The 2022 IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp is underway in Vierumaki, Finland. During the week-long camp, players from 19 different countries participate in dozens of on- and off-ice activities to help them advance their skills.
Aside from two-a-day practices, 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 games and off-ice training, these young women benefit from classroom sessions covering different areas ranging from position-specific meetings, integrity topics like anti-doping and match-fixing, and media training.
Another part of the camp program is the inclusion of three mental skills sessions. Leading these sessions is Katja Pasanen, a professional coach who specializes in mental training.
During these sessions the girls will learn tools to improve their self-confidence, get better at goal-setting, and train themselves to focus their energy and block out distractions. In a world where athletes face more outside “noise” than ever before, there is value in training the part of their body that lies between the ears.
“The players are starting to realize that they can do something about their mental skills, and you can train your head just like your body. Even with this short time I have with them, I want these girls to recognize that they can change their feelings…if you’re having a bad day now it doesn’t automatically define how you will play that day, and one bad shift does not equal one bad game.”
“When I started doing mental training it was initially a strategy that I wanted to use so that I could become a better coach. When I was studying some men’s ice hockey teams approached me to help with their coaches, and later I was being approached by athletes from other sports.”
For the upcoming season, Pasanen will join the coaching staff of Finnish League club team Lukko Rauman as a mental skills coach, the first time a woman has been hired for such a position in the Finnish League.
Pasanen was drawn to mental skills development because she wanted to take a different approach to coaching.
“As a hockey coach it was already in my learning process then and now I do it full time, because I love my work and how I can help players in this way,” she said.
“I felt it was something I was missing as a player, I also have two adult children that did sports when they were younger, and I wanted them to believe that whatever they play or whatever they do in life they can believe in themselves, in the game, or wherever in life.”
When if come to mental training for the girls at the High Perfromance Camp, Pasanen doesn’t adjust her approach too much. She emphasizes having a support network, using strategies to build confidence and set personal goals, as well as providing tips for creating daily routines for themselves, planning their game days, and managing their time better to decrease stress.
“I tried to figure out what I could give them that would help them the most, because these are girls coming from many different countries and backgrounds. There are players that have competed at high level and others that haven’t, so we have to have easy, simple exercises that can be remembered.”
“Most of all I want them to come back to their homes with belief in themselves, they will get confidence from taking part in this camp, and I want them to remember this feeling and build on it further.”