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Kayla's week....

Just over 12 months ago, Kayla Poole suffered a completely ruptured ACL shortly after being selected to represent Great Britain in the 2022 four nations tournament, putting any hope of appearing in the 2022 World Championships in Turkey out of the window.


She knew that the 2023 World Championships in Dumfries would be her final attempt to represent Great Britain at Junior level and set herself a 12 month target of not only returning to fitness, but also ensuring that technically, tactically and mentally she was in the best place possible to get her in the mix for Dumfries 2023.


I first met Kayla at the Clancy and Co Goaltender camp in Hull last summer.  I liked her instantly.  She’s got an infectious personality, doesn’t take herself too seriously and has that magic quality - she wants to get better.  The meeting stayed with me, possibly because whilst talking to her about scanning and threat identification, I made my way onto the ice to demonstrate the visual impact of scanning - Not something I do regularly (I’m not sure I’ve done it since to be honest!), so when I was looking at Goaltenders for the Athlete Partnership Program this year, I knew I wanted Kayla involved.


So much so that I sent her the link to register her interest on Instagram - She didn’t reply! So I rang Dave Clancy and asked him to speak to her and encourage her to get involved.  He did, she messaged me and the rest, as they say, is history.


So why did I want to work with Kayla? Well, for one, I knew instantly from meeting her that she wanted to get better.  I knew how much the knee injury, and missing out on a lot of Hockey had effected her and I thought, no knew, that I could help her get where she wanted to go.  


We started working together properly in November 2022, predominantly via Zoom due to Kayla being in Swindon and me in Nottingham.  We’ve worked a lot on her focus, scanning, multi-object tracking and attention using Neurotracker and have seen some really positive improvements over November and December.



Over the past few weeks the focus turned to Dumfries and the 2023 IHHF U18 World Championships, for which Kayla had been selected.  Part 1 of the plan complete - get selected.


Kayla’s performances this week in Dumfries will always be in the history books - 94% Save percentage in a penalty shots defeat to Latvia, Shutout in a 3 - 0 win against Mexico and then a man of the match performance to keep the champions, Australia, out in the final game of the tournament.  All resulting in her being the best Goaltender in the tournament according to the stats.  Impressive stuff.



But what impresses me more is her mental focus last week and her desire and understanding to listen, learn, be open and honest.  We spoke every match day via zoom before the games and de-briefed every evening via WhatsApp after them.  We focussed a lot early in the week on techniques to remain calm and to ensure she enjoyed the process - what was the point in all that hard work to get here if you’re not going to enjoy it?


Prior to the Latvia game we had a mental plan to deal with nerves, changing the focus from the occasion and outcomes to Kayla and her processes.  We worked on what made her the best version of her, then put that onto her water bottle to help maintain focus throughout the games.



We banned looking at the clock, we focussed repeatedly on process over outcomes - The score will take care of itself was the mantra for the whole week.


For the Mexico game the focus was again process - One shot at a time, focus on what makes you good.  Deep breaths, mental resets - understanding what success looks like - You being the best version of you.  We talked about removing the focus on save percentages and putting it back into processes - Skating well, getting square, beating the puck.


As the Australia game came round, there were new mental challenges - Frustration at not getting player of the match against Mexico for the shut out, frustration at not getting the start, anxiety about it going wrong when it had gone so well all week.  For me, this was the key chat of the week - We talked pre-game about memories, about important people and their thoughts about the week.  We talked about trophies being ‘attic ornaments’ and the memory of an event - how you felt - being the important factors.  We spoke about “what if’s” for the game and change them to “if…..then….”, specifically around what if Australia are behind and really start putting the pressure on.  As it happens, that’s what came - and Kayla had a perfect plan to deal with it - Regular focus on the water bottle, plus constant verbal cues to herself - next shot, next save.


We talked about visualisation - and had a clear plan to focus on movement, save selection and process pre-game.  Remember, the score will take care of itself.


The Australia game ended in a win for GB and a Player of the Match trophy for Kayla (possibly an attic ornament in the future, who knows!), but the memories will definitely last forever.



Last week proved to me once again that if you work at the mental game, you get the results you want.  

  • Process over Outcomes
  • Mental strategies
  • Mental re-sets.

If you are interested in learning more about the mental work I do with athletes, I am running an 8-week program, with a FREE taster session focussed on confidence.  You can book one of the free sessions using the links below.


  • Sunday 5th February (1pm - 2pm)


  • Thursday 9th February (8pm - 9pm)


  • Saturday 11th May (9am - 10am)


Last week was all about Kayla and her family - I am proud and honoured to have played a tiny part in this stage of her story.  You have not seen the last of this girl at International Level, and her mental game will only get stronger and stronger the more we work together.