Maximus was at it again with his trainer, Steve. It was a standard November fall day for the Northeast. It had been uncharacteristically warm for this time of year so it felt a bit more chilly and breezy than the past couple months. But nothing was going to slow Maximus down from improving on his goaltending today.

Maximus has been progressing nicely through his training regimen and got to the point where his physical skill sets, and his reactiveness to the ball in a controlled setting were as good as they possibly could be.  Maximus knew how much progress he’d made, but felt overall his game had plateaued and couldn’t identify why. As Steve was listening to Maximus articulate his thoughts about his situation, Steve knew exactly which part of his game had not yet reached the level of his physical and mental skill sets - his emotional skills! Steve explained how emotions in team sports are very useful and helpful but if managed incorrectly they become your worst nightmare. So, Steve moved on to a drill that was sure to expose Maximus’ emotional habits. It was a drill that overloaded Maximus because of the pace and the amount of reps. he would get in a very short amount of time. Steve started taking shots from right outside of the crease in rapid succession - Maximus would make a save and throw back to Steve and Steve was shooting back at Maximus before he was even set. This overload drill created a very overwhelming and anxious feeling in Maximus - exactly what the drill was designed to do. But instead of Maximus correcting himself and moving through the drill, his mind started racing, movements became very rigid, and he started to panic. While he was panicking, his body language was telling a very defeated, non-competitive story. Steve was enjoying the digression because he knew Maximus needed to experience these negative emotions in order to improve his entire game.

After the beating Maximus took, Steve asked him to step out of the crease and then fired some more at him, just this time with questions and not balls.

Why are you in a panic, asked Steve? Why are you allowing the results of this drill to affect your performance, fired Steve? How can we fix it? Steve added a challenge and then ordered Maximus back to the goal for more shots. The challenge was, “I am going to put you through the same exact drill except this time you’re allowed to be angry, anxious, or even happy but do not allow it to interfere with your job.” What is your job, pounced Steve with a direct question? Maximus thought about it and was about to say the three word term that is the biggest No-No in front of Steve, “I don’t know.” but Steve cut him off and said, “Your job as a goalie is to be set as early as you can for as long as you can so you can compete to have a chance at making saves. You don’t control the shooter, you only control yourself.” Steve had Maximus’ attention now. Steve proceeded, “Your emotions in the last round prevented you from doing all of the above so this time allow the emotions to come through, don’t deny them.” Steve explained why embracing his emotions was better than denying them for performance purposes. Steve, still in an enthusiastically, I just discovered electricity, way, kept driving home his point, “Properly managed emotions guide you, improper management ruins you. Embracing your emotions allows you to separate them from your will to compete. As long as your will to compete is in tact your physical and mental skills will shine, the millisecond your will to compete is suppressed, those same physical and mental skills disappear. Your will to compete must be strong enough to withstand the attacks of negative and unproductive emotions.”

Maximus listened intently but was now waiting for the next command. Steve said, “Get in there and compete!”

After five shots Maximus looked like a different person, Steve paused and said, “how did that sequence feel?” Maximus replied with a huge sigh of relief and said, “It felt much better.” Maximus explained further, “By you allowing me to be emotional actually helped me be emotionally free and I could manage them.” Steve said, “now you’re getting it. Every time your emotions come to a boil and you want to let them explode over the side of the pot, you instead embrace them, give ‘em a hug and say I’ll call you later, you improve and your will to compete drives deeper into your soul. The opposite is true though, too. The choice is yours.”