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?
What beginning of season message from your coach stuck with you?
What were those early competitions like?
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.
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?
I don’t have a name for it. It is not an alter ego of myself that is trying to make me better or an attempt to hold me to a higher standard. It is a part of who I am that is trying to tear down everything that I have worked to build. The voice is not someone from my past talking to me, the voice is mine and mine alone. It is a constant reminder of the things that didn’t work out and all the times I screwed up.
Sometimes my negative inner voice causes so much anxiety and worry about the future that my fictional failures seem more like flashbacks.
Where did this inner critic come from? Was I born with this voice? Can I get rid of it?
Right now would be a good time to point out that this inner voice is not a sign of any sort of deeper mental illness. This voice is the devil on my shoulder, the unconfident me, the great discourager.
The following is a deeper, personal look into my own inner critic and how I kick it in the teeth every single day.
“You aren’t good enough. You are going to blow this.”
This thought doesn’t so much creep into my head as it busts through with a grand entrance. It usually comes to me whenever I am about to do something that I know I have struggled with in the past. It could be about anything from public speaking, working with a client, or even throwing batting practice to my guys. It is a daily thing that I struggle with. This thought is usually accompanied with a multitude of memories of occasions where I failed at whatever I am about to do. “Remember that time you couldn’t throw a strike in batting practice? Or when you blanked and didn’t know what to say to that client?!” Yes, yes I do remember those times. Thank you so much for reminding me.
“People are going to find out that you are a fraud.”
This thought primarily happens when I am working on my practice. Imposter syndrome is another title for this thought. That could be making a video, having a session, or writing this blog. Even as I am typing these words I am thinking about how people are going to think it is stupid. Someone somewhere is going to read this entire blog and not get anything out of it. A common fact that often accompanies this negative thought is my age. I’m 26 years old. In the psychology field, a common misconception is that the older people have it all figured out. “Who would come talk to you?? You are brand new at this stuff! You don’t know what you are doing!!”
“You weren’t even good at your sport!”
This one hurts. Was I a good pitcher? Maybe. I was okay. In my five years in college, I only had four appearances. So it would be fair to assume that I was never one of the team’s top picks to take the mound. It would also be fair to want to work with a mental performance consultant who has a lot of personal experience in a sport so that the athlete can really relate to someone who is experiencing the ups and downs that come with consistent playing time. I don’t have any of that.
“You’re stupid. You suck at this. Give up.”
This is a pretty common phrase my inner critic says after I might have done something wrong. I tend to just sit and stew on whatever I just did. “You should’ve done this!” “You should’ve done that!” Is there always room to improve? Of course. Could I have done something differently to achieve a better result? Probably. Do I have a time machine to fix it? No. Will that fact stop my inner critic from bombarding me with these thoughts of self-doubt and regret? NOPE.
Now I am going to go over the techniques I use to combat this inner critic and how I choose to believe the things I want to believe.
The first thing I want to say about combating the inner critic is that this negative inner voice is something that will always be a part of who you are. The following techniques will not make the negativity disappear, but they are meant to assist you in changing your view on your inner critic.
The main thing I do whenever any sort of negative inner voice enters my head is that I address that it is happening. So many times I hear people offer up the solution to “just ignore it” when faced with their own inner critic. I get it. It would be so much easier if you could simply not hear the negativity and self-doubt that goes on in your head. But the reality is that you cannot simply stop your inner critic from being critical. Some people are jerks and there’s not anything you can do about it.
Instead of just trying to block out the negativity, embrace it.
Take a moment to hear that inner critic and all the lies it tells. That voice isn’t fighting for time in your day to hold your attention, it is fighting for you to believe. Acknowledge that what you are hearing in your head is not true and fight back with positivity.
I would even suggest saying the positive response out loud if you can. Sometimes I feel like I have better control of my words as opposed to my thoughts. I can think a lot of negative thoughts in a row in the blink of an eye. But by saying the positivity with my own breath, I am giving the power back to myself. Go ahead, say these responses aloud wherever you are and see how you feel. You might feel corny, but trust me on this one.
Phrase 1: “You aren’t good enough. You are going to blow this.”
