The 30-Second Mental Game Hack for Owning The Next Play

Ben LevesqueMental GameLeave a Comment

quick set method for hockey players

As a hockey player, have you ever told yourself, “Man…I really wish I learned about this earlier. It coulda’ helped me come out on top so many times.”

Well, that’s exactly what I told myself when I learned about psychologist Jeff Simons3-step routine for maintaining emotional control and absolutely owning the moment.

And the best part? This routine literally takes just 30 seconds to complete.

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Sound a little over the top?

It’s not, and by the end of this article, you’ll know how to apply this simple 30-second hack to your own game in order to:

  • make sure you’re on your A-game as soon as the puck drops
  • re-focus after mistakes so that 1 bad play no longer leads to a bad game
  • be clutch when the game is on the line

If you struggle with focus, consistency, or simply performing in games as well as you do in practice, then this article is for you…

The ‘Quick Set’ Routine by Jeff Simons

At its core, this routine is built to help you attain maximum focus ‘in the moment.’

In other words, it helps you forget about things like bad referee calls, the mistake you made last shift, your coach’s negative feedback, and all that other draining stuff that takes your mind off the task at hand.

The Quick Set routine is all about regaining 100% focus, regardless of what just happened (the past) OR what’s about to happen (the future), so that you can perform at your best ‘in the moment’ (the present, which is where you want to be).

All that…in just 30 seconds!

Here’s how it works…

Step 1: The Physical Cue – preparing your body

The first step in the Quick Set routine is to establish your physical cue.

Your physical cue is used to prepare your body, get rid of tension, and help you feel loose & relaxed so that you’re physically ready to tackle the task at hand.

For example, my physical cue is as follows:

  • a quick shake of the legs to wake them up and get the blood flowing
  • a quick roll-of-the-stick between your hands to loosen them up and feel comfortable
  • a deep breath or two to relax and flood your body with oxygen

Feel free to copy it or come up with your own.

It doesn’t have to be over the top—the goal is just for your brain to acknowledge that your body is ready to perform.

This should take you no more than 10 seconds to complete, and it’s the first thing you’ll do during your Quick Set routine.

Step 2: The Emotional Cue – building quick confidence

The second part is all about preparing yourself emotionally.

What you need to do here is see yourself performing effectively in your mind in order to build quick confidence before the next play.

I talk more about this in The Hockey Sense Handbook, but essentially you want to see yourself doing the right thing and succeeding in your mind before doing it for real.

(NOTE: Want to stop making mistakes with the puck and finally take control of the game? Grab a copy of The Hockey Sense Handbook and take your Hockey Sense to the next level.)

hockey sense handbook

For example, if you’re a centerman about to take a face-off, see yourself winning the draw in your mind before you line up.

If you’re a winger going on for a shift in the defensive zone, see yourself breaking out successfully in your mind before you line up for the face-off.

If you’re a D-man about to go on for a tough defensive shift, see yourself winning puck battles in your mind before you jump on.

You get the idea.

The emotional cue is all about replaying past successes in your mind in order to build quick confidence right before you need to perform.

This step should also only take you 10 seconds to complete.

Tip: Practice visualizing a few different scenarios in your mind during down time so that you can bring them up during your emotional cue as part of the Quick Set routine.

Step 3: The Focus Cue – readying your mind

So far, you’ve prepared your body and built up some quick confidence in your abilities before getting ready to act.

All that’s left is for you to ready your mind with your focus cue.

Here’s where you eliminate all thoughts from your mind, other than the task at hand and the cue that’s going to let you know it’s time to perform.

The runner’s focus cue is the ‘BANG’ of the starting gun that lets him know to take off.

The outfielder in baseball’s focus cue is the crack of the bat when it makes contact with the ball.

The tennis player’s focus cue is when his opponent tosses the ball up in the air for a serve.

As a hockey player, your focus cues will typically be when the puck drops from the referee’s hand, or as soon as you jump over the boards between shifts.

The only thing you’re doing at this step—step 3 of the routine—is getting ready to GO!

Focusing on a specific event—like the drop of the puck or a hop over the boards—helps you zone in on the task at hand and reduces your fear of making mistakes.

Putting it all together

To add this highly-effective hack to your mental game toolbox, all you have to do is establish your 3 cues:

  1. your physical cue to prepare your body. Come up with something that helps your legs & hands relax.
  2. your emotional cue to build quick confidence in your abilities. Create a mental highlight reel of past successes.
  3. your focus cue that lets you know its ‘go-time’.  Clear your mind and focus 100% on the puck drop or jumping over the boards for your next shift.

It’s all about relaxing (step 1), reminding yourself that you’ve been in this same situation before and succeeded (step 2), and that you have no uncertainties or doubts—you’re just ready to get the job done (step3).

Run through this 3-step routine in sequence before your next play (it should only take you 30 seconds), and you’ll be much calmer, focused, and ready to perform.

That’s really all there is to it. Simple, but don’t underestimate it.

If there’s one thing I learned in life, it’s that oftentimes the simplest things have the greatest impact.

Take advantage of it…you’ll be glad you did!

What cues do you use in order to maximize focus? Share them in the comments below because I’d love to hear how you prepare for the next play!

hockey sense handbook

About the author

Ben Levesque

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Ben has been playing hockey for 20+ years and has learned a ton from playing with the world's best coaches & players. Among his accomplishments are a National Championship, a President's Cup, a Semi-Final finish at the Memorial Cup, several Queen's Cups and a helmet in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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