Life without Sports: Now What?

Life without Sports: Now What?

What do we do in a life without sports? Maybe it’s time to do that thing you never had time to do before.

So, this is a new situation. Stores are closed, school is closed, there are no athletic events to participate in or watch on TV. Going to the gym is not an option, and a trip to the mall is out of the question. So, what do we do? Well, binge-watching GoT again is a possibility, or maybe the Mandalorian on Disney+, or insert whatever other show is up your alley.  

Another possibility is to do that thing that you have always wanted to do but you never got around to because you did not have the time or maybe you just told yourself that you did not have the time. May that thing be learning how to play the guitar, read the Harry Potter series, bake a cake for the first time or even learn the basics of coding/Microsoft Office/Photoshop and so on.

There is no better time than the present and guess what, that present is finally here. You might be cooped up in your house with your family or roommates now, hopefully not driving each other too crazy. You have all this time on your hand because you are not traveling to work or going to school, so why not make the most of it. 

But how do you start?

Life without Sports: Productivity Tips

First, instead of trying to do a lot when you start, it is better to take a small step in the right direction. For example, you want to learn how to code, the first step you can take is to find a website that would guide you through the process and sign up to it. It is more likely that you will build momentum if you take small steps that would carry you forward rather than decide that you will take this new “hobby” from 0 to 100 on day one. 

Second, write a list of goals. Write them as if you are negotiating with yourself what you are willing to do. For example, on day one you will find a site to learn how to code and you will sign up. On day two you will browse through the program for one hour to see what it will be like. On day three you will take the first lesson. As you build more momentum you can adjust your goals and start to invest more time and effort into this project. 

Third, let people know what you are doing. If you do so then those people will help keep you accountable. They will remind you what needs to be done and help you stay on your toes. 

Fourth, write down your why. If you know why you are doing what you are doing it will help keep you on track. For example, if you learn how to code then it will help increase your hiring prospects in the future. 

Fifth, keep your goals at a visible place in your room. This will remind you what you agreed you should do. It will increase the likelihood that you will go through with your project. 

We are always told to make the most out of every situation, to make lemonade out of lemons and so on. In this unsure time, when Corona is no longer just a beer brand, doing what you can is as pertinent as it can be. So pick up a habit, decide on a way to challenge yourself and take this extra time that you have on your hands to finally do that thing you always wanted to do, but never got around to.

If working on your mental game is on your list, let’s talk. Schedule a free mini session to get started.

Tomer Blas
Tomer Blas

An Open Letter To the 2020 Seniors

to the 2020 seniors

2020 Seniors, by now it is all starting to set in; the realization that you will never play the game again. It was not supposed to end this way. I am sure a lot of you, if not most, had visions of riding off into the sunset with a championship in your hands. Others saw themselves getting one more spring in the sun, enjoying the game that they had played for their whole life, ending your career with another season full of memories.

But now all of those thoughts are just that, thoughts. Nothing more than wishes that will never be fulfilled. It is unfair. No one could have prepared you for having this last season being stolen from you. Do not let anyone tell you that it was “just a game” or that “life goes on.” I am also sure that a lot of people have said something like, “you are onto bigger and better things!” Those people mean well, and they are correct in that way of thinking, but a part of you died the day your season was cancelled. A part of you that you can never get back. 

2020 Seniors, give yourself time.

Give yourself time to mourn the loss of the season. This season might have been the end of your career. No more practices after class with your team. No more bus rides to away games. No more hanging around the field, track, course, or court with nothing to do and nowhere to go. No more early morning lifts, conditioning sessions, or scrimmages. You ate your last meal as a competitive athlete, and you had no idea it was happening. 

The fact that the season cancelations were so sudden is what makes this whole situation such a dagger to the soul. Usually when you are a senior, you see the end coming. You might not necessarily count down the days to your last game, but you are definitely aware that the end is near. You were supposed to have time to prepare for the end, but you, a member of the 2020 class, did not have that luxury. Your final season was stolen from you.

Believe me.

Believe me when I say this; I am deeply sorry for your loss.

It would be wildly unfair for anyone to tell you that they know what you are going through. Even those people who had a season cut short due to injury do not know the unique pain you are currently going through. There are not many people who had their final season ripped away because of a pandemic.

But where do you go from here?

Especially with the school cancelations and time spent couped up at home, you have had hours and hours to just think.

I know most of you cried when you found out that you were suddenly a retired athlete. Don’t worry, I cried too. Everyone does when it is all over.

