all this dry land for? And the common answer I get all the time is, well it’s cause I want to get better. And, and that’s true. And I think that’s the third reason why you do all the training.
But the number one reason that, you know, I always emphasize with the kids is you want to eventually get to the point when you’re playing. If you look at, you know, it doesn’t matter what sport, but when you’re playing at your best, you’re, you’re just trusting your training.

You’re, you have what you’re trusting your muscle memory. You have that quiet mind. And if your flashlight is pointing on your head because you’re focusing on your thoughts, whatever they may be.
Well again, guess where your flashlight’s not, it’s not pointing, you know, at the ice surface where it needs to be in the moment.
You know, as a player that’s literally happening in front of you. So when we talk about commitment, we want to get it to the point where you have that trust, you have that safe that you’re just going to go, well you don’t, you’re not thinking about doing an RVH or you’re not thinking about making a glove safe. You’re just reading and reacting.

So, you know, I joke about it, but the phrase that I often use, like my job as a mental coach is to help you have a quiet mind, get out of your head. So you’re literally playing out of your mind.

Consistency | The Third C

And the other thing that a lot of goalies, you know, the other C that we talk about is consistency and good performances and bad performances don’t happen.

Like the weather, they’re not random. And there’s a real reason why you know, athletes perform well.
On a consistent basis. They, they have a, you know, a physical routine, but they also have a mental routine that allows them to, you know, consistently play well. It’s, they, it’s like the way the metaphor that I often use is. An airplane pilot and you know, before the flight takes off, they’re always doing the series of pre-flight checks to make sure that everything you know, is, is good to go.

The best goalies in the world, you know, they have that capacity. You know, Brayden, Holtby and I, we joked about it, but we call it the Cinderella effect. So after the game, you know, similar to the military, they’ll do, they’ll debrief the mission, they’ll look at what’s went well, what are some things that they want to work on.
You know, some things that they’d want to do to come up with that save if the goal got by them and then, you know, set some training goals.

And then literally that game is done Chuck. It’s over, you know, so by midnight the pumpkin is, is, is done. And so that’s how goalies the best goalies in the world. Learn to let it go and then get back into the moment in terms of their pregame routine.
And if you’re so into your pre pregame routine, like where you’re doing your ball drills, you’re doing your vision drills, you’re doing your stretching, your dynamic warmup, you’re so into the moment, you’re not allowing your mind to go into the what ifs or half to’s or got to’s or need to.

So we talk about, you know, being able to focus your concentration, your commitment level, you know, to getting better in each each day. There’s a principle called can I.

What Is The Can I Principle?

Can I make the PeeWee AA team? Can I make the midget AAA team? Can I make the, the OHL team?
And what do we mean by that? Is constant and never ending improvement. So you’re always working on your core, you’re working on your skating, you’re improving your diets.

And this, this is a huge.
The best goalies in the world. You know, as much as Braden is one of Vesna and he’s won a Stanley cup, he’s always looking to get better.

Composure | The 4th C

And then we talk about composure. The best goalies in the world have that even keel approach.
They never get too high, they never get too low. And they have the tools in the toolbox per se that, you know, if they’ve got that penalty shot that you know, could ultimately win the game. They can control their heart rate, they can control their muscle tension.

Competence | The 5th C

So these are the types of things like that, you know, kids can work. Competence is another big C and this is where the skill of mental rehearsal and positive self talk, and it’s amazing how many kids, you know, they don’t realize how they sabotage their competence.

Chuck, because when we go to explain a game, I’ll give you an example as a sports psychologist. I have earlier on in the year, I had a midget AAA goalie. You know, he came into my office and I said, how are things going?

Johnny, I’m playing terrible. I can’t stop a beach ball. You know, everything sucks in my game right now. And I said, okay, let’s, let’s have a look at your game though.

Well when we looked at his game, Phil, really the only thing that he was doing, Chuck, is he was leaving his speed a little bit early. But if you use these global explanations, like, you know, I can’t do this, I can’t do that.

As opposed to looking at the game and finding the specific thing that allowed you not to perform better that day. Because if you’re saying I can’t do this, I can’t do that, well then you don’t have any specific things that you work on.

And it’s amazing how many kids use this permanent and they use this global language to explain, you know, not so good performances as opposed to using specific explanations and using, you know, like very time orientated.

And so, you know, I said to this young guy, so we can, what are drills that we can do on and off the ice to work on helping you with your patience and your composure? Well, next thing you know, he goes and does all this.

And then he goes on a run for two months where he’s, you know, the top goalie in the league. So these are the types of things. It’s skills, just like your physical skills and your skating skills, composure, consistency commitment.

Coachability | The 6th C From a Sports Psychologist

And I think the final C that, that I really work on with my clients is coachability. Are you open to hear new ideas?
A lot of the goalies that I work with as their sports psychologist, they’re, they’re very talented but they have to have an open mind to, you know, grow in different areas.

That’s the final C and then, yeah, and I mean, just to, to, to keep on top of that because those are all important.
And when kids come to, whether they be young goaltenders or you know, in midgets or Bantam a, what is the most important part of the C’s for you inside of teaching these kids?

So that way they can actually use that muscle of mental toughness to be better off as goalies and people
In my opinion, Chuck you know being a sports psychologist, one of my students and you’re familiar with them is Nick Schneider. He’s a goalie with the Calgary flames. And this young man has a had everything that you could possibly imagine happen to him.

But his commitment level that’s the biggest, see for me. You know, that commitment level to keep getting better and having that mental resiliency to just keep, you know, battling despite whatever, you know, all the obstacles that are happening in front of you. And so for me, commitment is the biggest of the C’s.

Yeah, I agree with you. Cause I mean, like if you don’t have the commitment, you know, you don’t, everything falls off by the wayside as well.
We’re going to take a break there and if you wanted to learn more about John Stevenson, sports psychologist, his program, we’re going to have all the links down below. Feel free to chime in and we’ll catch you next time.

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