Alberta mountain climber's new adventure is helping Olympic men's hockey team with mental game

A Calgary-based adventurer and mountain climber says when Hockey Canada called to ask if he could help the men’s hockey team in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, he initially had to curb his enthusiasm.

Jamie Clarke says athletics are good, but it’s the mental game that wins gold medals

Jamie Clarke says storytelling can be a great way to make training more effective. The Canadian adventurer was asked by Hockey Canada to help the men's hockey team improve their mental game. (Jamie Clarke)

A Calgary-based adventurer and mountain climber says when Hockey Canada called to ask if he could help the men's hockey team in the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, he initially had to curb his enthusiasm.

"When they first called, at first I played it cool," Jamie Clarke told The Homestretch on Monday.

"I pretended to be busy while I was doing silent fist bumps."

Over a 15-year period ending in 2008, Clarke climbed seven summits, the tallest mountains on seven continents, as well as a 40-day, 1,000-kilometre journey by camel through some Middle Eastern deserts.

He's also been tapped to work with several hockey teams on mental preparation.

"All of these players, every athlete you see walking around the village, are without exception impressive athletes. They are physically ready to play their game," Clarke said.

"But it's the mental game that wins gold medals. That's the piece I have come to help with."

Canada forward Maxim Lapierre takes part in a drill at Canada's men's national hockey team practice during the Olympic Winter Games in Gangneung, South Korea, on Saturday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

After working with Team Canada in Latvia, Clarke is now on the ground in Korea.

"It's been quite an adventure being embedded with the players and being something of a coach, not on the ice of course, but in the other parts of the game," he said.

Clarke says storytelling can be a great way to make training more effective.

"If you are trying to teach a concept or an idea, you can just share information and hope it sticks, but if you can take an idea, say, how to deal with pressure, and you wrap it in some storytelling, people tend to be more willing to absorb it. They are not being talked to, they are being spoken with."

Canada's men's national hockey team practices during the Olympic Winter Games in Gangneung, South Korea on Saturday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

It's about equipping players to draw on learnings when they're under pressure and to be more cohesive as a team.

"We ended one of our sessions with coming up with something of a covenant; what is our agreement as a group when we are under pressure, when egos flair and the bright lights? This is hockey in the Olympic Games. There is no greater stage on which the game can be played in many ways and these players know it," Clarke said.

"You can't force it, but you can kind of push it. You can create circumstances."

Fans of The Homestretch will know Jamie Clarke from his outdoor columns on our show. Talking about kayaking in Kananaskis and fat-biking in Fernie. or sharing his stories of climbing Mount Everest or crossing the deserts of the middle east on camel-back. But now Jamie's tackling a whole new kind of adventure: an Olympic one. For the past few weeks, Jamie Clarke has been in Latvia, working with Canada's Olympic Men's Hockey Team to inspire and unite the players in an effort to win gold. For more host Rob Brown reached Calgary's Jamie Clarke in South Korea. 8:24

With files from The Homestretch