You obviously need to get hit on the head more often!

The game has only been started for a few minutes and then whack the ball hits me right in the face! The ball is hard, very hard, it’s a hockey ball and I’m playing field hockey in my team at my local association. I’m not a skilled player but I enjoy the sport, the exercise is good and the socialising is great. Being the unskilled player I am I was doing my best to defend, i.e. stand in the way, when the opposition player hit the ball reasonably hard in an attempt to pass it to his teammate somewhere behind me, and I put my stick out in a crude attempt to stop the ball only for it to flick up off my stick and into my face, smack. The shock of being hit hard caused me to drop my stick and sink to my knees clutching my head. Everyone was immediately concerned I was badly hurt and as both teams play each other regularly we all either know each other or at least recognise each other. I quickly realised I wasn’t that badly hurt and the umpire confirmed a lack of blood so I opted to play on. 

The game carried on without further incident and we won 3-1, and no I didn’t score, I did mention the lack of skill didn’t I? A post-match gathering quickly turned into a round of back-slapping and congratulations for many of the team who had all performed well, including me, having managed to get in the way of a number of attacks and defended well, without getting hit again. This congratulation was delivered along the lines of;

Alec you played back-slappingly well today a top performance, you need to get hit on the head more often

Giggle, giggle, followed by much agreement that I clearly needed to be cracked over the head every week post-match put in a good performance.

​It did make me think though was it just a way of getting a giggle or is there any underlying truth to the notion that a quick, short, sharp change can have such an impact on your performance? 

Now I’m not suggesting that I’m actually going to smack my head before every match in the hope it will improve my performance but I am going to look at what else might have been going on and if I can replicate that. 

So what happened when that ball hit me? I think it went something like this;

Thinking: “Damn I missed the ball. Crap no I didn’t I just diverted it up towards me. I had better duck out of the way. Shit I just ducked my face straight into it. 

What the *%$^ hell am I doing out here anyway? It’s raining, I’m bloody no good at hockey any way and now my head hurts and not in a good I just woke up from an all night bender kind of way.”

Umpire: “Are you OK? Did you really just try to head that ball?”

Alec: “Actually I am OK, bit shocked but the hit wasn’t as hard as I first thought.”

Thinking: “Actually now that you ask, I’m out here because I enjoy the game and I really want us to win. We should have won more of our previous games but we didn’t perform as well as we can. So no I’m not going to sub off and give up. I’m going to think about what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m going to replay what was said in the team talk.”

The ball hitting me just made me stop and think. Simple as that. I knew what I needed to do as my part in the team but until I post-match with the decision of whether to quit or carry on I wasn’t as focused as I could be on what I needed to do.

Now did this result in us winning the game… no. We won the game because the weather was crappy slowing play down and that forced us to play as a team, thinking about each pass and attack. But I still played my part in the team. So how to crack your head without cracking your head?

That’s easy, good coaching or at very least good self analysis on your strengths and weaknesses and then sticking to a plan on improving them. Simply asking yourself the question “what the $%^%$ hell am I doing here” is a great start.