No position in sport may be more susceptible to anxiety issues than goaltending. To add to the pressures of performing, a goalie spends the entire game following the puck and there can be plenty of time for the goalie to think about what has happened, what is to come, and the consequences of failure.
Anxiety is a negative emotional state in which feelings of nervousness, worry, and apprehension that affects the mental, physical and behavior of athletes. Typical anxiety is related to fear of failure or being injured, what a poor performance will cause others to think, and the unknown. Goalies need to learn to regulate their anxiety levels meaning the goalie must become aware of the feelings during practice and games and learn to control or adjust the feelings so performance is not affected.
Although some levels of anxiety are necessary for success, too much can lead to muscle tension, reduced flexibility, and mobility according to Hanin (Emotions in Sport, 2000). Additionally, Weinberg and Gould (Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2003) found anxiety can affect a goalie’s performance by hampering concentration with a narrowing of the attention field. Simply, goalies may not scan the play as thoroughly as required leading to poor decision-making from lack of information.
There are two broad methods a goalie can use to control anxiety.
First, one technique is through relaxation. Simply, goalies can tighten and relax muscles. Goalie begins with arm and tenses up the muscles to the count of five. Then, he relaxes the muscle. This is repeated a total of 2 or 3 times and then focus is switched to leg muscles. This relaxation is designed to increase awareness of muscle tension, reduce anxiety, and enhance energy levels by identifying between sensations of tension and deep relaxation.
Second, is controlling breathes. A smooth, slow, and regular breath during inhaling and exhaling with counting to five for each cycle (i.e. inhale for 5 seconds and then exhale for 5 seconds). Breathing through the nose as opposed to the mouth tends to reduce anxiety levels more effectively.
Both of these methods can be used by the goalie as the play is in the other end of the ice making either, or both, ideal for goalies to implement during a game.