For those of you who have qualms about seeing a shrink to deal
with your problems, it might comfort you to know that even some of
the toughest people on campus see one every week.

Those tough guys are the players on the Michigan hockey team.
Every Tuesday throughout the season — in addition to
practicing and lifting weights — the players gather together
with sports psychologist Hugh Bray to talk about what’s on
their minds.

Bray, a 1980 Michigan graduate who received his doctorate in
psychology from St. Louis University in 1986, has had a plethora of
experience in helping hockey players at all levels. He was formerly
the team psychologist for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and St.
Louis Blues, and also worked with the 1992 U.S. Olympic hockey
team.

The topics discussed vary from team to team, but they generally
follow a similar pattern. Bray’s major task at the beginning
of the season is to help with what he refers to as
“team-building” and helping the freshmen get acclimated
to the college hockey atmosphere. It differs greatly from the
topics discussed at a time such as now, when the team is in the
hunt for several postseason titles.

“As things get more important toward the end of the year,
(we) focus on parking distractions … and being able to
relax,” Bray said. “A lot of the teams are looking for
that confidence (that helps them in) getting rid of any doubts that
are there. (They focus on) what they need to do to be able to
perform at the level they’re really capable of.”

Bray’s meetings with the team usually don’t involve
the coaches. When Bray began working with the hockey program, coach
Red Berenson had lots of interest in what Bray was doing with the
team, and spoke to Bray almost daily.

While Red and Bray continue to talk about the team, they
don’t speak as often. Bray says that this pattern is typical
for any team that he works with.

“Coaches are somewhat suspicious (of sports psychologists)
because the team relationship is so important,” Bray said.
“After a while, coaches just step back because (they realize)
that I’m not there as an individual to disrupt coach-player
communication. (They see) that I’m there to almost encourage
that, and to have the team work better together.”

In addition to initial skepticism on the part of coaches, the
players themselves are often unsure about talking to a
psychologist. Bray admits he has seen this skepticism from some
college athletes, but most take his advice to heart.

“With the pros, they’re much more involved with what
they’re doing and they’re less willing to make
changes,” Bray said. “With the college guys, they seem
to be very open and flexible and adaptable to change. (They) always
seem to be willing to try something that we’ve talked
about.”

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