As I receive and read more of the goalie questions, I've been noticing some patterns. I see described that the hardest part of playing the position is letting the ball go in, what they wish they could tell their younger selves is that it’s okay when the ball goes in, or the advice question centers around the mental part of the game. Today I wanted to dive into that a little more because, well that's what I do, I question the status quo and seek ways to improve it. Check out my blog last year on redefining mental toughness. I’ve always been a curious person and I think looking at aspects of the game from new angles can be helpful.
Failure's role in our mental game
Failure is hard, there are no doubts about it. Have you ever stopped to ask why it affects us so much or even why it affects only some more than others? I hear it all the time, and this was me, continually feeling sad or mad, and mainly being mad that I was continually getting mad about letting in shots and that I couldn’t get past it.
You’ve probably heard people say how the only way you learn is through failure and making mistakes. We learned this as a child when you try to climb something, then fall and hurt yourself that it’s dangerous and not to do it again or when you’re doing homework and get a problem wrong you simply erase and try another way until you get it. Somewhere along the way, I believe we lost this way of thinking. I saw it with myself and I see it with the girls I coach now.
So many players have these failures or mistakes, and instead of seeing them as what they are, events to learn and opportunities to improve, they internalize them as a character flaw and let them affect their inherent value and self-worth. It’s no surprise when kids make a mistake you see them either put their head down like when they were little, ashamed they did something wrong, or they throw their head up in frustration. Either way, they (when I say they, I should really say we because I was right there too) make these mistakes or failures more than they are.
Changing the Way We Think About Failure and Success
When you can’t stop thinking about a mistake, you need to figure out what went wrong and how you can improve it at the next opportunity. Doing anything else is a waste of your time and getting in the way making you better. If you don’t know how to improve the mistake or what exactly happened, that’s what teammates and coaches are for. I was either so frustrated in my mistake or frustrated at my frustration, often I couldn’t get to this point. Of course, I’d watch film to see after the fact, but in practice and in game, this is how you improve performance.
This is what I wish I could go and tell my younger self, that letting a goal in isn’t failure, it’s an opportunity to learn and improve. I wish I knew that letting a goal in wasn’t indicative of my lack of abilities at the game. So how do you change?
Keep in mind that change, especially regarding our thought patterns, takes time. How can you get there?
You become obsessed with progress, in your work ethic, and improvement by focusing on tasks outside of the limited measures of save is success and goal let in is failure.
Increasing Success With Goal Setting
Sometimes, holding where you’d normally come out is success, making that step forward where you’d usually step back is success. Although making saves is the “goal”, breaking it down into other skills is how you shift your views around saves and goals and your abilities. Even though you let a goal in, with your focus on progress, you know a month ago you would’ve been a foot over the crease and with that progress you have the confidence to worry less about the goal so that you are able to stay focused on the next shot instead of getting caught up in the goal that went in. With this mindset, you’re not ignoring the goal, we still want to focus on improvement, but when you make your goals about smaller tasks outside of saves you're able to recall and see improvement.
If you notice a stall in improvement, get curious and see if there’s another way you can go about improving that skill, work at it and see what happens. This is why progress always takes time because you have to find the right strategies of improvement for you. Once you do that you’ll slowly see challenges and likely failures, are necessary for improvement. In the long run, becoming obsessed with the improvement and the path to get there is what will set you apart and ultimately lead to success.
Want a way to make this process simple? Check out my weekly goal setting worksheet to keep you on track and focused on progress. Keep in mind, the more specific you make it, the better off you'll be. You can find the free worksheet here on my Shopify site. If you have any questions feel free to reach out!
If these ideas seem familar, it's because in large part this is inspired by the work of Carol Dweck. I highly recommend reading her book mindset - absolutely game changing!