The covid-19 pandemic has presented a wave of challenges for athletes, coaches, parents and everyone really. As an athlete though, your world often revolves around playing, training, practicing, even what you eat is aligned with performance goals. The pandemic has also taken away that structure that athletes live by: training at a specific time and day, knowing when matches are scheduled for, meetings with coaches to discuss strategy, gym time, match analysis and the list goes on. The training venue or the gym are often considered places of tranquility; bringing calmness and belonging to our world.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, mental health charities and private practices have seen a surge in athletes seeking professional help due to concerns relating to anxiety, depression, a loss of motivation and generally not knowing what to do with oneself. Not only does this highlight the wide ranging impact of the pandemic, but sheds a spotlight on the lack of psychological support and education offered throughout development to prepare athletes for times like these. Not the pandemic itself, but any situation where their routine is disrupted, where they don’t get playing time or experience the roar of the crowd to cheer them on, where they feel naturally demotivated or anxious.
When unprepared, it can be difficult to navigate a ‘new’ world, where the goals you once had seem so distant. The question then, is what can you do about it?
Make a Choice
First things first, you need to make a decision. When confronted with a crossroad, you either choose option A and let the circumstances defeat you or you choose option B where you fight back and commit to being the best version of yourself even through the adversity. Do it right now, make your decision. Will you ride the wave and choose success or will you let the storm come crashing down on you?
I never said option B would be easy though, it takes work to make that commitment. Here’s how you do it…
With a new normal and new challenges, it would be irresponsible to try to remain on the same track and keep doing what you were doing before. When the wind changes direction, you have to change with it. Be adaptable. The old routine is gone. That structure that set up your day, your week or even your month is gone, yet what remains is you still want to work to get better. Consider what changes you need to make to achieve your goals. Do you need to start working out outside? Do you need to start taking meetings online? Do you need to adjust your diet to account for less physical exercise? Whatever it may be, don’t be hung up on how it used to be. Move with the times or get left behind.
Set Short-term Goals
You probably hear this a lot, you may even be sick of hearing it but setting goals is one of the most simplest yet effective psychological techniques you can practices. It requires nothing but your own thinking, paper and pen. With the bigger goal in mind, consider what smaller steps you need to take to get there. Pre-covid you probably knew what those smaller steps were, but now that you have decided to be adaptable, that route to the top has more than likely changed. So what is it you need to do? Is it allocate 20 minutes a day to meditation? Is it cook and prepare your meals in advance? Is it block out couple of hours a week to maintaining connections and relationships with your circle? Whatever you need to do, make them targets and start creating a new plan.
Find Areas of Improvement
Many people have taken this forced down time as an opportunity to reflect. Some have tried things they’ve never done or started things they always said they would. You can use this time to reflect on your strengths and discover areas of improvement. We can all learn more and improve our skills, but most of the time we either don’t know exactly what we need to improve or claim we ‘don’t have the time’ to do it. Utilise this time and make the most of it by expanding your knowledge, practicing a skill you need to brush up on, maybe you need improve your work-life balance or managing your lifestyle or habits. Identify the areas that could use some refinement and start making a plan instead of watching that new netflix show.
Use the Performance Profile Wheel
To help you with the above, use a performance profile wheel to identify where you can improve. On the outside of the wheel name skills that you need to be able to perform at your best. These can range from mental skills such as visualisation and motivation or life skills like coping strategies and time management. Whatever is necessary for you to thrive. From the middle colour in the segment toward the label to indicate how proficient you are at that skill. For example, if you consider yourself a 6 out of 10 in time management, you would colour in 6 blocks, leaving 4 empty. This gives you a visual representation of your capabilities and where you need to focus your attention.
Discover More of Your Identity
A lot of athletes, and people in general, are often wrapped up in a single identity. If you ask someone ‘who they are’ or how they would describe themselves, people often use terms related to their work: athlete, runner, accountant, sales rep etc. Your job is not your full identity. You may also be a husband/wife, a. coin collector, a baker, a dog lover and so on. The point is, we have multiple selves but not so much time to explore them. Use this time to discover more of your identity, what you enjoy and what you’re passionate about. By doing this you ensure your entire life isn’t wrapped up in one domain and we have seen how detrimental that can be when it’s taken away.
Challenge Your Thoughts
Lastly, manage your thoughts! So few of us put time and effort into training our minds and actively challenging negative, unproductive or irrational thoughts, especially now when we are often alone with them. Our behaviour is guided by emotions. Our emotions are governed by our thoughts, our interpretations and perceptions of the world and events. Put simply, the way we think about something will influence how we feel about it and that will influence our behaviour toward it. For example, if i think that practicing batting stance is a waste of time and useless, i’m going to feel apathetic toward practicing it. Therefore, I’m either just not going to do it or my effort will be minimal and ineffective when I do. Visit our resources page to download worksheets to assist you with this
Go Get It!
These are just a few things that you can do, right now, to thrive during this lockdown (if you’re in the U.K) and through Covid in general. You must be able to adapt to your environment, or get left behind. As Darwinian as that sounds, it’s sadly true as we continue to navigate the pandemic. Yeah, sure many of us can survive and get by but would we really be living? Now is an opportunity to push your limits. Push your body to do something it has never done before or push further with something it has. Stretch your mind and test your resilience and discipline. Get better. Do better. Be better.
Join the movement
Written by Natasha Bains
Edited by Memuna Konteh