But I am here to tell you this; someday, it will all be okay. Maybe not now, a week from today, or even a month or two. But trust me, you will be okay. That might sound cliche right now, and it probably is not what you wanted to hear, but it is true. Sports are beautiful, aren’t they? Maybe you did not have the glamourous career that everyone wants or sees in the movies, but you had your career; no one else did.

2020 Seniors, take a moment.

Take a moment to just clear your head and only think of those positive memories that you had from your sport. Really define why you loved the game and what you will miss. If you are able, I suggest getting together with your teammates and just fellowshipping as a team. Use this time as an opportunity to encourage those who are younger than you. Tell them things that you wish you would have known when you were their age.

Whether you know it or not, you learned life lessons in your own way that you will take into your next chapter of life. As you enter the real world, you will be able to quickly differentiate who played sports and who didn’t. As an athlete, you will have a natural competitiveness that non-athletes won’t be able to create on their own. Whether you are going on to college or the workforce as a former student-athlete, use the skills your sport gave you to bring up those around you to be their best.

You are so much more.

Here is the final thought I want to leave you with that I, myself, struggled with after my playing career was over: You are so much more than an athlete that played your sport. 

2020 Seniors, for some of you, this sport was a major part of your identity. Perhaps you were even known as the “softball girl,” “the golfer,” “the track star” or that “baseball guy.” You might have lived your life with your sport at the center of it. Family vacations had to be scheduled around your games, and sometimes going to Atlanta, Georgia for a tournament was your family vacation.

Saying no to things was a common occurrence for you growing up because you always had practice or a workout somewhere. You missed out on a lot of things that other kids got to do who didn’t play your sport. But here is the thing, you didn’t care that you had to say no to those things. Never having a spring break was absolutely fine with you. Why? Because you were busy falling in love with a sport that you couldn’t see your life without. 

2020 Seniors, you are still here.

That sport is gone, but you are still here. The sport is not your entire identity; it was a part of you, but not all of you. It might take a good amount of time for you to find out who you really are beyond your sport, but you can do it. How do I know? Because athletes who have dedicated their life to a sport are used to rising above adversity and becoming stronger afterwards.

Take some time to take it all in and digest everything. I suggest taking the time to personally thank your parents, siblings, coaches, athletic trainers, and teammates for everything they have done for you over the years. You have not gotten to where you are completely by yourself, but by the support and encouragement of those people that love you.

Good luck to whatever is next for you.

Work hard in everything you do, and then work a little harder.

You are stronger than you think.

Matt Crawford, MA
Matt Crawford, MA

Next steps: Schedule a session with Matt or learn more about what happens in a mini session.

Sport Psychology for the Season on Hold

Sport Psych for the Season On Hold

Yesterday both of my sons’ track shoes came in the mail. A neon green pair of Nike throwing shoes and a neon yellow, green, and blue pair of Hoka distance spikes.

New shoes. New season. Let’s do this.

Should have been super exciting. They’ve been waiting on them to arrive. Regardless of age or sport, new shoes day is an awesome day.

But the day these shoes arrive isn’t happy.

Both of my sons have big goals for the track & field season.

A season that is now on hold.

When the new shoes arrived, so did the announcement. No school and no practice. And no season until…TBA

My middle schooler said, “I just need one meet.”

My high school sophomore hasn’t said much at all. Simply took his new, shiny soled, just-waiting-for-the-2-mile shoes up to his room.

That’s really tough.

It’s tough for athletes, coaches, parents, sport psychs, and even those who are a sport psych/parent combo.

Even with the uncertainty, we can focus on controlling the controllables. Right now a lot of that is mindset.

3 Sport Psychology Tips for a Season on Hold

There are so many things we could dive into, but with so much going on right now, I’d start with these and build from there.

Sport Psych Tip #1 Focus

Focus: You can only focus on so many things while practicing, during competition, or when living through a pandemic. Make sure your focus is where it matters. Train yourself to recognize what you can or cannot control and be able to shift your focus when necessary.

Here’s a quick activity to help you determine where to put your mental energy. Draw a large circle. Within that circle draw a smaller one. Label the inner circle as Things I Can Control. Label the outer circle as Things I Cannot Control. Reflect on life right now and think about what goes in each circle.

Example: You can’t control the cancellations, but you can control your level of physical activity and your self-talk.

You’ll likely find you’re focusing on some things that are out of your control. That’s completely normal, especially with the current life stressors, but it’s also unhelpful to keep your focus there. It’s unhelpful for not only your sport mindset, but for your life-in-general mindset.

Once you’ve identified the categories, you can refer back to it often. When you find yourself worrying about the uncontrollable, note it. “That’s not under my control” and reset to direct your energy to the controllable.

