The Story of Your Season: How to Soak It All In

Championships, season changes, and soaking it all in. It’s that time of year for fall sport athletes. Time for re-dedication and sometimes re-direction to whatever comes next. Before you re-dedicate or re-direct, don’t skip the reflection.

What was the story of your season? Have you taken time to think about it?

Before the season started you probably spent a lot of time dreaming about how it would go. Your hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the season.

When it’s over, we sometimes get in that “okay, next one” mindset and jump to the next season without stopping to take it all in.

Soak It All In

You’ve probably been told by many former athletes to “soak it all in.” “You’ll look back on these days and wish you had really enjoyed it.” You may have dismissed this wise advice and mumbled something about “look who’s trying to re-live their glory days.” Maybe. That might be part of it. But maybe they’re onto something.

As a member of the former athlete club myself, here’s my advice: Before you say “okay next,” it really is a good idea to stop and “soak it all in.”

Now that the former athlete in me has given you sage advice, the sport psychologist in me will explain how to do this. Just like I wouldn’t tell you to FOCUS! without following it up with details, I won’t do that here either.

At Sterling Sport Mindset, we don’t just talk sport lingo, we break it down and make it doable. How does one “soak it all in?” Here you go.

The Story of Your Season

Set a timer for 30-60 minutes.

Find a quiet place to sit where you won’t be interrupted. This can also be done on a solo walk/run if that’s more your thing.

Close your eyes (if you’ve chosen the sitting option) and take yourself back…

The day before practice began:

  • What were your goals, hopes, fears, worries?
  • How was Day 1?
  • What was your mindset as you thought about the season ahead?
  • Where you excited, nervous, ambitious, focused, driven?

Early season:

  • What beginning of season message from your coach stuck with you?
  • What were those early competitions like?

Mid-season:

  • What funny moments did you have with your team?
  • How about the tough times?
  • Which memories will you never forget?
  • How did your goals shift?
  • How did the rivalry go? Was it your year or theirs?

End of season:

  • Did you achieve your goals? Crush them? Fall short?
  • How did that last competition feel? What emotions came up?
  • Think about the final whistle, the last play, the finish line.
  • What hit you in that moment?
  • What will you take away? Build on? Grow from?

Soak it all in.

When the timer goes off, jot down any insight you want to remember.

Take a mental snapshot or a highlight video of the season.

Breathe for a moment.

Then celebrate. Celebrate regardless of how the season turned out. You earned that season and the season deserves to be celebrated.

Tell your story. Soak it all in. Celebrate!

Reward yourself for your effort. Doesn’t have to be big, but it needs to be intentional. Here are a few idea that our clients have done recently.

  • Get your favorite Starbucks drink & savor it. Congratulate yourself with the first sip.
  • Spend an afternoon doing all of your favorite everyday-type things.
  • Buy a small item that represents this season and all of the effort you put in.
  • Print (yes, actually print–or order it online) and frame a photo that captures your fondest season memory.

However you choose to celebrate the story of your season, make sure to soak it all in.

Just Breathe

An important step in many mental performance exercises is something very simple. So simple that we do it all the time without even noticing, and at times it can fly under the radar. Because of this it is in my opinion that:

 the BREATH is FAR TOO UNDERRATED. 

Breathing is hands down one of the most important things anyone can do. I mean it is one of the things that is need to stay alive after all. So, tell me it’s not important, because you will lose in that argument. Not only do you need it to live, but it is a focus point during workouts, yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. It is also a big factor in mental performance techniques and one that we here at Sterling Sport Mindset go over in our Pregame to Podium team talks. For example, when you have a routine, you do your three steps and then what do you pair it with?? 

A BREATH.

When you are working on only focusing on the things you can control, what’s one thing you can control?

YOUR BREATHING.

What is one thing that is used to help reduce anxiety, stress, and calm your nerves?

You probably know the answer by now but I’ll say for the ones in the back…

BREATHING.

Now don’t start feeling bad for not giving the breath all the credit it deserves, because it wasn’t until I joined SSM that the importance of breathing was even brought to my attention. It wasn’t until I attended my first team talk as an intern that I had even heard about belly breathing. Then, when I start practicing mindfulness I learned how to properly breath from my diaphragm instead of my chest. Ever since, breathing has helped me tremendously and is my biggest go-to in high pressure situations.

