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If you are a hockey player, you know that overthinking on the ice causes problems. Too many thoughts lead to hesitation, confusion and a lack of uncertainty in your abilities on the ice.

So, I'd like to introduce you to a strategy that might help you get into a nice playing frame of mind. The strategy was initially developed by my friends Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott – world-class golf coaches – using the Think Box and Play Box with leading professional golfers. For you, the Think Box and Play Box is a practical approach for your hockey routine to help you use your thinking brain to your advantage, introduce you to your "supercomputer" and let all of your training, coaching and experience do the work and allow you play the way you are capable of – using your well-developed instincts.

In all of the work I do with some of the world's leading athletes, including professional players in the NHL, we're always working toward the idea of "just playing" or "just play". Take out the interference, narrow the focus and allow talent, coaching and training to hit its mark.

The Supercomputer and the Calculator

You see, you want one of the world's most complex supercomputers, your subconscious mind, to run the show when you play. This supercomputer contains everything about you, your experiences, your memories and can do a million things at once. It seamlessly runs all of your body's systems and functions beneath your consciousness. For perspective, it is estimated it is 30,000 times more powerful than the conscious thinking brain.

Conversely, you want the calculator, your thinking brain or prefrontal cortex, to stay out of the way. It is slow and weak and can only process a small amount of information at one time. The tendency for athletes is to overload this thinking brain with so many thoughts that you hesitate, get confused and don't allow the supercomputer to run the show. This is what you commonly know as overthinking. In high performance, when many things are happening at once and the landscape is constantly shifting, there is no place for slow processing - especially in a fast game like the game of hockey.

So, instead of responding to what's in front of you on the ice with your well developed instincts and enjoying the game - your thinking brain gets in the way, you become anxious and too many thoughts in the calculator short circuit your performance…

"Why didn't I take the shot?"
"Where should I be?"
"Should I jump in or not?"
Sound familiar?

The Think Box and the Play Box

I’d like you to consider a strategy that you can use in your game that will allow you to use your supercomputer and keep the calculator in check.

Think box model

Before you jump on the ice from the bench – you will from now on be in the Think Box. In the Think Box you can consider coach suggestions, review the last shift, think about what you want to execute on the ice. You want to distill all of this down to one key thought for the thinking brain.

players in the think box (bench)

When your time to hit the ice arrives, immediately when you pass through the gate from the bench to the ice or jump over the boards, you are now in the "Play Box" where your supercomputer or subconscious is in charge. You are on autopilot trusting your instincts, experience and training. Once you get into the Play Box (the ice), keep one thought in the thinking brain to get things started in a positive way – and then just play and allow the subconscious to run the show. It knows what to do – trust that everything you need is there!

So, consider the Think Box and Play Box for your games. When you’re in the Think Box, getting instructions from your coach and getting ready to jump on the ice – put one, simple key thought in your thinking brain to help your shift. When you cross the line onto the ice and enter the Play Box, trust your supercomputer containing all of your training and experience to make the adjustments and run the show.

I think you’ll find that “just playing” will lead to better performance, take out the indecision and help you enjoy your game that much more.