Sport Psych Tip #2 Training Log

Create a Training Log: You’ve got to keep moving if you want to be ready when the season resumes. But how do you stay motivated day in and day out? Tracking your progress will help you see where you’ve been and keep you focused on where you’re headed. Training logs can look different for every athlete. They don’t have to be perfect or pretty. Ideally, it’s going to include the date, objectives, and reflection.

Objectives: 1-3 things you want to focus on.

  • Can be set day of or post-training on the day before
  • May be based on insights from film review, coach feedback, or past journal entries
  • Incorporate mindset (e.g. attitude & effort) along with physical components

Reflection: Review your performance physically & mentally. Ask yourself questions like

  • What did I accomplish today?
  • Did I focus on my objectives?
  • What went well?
  • Where could I improve?
  • What did my self-talk sound like?

Sport Psych Tip #3 Imagery

Imagery: Imagery is a multi-purpose skill. It helps with confidence, motivation, and several other mental skills. When we can’t physically compete, the next best thing is to mentally compete. We often use this skill with injured athletes as a way to get mental reps. The same neurons fire in your brain whether you’re doing or visualizing.

Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and mentally take yourself through your performance. See yourself arriving at the venue. Take yourself through your warm up, the start of the contest, through the highlights, and end with a stellar performance.

Make sure to keep it positive, present tense, and detailed “I arrive at the stadium. I put on my perfectly broken in, bright, bright neon green shoes. I’m confident and ready as I approach the start line.”

When your season is on hold, you step up your sport psychology game.

You know how sports movies have the training scenes? A montage of an athlete working hard, facing, obstacles. Blood, sweat, and tears. All set to music. Leading up to their moment to shine.

That’s where you are. In the training sequence. Your own montage moment. And your mindset will help make it happen.

For support along the way, reach out to teammates and other athletes who are in the same position. At Sterling Sport Mindset, we’re here for you too. We offer free mini sessions to get started. Online sessions available from any location.

Go get ’em!

Dr. Linda Sterling, CMPC

P.S. Are you a former client? Now would be a great time to check-in. We’d love to hear how you’re doing & help you navigate this unprecedented situation. Email or schedule an online check-in appointment.

Grieving the Canceled Athletic Season

Grieving the Canceled Athletic Season

Canceled.

No meets, no double-headers, no conference tournament, no championship.

It’s going to take a while to process.

For some, you were at the culmination of your season…maybe even your career. NCAA Indoor Track & Field competitors, you were at the actual venue. So close to competing. On the brink of realizing goals you’ve worked tirelessly for. As I type, I know these words sound flat. They don’t even begin to capture what you’ve put into this season, this athletic career. And I can only begin to imagine the suck right now.

Actually, right now it probably hasn’t fully sunk in. Doesn’t seem real. What does seem real right now? Nothing is normal. No back from Spring Break social gatherings. Classes moved online. Your favorite jacket locked in your dorm room. Can’t go on a vacation. Not sure if you even want to go to the store.

The world is a little scary right now. A lot of uncertainty. Concern for yourself and those around you. Fear. Panic. Angry social media posts.

Even with all of this going on…

It’s okay to grieve your canceled athletic season.

It’s okay to grieve your season. Even during a pandemic.

It’s okay to be sad. Devastated. Heartbroken. Pissed. Furious. Bitter.

You don’t have to be happy. No need to be brave or smile in this moment.

When asked how you’re doing, I know you may feel the need to say something along the lines of “I know it’s just a game” “there are bigger concerns out there” “we just want everyone to be safe.” And I know you truly do care about the safety of others, but I also know that the following is true.

Diminishing your pain doesn’t keep others healthy and it sure doesn’t help you heal.

You’re allowed to say that to anyone who says otherwise to you.

Side note: No one knows what to say right now. And many will unintentionally say the wrong thing.

Sport psychology thoughts on grieving the athletic season.

Take the time. Feel the feelings. If you bottle them up, it gets worse. Cry. Journal. Stay on the couch for 3 days. Take a walk. Play video games all day. Take some time for you.

Rushing the process doesn’t work. Feeling through it does.

When you’re ready, do a thought download. Write down all of the things you’re thinking and feeling. Really, write it all down. Don’t censor yourself. There’s power in getting it out of your head and onto paper.

Once you’ve written all the things. Do another list. Think about why you play. Write everything you’re proud of from this season, past seasons, and from your entire athletic career. Every training goal achieved. All the practices you pushed through. The bond you developed with your teammates. Your desire to play up until it was called. You’re a badass, even if it doesn’t feel like it now.

