Crisis or Opportunity? Sport Performance During the Pandemic

Crisis or Opportunity? Sport Performance During the Pandemic

We need resilience. The world-wide coronavirus pandemic has transformed sport, overnight, into a super challenging situation.  The easiest way to look at the conundrum coronavirus has caused the sports world is as a crisis situation. Through sport we are primarily taught to overcome challenges, in addition to the skills and tactics we learn. Who better to handle a crisis then, than athletes! So, while the world is in crisis mode, athletes have the choice to view the next few months as a golden opportunity.

机会  “In Chinese the word ‘crisis’ is a combination of the symbol for danger and the symbol for opportunity.  In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity”.  –President John F. Kennedy 

Whether a crisis is viewed as danger, or opportunity depends on your focus: “what is lost” or “what can be gained”. The ability of athletes, and coaches, to respond positively to any crisis will be dictated by whether they can let go of what is lost (training and competitions) and focus on the potential gains: Individual skill development and strengthening of one’s mental game.  If an athlete looks at this moment in time as an opportunity to improve and implements a structured mental skills regimen, then, when we all finally get the green light to get going again, they will be ready physically and mentally to train and compete at their best. Maybe even more effectively than before sport was shutdown a couple weeks ago.

Most athletes don’t like disruptions, we prefer security, comfort, routine, and control. The best way to fuel our preferred our state of mind is to address our mental game. In our mind, we can mentally rehearse how we will ideally control an adverse situation.  This is generally done using imagery/visualization.  So, how do you replicate your preferred state without physical team practice and competition?  For most of us this crisis is very similar to an injured athlete who must be away from their sport for an extended period.  Happily, there is a way to treat this disruption as a silver lining. Use this pandemic as an opportunity.  Begin a structured, sport specific mental training program.  It is the key to helping an athlete find ways, right now, to put themselves through purposeful training and keep getting better, as well as maintaining your preferred state. 

In this new normal, how do we practice without practicing, and how do we compete without competition?  

As a Certified Mental Performance Consultant, my time is most often spent training athletes how to effectively concentrate on things they can control. Sometimes those elements are internal; anxiety, emotional control, self-talk, attitude–sometimes they are external; opponents, teammates, score, tactical scenarios.  Athletes who are successful learn how to correctly direct their attentional focus and effectively concentrate on the controllable. In the truest sense, sport is about overcoming challenges.  This pandemic is a huge challenge. 

Athletes overcome challenges by being resilient. We’ve been trained to do this since we were little.  Resilience is demonstrated by choosing to view this crisis and its effect as an opportunity, focusing on what you can control, and taking this opportunity to adopt a mental game routine.  The best way to do get going with a structured mental routine incorporates three mental skills: 1). Use your goal-setting skills to identify the areas of your game you wish to improve. Consider setting some outcome oriented performance goals achievable 2-3 months from now. Then build backwards with your goals until you have that 2-3 month period broken down into weekly work. 2). Build specific imagery sequences of you performing the skills you highlighted in your goal-setting work. 3). Consider applying cue words or a performance script to these goals and mental rehearsal sequences to direct your self-talk as you are doing your own individual training and mental rehearsal. This approach is just one example of how to incorporate mental training into your days right now to help you build resilience to turn this crisis into an opportunity.

We take our clients through a proprietary mental skills assessment to best determine areas of need as well as areas of strength in one’s mental game. These assessment results then drive the formation of a specific mental training plan tailored to optimally meet each athlete’s needs. At Thrive: Excellence in Sport Performance, we design mental skills programs tailored specifically to you, your team, or your club; at all levels–professional to youth–in any sport. Thrive offers a program constructed of self-assessment, gated modularized content, specific workbook exercises, daily wellness tracking, and one on one mental training sessions. If you are interested in learning what a mental skills program might look like for you, please follow this link to schedule time:  Derrek Falor. Our discovery and program design call is on the house.

Derrek Falor
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