Since breathing is something we do without even having to think about, it’s easy to see why it’s something we can forget to do at times when it is needed most. Adding breathing exercises into your daily routine can be a beneficial habit to have. Another trick is to have a key word that you and a friend could say to each other as a reminder to take a step back from a situation and breathe. A friend and I like to use the word snowball. Sounds kind of funny, but to me it makes sense. To avoid the snowball effect of things escalating to quickly, the word snowball helps remind us to pause for a second and just take a deep breath. 

So, use key word snowball or any word of your choosing to remind yourself and others when it’s time to take a nice deep breath. Work those breathing exercises into your daily life, and maybe even think twice before hitting the dismiss button when your watch tells you it’s time to breathe (Apple Watch owners will understand this reference). 

Ready to learn how to incorporate the breath in your mental game? Schedule a free mini-session with one of our consultants today!

~Victoria

How Winning Starts with Slowing Down

When you train to be calm, you train to be confident.  

As an athlete you train 3 things:

  1. Your skill
  2. Your body
  3. Your mind

A great Yogi ism by Berra is that “90% of the game is half mental.”

We know how important the mental aspect of sport is and we know that the more mentally tough athlete will win when it matters most. The most elite athletes have figured out this new wave of competing and know that once they’ve reached their physical potential the game is strictly mental. Generating your power and unlocking the most potential you have comes from opening your mind, slowing down, and seeing clearly. 

“If you take twenty athletes of equal ability and give ten of them mental training, they will OUTPERFORM the ten who received no mental training every time.” – Gary Mack

So, what does it mean to slow down? Slowing down means becoming more mindful and seeing things for what they truly are. Being completely in the present moment.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness can be understood through 2 main components:

  1. Awareness: Thoughts -> Emotions -> Physical Body -> Outcome.

Becoming self aware increases peak performance by becoming aware of the thoughts we are thinking first, which results  in our actions and results in the outcome. This is crucial as an athlete with balancing emotions, pressure, physical sensations, etc. When an athlete can become more self aware they can notice the thoughts that are coming in and interpret the signals accurately. That athlete can slow down and make critical decisions in a fast paced environment. 

  1. Wisdom – The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. 

By becoming more intune with the now and the present play at hand, an athlete can make better judgements. The ability to instantly forget about the past play and not think about the next play coming up is an absolutely present and engaged athlete who sees their role clearly. They can focus on themselves and not react based on their emotions. 

Actions follow our thoughts. So, don’t look where you don’t want to go. 

It is important for athletes to be focused on seeing the present play at hand and their essential role rather than being focused on what they DO NOT want to happen. This is the key to playing present. 

  • Harmful Thinking: “Just don’t lose.”
    • Overthinking
    • Focused on avoiding failure
    • Prepping the body to tense up
  • Beneficial Thinking: “Tall through the middle phase and finish with form.”
    • Calm and Confident
    • Focused on approaching success with action plan
    • Telling the body exactly what to do

We have to train mindfulness just like we train the body through repetitions of particular ways of thinking. The “slow athlete” is the athlete that trains their mind to overcome their brain.

What is the difference between competing with our mind instead of our brain?  

Example: You’re in competition and your opponent has been on a winning streak the past few weeks. You get on the track and suddenly you feel “pressure.” Your muscles tense up, your heart is racing, you doubt yourself and don’t feel prepared anymore. 

This is your brain taking over! You are perceiving this situation through fear and instincts. Fight or flight mode kicks in and suddenly you don’t have control over yourself. You start to feel anxious in competition + paired with a negative thought + the physical sensations take over = leaving you to underperform.

The athlete that slows down is the athlete that is in control of their thoughts and emotions. They see their sport from a different perspective and don’t fear the signals their bodies are sending them but accept them to recognize they are ready. They operate on a level of higher thinking with an open mind and don’t operate at the level of fear. They are able to slow the race or game down in their mind to make critical decisions and stay physically relaxed. They execute their performance. They don’t overthink or try too hard or change up their routines. They trust in their training and breathe into the present moment. 

GRITTINESS . DETERMINATION . CONFIDENCE.

These can all be developed by first being vulnerable and open with your self awareness. To become the EXCEPTIONAL athlete you have to compete by being connected with your mind – through awareness. 

The moment you become a mindful athlete is the moment you’ll realize that your negative thoughts and emotions are just fixed patterns and habits preventing you from reaching your highest potential. You’ve created a false perception of YOU. You fooled yourself! But slowing down helps you see clearly and rebuild your true athletic identity, of who you are, and will elevate your performance!

If you’re interested in learning how to slow down in order to speed up and take your performance to the next level, please reach out for a free mini session or send me an email!

Dear High School Athlete

To the High School Athlete Whose Season Has Been Cancelled Indefinitely

Dear Athlete,
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to be unmotivated.

You just found out your Fall season has been canceled indefinitely. You knew it was rough seeing the Spring athletes miss out on their opportunity to finish out the season. You had empathy. But, you had no inkling that that would be you right now. So, you didn’t prepare.

While it’s ok to feel all of the emotions that come up for you, know that you have the opportunity to choose how you will respond. At some point when your season comes back and you get out on the course, field, or court, you need to be prepared. You need to find inner strength to continue growing as an athlete and person, not knowing when you’ll put your uniform back on again.

If you’re the high school athlete who is looking to take your game to the next level and play in college, choose a response to what you’re feeling that will get you there. If you’re the high school senior not looking to continue playing competitively, choose a response to your emotions that will allow you time to reflect on what your sport has taught you throughout your playing career.

We all go through transitions in life. Some are anticipated, like graduation and Senior Night. Others are unexpected, like an injury or this pandemic. Regardless of whether our transition was inevitable or not, as a high school athlete, this may be the first time you’ve had to experience a loss this significant. Therefore, give yourself time to comprehend it. Give yourself time to grieve.

Remember, it’s ok to not be ok.
You have the opportunity to choose how you will respond.
This a set-back to an even greater come-back.
I am with you. I support you. I am here for you. I empathize with you.

Sincerely,

Lindsay, M.S.

P.S. — If you’re working through this unexpected transition, and you’re unsure where to turn. I’m here to help you. Let’s chat in a ​Free Mini Session!

I’ll be there for you as you work through this transition and prepare for your next step in life. Let me help you choose what will get you to accomplish your next goal.

Do You Know Your Role?

I recently listened to a Podcast in which Alex Morgan talked about understanding her role on the US Women’s National Soccer Team and understanding how she could make an impact on the team given that role. 

Alex Morgan is one of the best Women’s Soccer players in the world and she discussed how she was a bench player when she first made it on the National Team. The role she was given was to come off the bench in a game (usually second half) and impact the game as needed. She didn’t play every game, and sometimes the coaches would tell her to warm up and not even put her in. Was she satisfied with being a bench player? No. But that was the role that was given to her at the time, and most importantly the role her team needed her in at the time. So when she got the opportunity to go on the field she tried to have the impact the team needed regardless of the amount of time she was on the field. 

She knew her role, and understood how to execute that role effectively for her team, but stayed hungry for more as she knew she had more to offer the team. For the last 6-7 years, Alex Morgan has been a starting forward for the US Women’s National Soccer team.

So how did she go from a bench player role to the starting forward role? 

The biggest thing was her mindset! 

She accepted what was out of her control; the role the coach gave her. And worked at what she could control. Like how she played when she did step on the field, how she supported her teammates from the bench, how she focused on improving every day in practice. She did not let the one little thing she couldn’t control consume her. 

She put the team first, and understood that what the team most needed of her was the role she was given. But she also stayed hungry for more and made sure to improve, show up on the field, and make the impact that was expected of her when she did get on the field. 

Ultimately, she was having such a big impact on a game in the times she came off the bench, that she earned that starting spot. She executed the role exactly as the team needed her to, the coach saw that and found a way to make that role develop into a starting position. 

Oftentimes we struggle with the role we’ve been given. Maybe it’s the role you have at work, the role you have in a group project, or on your team. If you want to change the role you are in, the best thing you can do is to focus on what you can control. Show up for yourself and continue to improve 1% every day. 

What is your role and how are you showing up every day to execute the role your team has given you? 

If you would like to chat about the role you’ve been given and how you can accept and own that role, sign up for a free mini session with me!