Once you’ve given yourself some time (however long it takes), start dreaming again. Sport. Life. You’ve got goals. When you’re ready, you’ll go get ’em.

Dr. Linda Sterling

If you or your teammates are struggling or you’d like help processing, please reach out. We’re here via phone or Zoom from anywhere. You can reach us through our website or via email at drlinda@sterlingsportmindset.com.

More info about mini sessions available here: https://drlindasterling.com/mini-session/

To book an appointment: https://sterlingsportmindset.as.me/freeminisession

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, please call Mental Health Crisis Hotline (24/7): 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Sport Psychology in the Empty Stadium

sport psychology in the empty stadium

When NCAA athletes began their off-season training, no one could have predicted this. Athletes prepare for many scenarios, but competing for a National Championship in an empty stadium? In the midst of a pandemic. Highly doubtful. But here we are. Thankfully, sport psychology helps in times of adversity.

I’d like to tell you that all of my sport psych clients are prepared for this exact scenario. Of course they’re not, but they know how to get there. Quickly.

Sport Psychology

Sport psychology, the mental side of sport, is often overlooked or dismissed. We think athletes are either mentally tough or they’re not. Unfortunately a stigma still exists. Spoiler alert: Mindset skills are like any other skills. They can be learned.

The mental game is mentioned casually (and usually often after a loss), but most athletic programs don’t spend a ton of time or resources on it. In times like these, it will pay off for the programs that do.

When the competition is fierce, the mental game is the game changer.

And that couldn’t be more true when you’re playing in the biggest of games…with no one in the stands.

Those who’ve done the mindset work will have the edge.

Here are three sport psychology tips I’d share with athletes going into this situation.

3 Sport Psychology Tips

Tip #1: Imagery

See it. Believe it.

I encourage all of my clients to do imagery before competition. The night before and morning of are great times for this. Imagery helps with confidence and motivation. It’s like we’ve been there. In this unexpected scenario, no one has been there, so it’s time to rework the imagery.

Your imagery probably includes seeing the crowd, hearing the crowd, and maybe even “feeling” the vibration from the crowd. You’re going to want to revamp. I’d suggest first creating an image of the empty stadium. See yourself running out onto the court feeling confident, loving this change, playing for your teammates, getting back to basketball. As always, keep your imagery present tense, positive, and detailed using all of your senses.

Tip #2: Composure

Get & stay in the zone.

You’re not going to have the same adrenaline rush. You can’t count on the crowd for an energy boost. The vibe will not be the same. That’s okay, because the fire comes from within for you.

You know how to get yourself ready. You know how to find your zone of optimal functioning.

Your pre-game routine may just need tweaked a little. Find a way to make it special.

If in the past you stayed fairly chill and counted on the crowd to get you pumped, you’ll need to increase the internal hype level. Switch up the pre-game music, connect with what drives you, focus on delivering for your teammates.

Remember when you “flip that switch.” Whether it’s when you first run out on the court, when you take off your warm-up, or right after the national anthem, stick with it. That’ll help you get dialed in.

Tip #3: Thought Work

Thoughts–feelings–actions–results. And you get to decide.

You’re going to hear, see, and read a lot about the decision to have empty stadiums. Fans are bummed. Families are disappointed. And this probably isn’t how you dreamed up this moment.

Feel the disappointment and then feel the fire.

Denying feelings doesn’t help. Take a second to acknowledge your emotions about it. Then know that this is what we’ve got. It is what it is. Arguing with it isn’t a good use of your energy.

You control how you spin it. Embrace the pick-up game atmosphere. Get back to the pure love of the game. See it as a chance to make history, because it most certainly is.

I know that’s easier said than done. Most of the work I do with clients is around thought work. Letting the unhelpful thoughts go and embracing the helpful ones. You really do get to choose, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

With that being said, don’t try to force yourself into feeling positive about this.

If you can’t get to a “I wouldn’t have it any other way” thought then go to a neutral thought. A neutral thought is something your brain isn’t going to argue with. Something like “I’m playing in the tournament” or “I play basketball.” Sound boring? Exactly. It’s neutral.

Neutral feels better mentally and physically than negative and it doesn’t have your brain arguing with itself the way a fake positive thought does.

You couldn’t have predicted this, but you can prepare.

You’ve Got This

At Sterling Sport Mindset, this is what we do. We help prepare athletes for whatever comes their way, in sport & life. Developing a best performance, every performance mindset. Ready to check out sport psychology? Want to tailor these skills to you? Schedule a free mini session and we’ll get started.

Go get ’em!

Dr. Linda Sterling. Sport Psychology

P.S. We are very concerned about the effects of COVID-19 and support taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus.