Ways to Improve Your Mental Game at Home

Your brain needs to be trained just like your body does. Since many of us have a lot of spare time at home right now, it’s the perfect time to get your brain back in shape. Gaining knowledge about the sport that can be applied in game is important. You can gain that knowledge by reading text and watching video. Additional knowledge can help you understand where to be and what to do in certain situations, but that additional knowledge doesn’t help if you can’t use it to make split second decisions. It is important to develop your problem solving ability so that the information can be applied quickly. Try these activities to build your knowledge and brainpower.

Read

Reading is a nice way to spend your free time. It's good for your brain, and if you choose to read a physical book it gives your eyes a break from screens. Reading about hockey can help to teach you new skills and sharpen your mental game. There are a lot of options for reading about hockey: books, magazines, web pages, etc.

Books

Take your eye off the puck

Improve your hockey watching experience by learning about what’s going on away from the puck carrier. Grasp offensive and defensive strategies. Learn more from the pros by understanding why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Hockey Plays and Strategies

Become a hockey savant with one of the most in depth resources for hockey strategy. In depth discussion of offense, defense, and special teams.

The Hockey Handbook

Originally published in the 50’s, the Soviets used this book as the foundation for their powerhouse hockey program. Not perfect for the modern game but worthwhile.

The Hockey Coaching Bible

Learn from some of the top coaches in the game. Covers strategy as wells as drills and information on practices.

Goaltending

There are a few choices for quality goaltending books. All three cover all aspects of goaltending

Hockey Goaltending 1st Edition

 

Hockey Goaltending 2nd Edition

 

The Hockey Goalie’s Complete Guide

 

Magazines

Every member of USA Hockey gets a copy of USA Hockey Magazine in the mail every month. It has tips and drills to improve in every issue.

Online Resources

There’s a lot of great content online for free to improve your game.

Hockey Graphs

Using data to learn about hockey and drive better decision making. Many of the contributors work for high end hockey analytics firms and pro teams

How to Hockey

Coach Jeremy puts a ton of content on both his site and YouTube channel

Beer League Tips

A collection of tips and articles ranging from beginner to advanced

USA Hockey Intelligym

While the Intelligym costs money, there are free articles about gaining hockey sense posted on the site

USA Hockey

Free resources are posted to help players and coaches of all ages and skill levels

Watch

There are more resources online now than ever. Choices are endless including tutorial videos, strategy videos, and game film. Finding something new to learn or developing your skills further is as easy as visiting Youtube or Google.

Film

Watching game film is a great way to develop your mental game. Whether you’re watching professionals, your team, or your opponents there’s always something to learn from watching film. Try to study the game instead of just watching the game and following the puck. Pick a player that plays the same position as you and watch him the whole shift, particularly when they are away from the puck. Try to find film online of hockey legends. Pay attention to where they go on the ice, how they support the puck carrier, their body positioning defensively, or how far they back check. Here are a few to get started:

Nicklas Lidstrom Playing Without the Puck

Great NHL Penalty Kills

Sidney Crosby Defensive Awareness

xXLaflammeXx's Youtube Channel has so many great highlight videos of specific parts of Crosby's game. It shows the dedication to building those skills. Videos like these are hard to find

If you watch some of your own games, see where you can improve your game. Maybe you tend to skate past the puck on an opponent. Maybe you pinch into the offensive zone a little too late. Maybe your line mate is always open on the back door and you just never see him. Be honest with yourself and see what you can be doing better.

Strategy

Watch videos to improve your knowledge of hockey strategy. Here are some ideas for things to expand your knowledge on:

  • Offensive, defensive, and neutral zone formations
  • Breakouts and defending breakouts
  • Special teams: powerplay and penalty kill
  • Forecheck and backcheck
  • Faceoffs

Tutorials

Check out some videos that teach you a specific skill or new drill. Here are some Youtube channels that put out awesome videos regularly:

Pennsylvania Puck

How To Hockey

Pavel Barber

iTrain Hockey

24/7 Hockey

Follow them on social media as well for even more great content.

Learn

Learning creates new neural pathways in the brain. It makes the brain work more efficiently. So getting better at things other than hockey can help you process the game more quickly. Use some time spent indoors to read some nonfiction, practice an instrument, practice other sports, or try these ideas:

Develop Math Skills

If you hate math it’s probably because you’re not good at it. Math is a skill that needs practiced like any other skill. Improving math skills can benefit problem solving ability. Changing the way you approach problems can enhance all aspects of life including athletic performance. Practicing math can help you to: add up the plates on the bar more quickly, double a recipe more easily, place a smarter bet, play a better hand in poker, build a more precise construction project, make better in game decisions, and much more.

Start with the basic operations, then get solid with algebra, then you can move on to other topics. There are a lot of useful and interesting areas of math that aren’t taught in schools. Since you’re learning outside of school you can choose a topic that interests you. Check out lists of topics like this and this for things that sound cool. Practicing math can be a nice way to refresh your brain, especially if it’s been a while. With resources like Khan Academy available it’s easy to get started.

Learn a Language

Learning a language is a daunting task but can have profound positive effects on your brain. Language learning is another subject that we’re forced to do in school, so many people have negative feelings towards it. Give it a shot on your own time, at your own pace, and see if your feelings change. With free resources like DuoLingo and Babbel it’s never been easier to get started.

Learn to Code

Everything around you that is electronic runs on code. Learning to code can change your perspective on the world around you. When you drive a car, you probably understand that the engine uses fuel to generate power which is transferred by the transmission to the tires which make it go. Do you have that same understanding of a computer or website? What exactly happens when you type flex.hockey into the browser bar and hit enter?

Coding problems are frequently puzzles that need solved. They can really test your problem solving abilities. Challenging your brain to conquer tough challenges will make you that much more able to conquer the challenges you face in athletics. Check out websites like Code Academy and Code Wars to get started.

Play Video Games

We don’t recommend that you play video games as training but we assume that you’ll be playing a lot of video games already. Whether it’s a sports game, shooter, strategy, or something else, there are aspects of video games that you can focus on help to improve your athletic performance.

  • Reaction time – an important skill for athletics that is challenging to improve, video games often force you to react before your opponent
  • Problem solving – puzzles and strategies in video games frequently force you to think through a problem thoroughly. Skip the online walkthroughs and figure it out on your own
  • Vision – scanning the screen for enemies and opportunities can train your eyes to process and scan the ice for a breakout pass, view the goalie’s positioning for a vulnerability, or even notice things on film that you may not have noticed before
  • Anticipation – the greatest in the game are always 5-6 steps ahead. They skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is. Video games can exercise your ability to process a situation ahead of time and correctly infer the outcome

Conclusion

Time spent stuck indoors doesn’t have to be a waste. If you don’t have space to physically practice you can still improve your mental game. Both hockey specific training and general brain training can have a positive effect on your hockey sense. Take the time to read some books, find some quality content to watch online, and develop your intellectual skills for benefits both on and off the ice. Your brain needs to be trained just like your body does. Take care of it and it’ll take care of you.