Don’t Chase the Snake

By: Drew Carlson

Mistakes… To some they are fertilizer for growth, to others they are fatal.

Mistakes are the starting point. It is the choice you make next which puts you on the path to learning from it or being derailed by it. Stop right now and think about what you say to yourself when you make a mistake.

What is your inner voice telling you? You should have a failure recovery system. And it should look different in practices than it does in games. Let’s first understand the issues that arise when you don’t have a system in place for failure recovery.

Let’s paint a picture. It’s the first period, the game has no score. Your teammate makes his check miss in the corner and creates a two on one at the net front, you slide into space on your one-time side on the back door, and you’re wide open. He slides you a perfect pass and as you go to connect, the puck hits off the heel of the blade and dribbles off the side of the net.

Missed opportunity.

Missing the net in the first period of a 0-0 game is the first mistake. It can end there, but most often it carries back to the bench. Your body language drops, there might be some “choice words” to yourself. Is any of this productive? Will it prevent you from playing well the rest of the period? The rest of the game? Some people will answer yes to these questions, and it hurts their game.

The first mistake is missing the net, the 2nd mistake is letting it bring you out of the present and affect even 1 more shift. 2nd mistakes by your mismanaged response to an event is what derails you. Missing the net happens, missing the rest of the game because you can’t course correct is unacceptable.

When the snake bites you, chasing after it makes your heart pump more blood so the venom travels through your bloodstream to more of the body doing more harm. When the snake bites, plan to get the venom out as quickly as you can. This is where are failure recovery system comes in.

When you make a mistake in a game: admit it and forget it. Get the venom out as quickly as you can. It cannot change the course of your game. The mistake can’t make you disappear for the rest of the period, or the rest of the game. Here’s one way to do failure recovery in a game.

You can come back to the bench after missing that backdoor tap-in and go through a reset. Admit it, come back to the present, generate and elevate a teammate. This is what that looks like:

  • Sit down on the bench after the shift, and say out loud, “I missed that chance, but it won’t define the rest of my game.”
  • Then look at the scoreboard and keep talking to yourself to come back to the present, “there’s 2:45 left in the 2nd” This brings you into the right here and now.
  • Tap your linemate next to you and say, “I’ve got you.” Immediately focused on helping a teammate and not focused on you.

That is what failure recovery looks like and sounds like. You can also develop your own way, but if you’re struggling, try out my script. Winning the moment is about the next 30 seconds, the next shift, the next play.

And I’ve got news for you…You will lose moments.

The best just don’t lose two in a row. The best players have one bad shift, not 6 in a row. They can reset their personal momentum by not chasing after the snake.

Reflect on your process towards mistakes in game.

Do you chase the snake?

What is your failure recovery system?