Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Hockey Training Interview with Kim McCullough

For those of you that don’t know Kim, she’s a BRILLIANT hockey coach that has invaluable insight into improving every aspect of your game on the ice (on-ice work, mental preparation, off-ice training, etc.).

She’s also the author of the ebook  Best Hockey Season Ever, a book I recommend to every hockey player and coach.

Kim and I recently spoke about one aspect of hockey training that can have a HUGE impact on performance that you may be overlooking.

Below is the first half of our interview:

KN: Kim, I’d like to start off by asking you a question that a teacher of mine once asked me: What percentage of hockey performance do you think is mental?

KM: I have two answers to this. In the beginning, when players are still acquiring basic skills, like skating, passing and shooting, that you might be at a 50-50% split between mental and physical. Once players have the ability to play the game without having to consciously think about performing the physical skills, I’d say we shift closer to a 70% mental and 30% physical split.  I’ve played with and against many players who were great practice players – but as soon as they had to think on the move during the course of their game, their skill all but disappears.

KN: I think we all have played with players like that! Considering that such a high percentage of performance is mental, what aspect of hockey players’ mentality do you notice is preventing them from playing their best?

KM: I would say the two biggest challenges for players on the mental side of the game are a lack of confidence and a negative attitude.  The lack of confidence issue I see more in girls hockey than in boys hockey, but it is a big issue in both games.  Players constantly downplay their accomplishments and allow the one or two little mistakes they made overshadow their overall performance.  I had a player score her first goal last season (she actually scored a hat-trick) and yet she was angry after the game because of one stupid pass she made on the power-play.

KM: Players will say things like, “I sucked today” or “I played the worst game ever” when they make a few mistakes out there.  Hockey is a game of mistakes and I can count on one hand the number of “perfect games” I played in my 10-year career.  I always made a few mistakes – the important thing is to move on as quickly as possible and focus on the next shift.  The negative attitude issue is huge in both boys and girls hockey.  It drives me crazy when players say, “I can’t do that”, “I can’t shoot a high backhand”, “I can’t score”.  Using the word “can’t” automatically puts you in a negative mindset and you basically give yourself permission to underperform on that skill.  I’m not saying players need to be 100% positive all the time, but there is never an instance where positivity will hurt you – and negativity always will.

Post your comments below and check back in the next couple days for the second half of the interview!

-Kevin Neeld

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Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.