Response: *inhales* *exhales* You are wrong. I can do this. I am strong and capable. I have worked so hard to get to this moment and have earned the opportunity to have success. I am more than good enough. I am not here by accident. I was meant to be in this situation. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
While I say these things audibly, I am playing my own highlight reel of success in my mind. I think back to all the adversity I overcame to get to this very moment in time. By simply being alive, I have already accomplished so much. The feeling of anxiety and pressure building is a sign that I am on the right path. I think back to all the times that I wanted an opportunity to perform, but didn’t have a chance. This is my moment; I am going to choose to enjoy it.
Phrase 2: “People are going to find out that you are a fraud.”
Response: *inhales* *exhales* I am great at what I do. I have worked extremely hard to be in this position. How can I be a fraud when I know I am not lying? I studied, passed, and excelled at every academic challenge I have been faced with. I have already had a positive impact on those around me and the athletes I have worked with so far. I have a bright future in this business. My best days are ahead of me. I am already so blessed.
Nothing changes here in this response. As soon as I say these words with high intentionality, I gain a sense of peace that everything is going to be alright. Call it what you want, but I personally believe that it is me falling into the arms of the Good Lord and believing that He is always in full control.
Phrase 3: “You weren’t even good at your sport!”
Response: *inhales* *exhales* I gave everything I had to that sport. I can rest easy every single night of my life because I know that I didn’t hold anything back. The lessons I learned are bigger than sports. My purpose is in the present, not the past. I have value. I am wanted. I am at peace with my career because I have no regrets.
This example of negative inner voice/response is very specific to me. But whenever I am faced with these thoughts, I think back to how I get to lay my head on my pillow every single night without any sort of remorse, bitterness, or anguish. I feel like that is a unique feeling and I am glad to have it.
Phrase 4: “You’re stupid. You suck at this. Give up.”
Response: I will never give up. I am smart and intelligent. I will never give up. I can do this. I have made up my mind that I will never quit. I will keep going. I will get stronger. I will never stop learning. I am strong. I’m the man. I have a ferocious drive to be my best. I have an unstoppable work ethic. I will never give up.
You have probably noticed this already, but some of my responses have repeated sayings. This is intentional because the more you say something over and over again, the more you will believe it. Don’t believe me? You have probably heard that negative inner voice repeat the same things over the years, at some point you started to believe it.
This whole blog is real and raw. Besides a few colorful four-letter words, I have held nothing back from my reflection on my own inner critic. I encourage you to do the same thing. I want you to know that you are reading these words not by accident. You are more than able to fight your own inner critic. You have the strength to take it by the throat and refuse to believe the deceptions it tries to feed you. This is a skill that will require lots of practice and some days will be better than others. This change will take time, but you can choose to start that change today.
Recently, it’s been difficult for me to find motivation during my workouts. Starting and finishing them — no problem. Maybe it’s because I’m used to going to the gym. So many distractions there. Music to blare in my Beats. People to watch. More machines to choose from. Heavier weights to lift. Home workouts were never my thing.
Well, it’s day 80 and counting of consecutive at-home workouts for me. Something that I never accomplished when going to the gym. And although I’m completing my workouts everyday, I’m really missing the enthusiasm I had in the gym. I could push myself through that last grueling set. I could run the extra mile.
But I’m not doing that at home. I’m doing the bare minimum and checking my workout off for the day. Accomplished, yes. Have fun, no.
So, I think I’ve figured out what I’m missing…MUSIC.
WHAT TO CONSIDER & HOW TO CREATE A PLAYLIST FOR YOU?
Consider how you want to feel before a performance. It could be a big game, practice, lift, or exercise class. Heck, it can even be before an at-home workout. Do you want your heart rate to be low, moderate, or fast? How anxious do you want to feel? Relate back to some of your best performances. How did you feel before them?
Now, what song(s) would help you get to your desired heart rate and anxiety levels?
Consider your affect before a performance. Again, big or small performance. What kind of emotions do you want to come up beforehand? What kind of attitude do you need to have to bring your A game?
Now, choose songs that would put you in your A game mood!
BEATS PER MINUTE
Consider the tempo of the songs on your playlist. Are all of your songs exciting you? Are the songs on your playlist, YOUR favorite?
Now, create your personalized A game playlist. Remember, if you get bored. Change it up.
Me: “Siri, play “Ima Boss” by Meek Mill.”
NOT SURE WHAT YOU NEED TO HIT SHUFFLE?
Let’s chat! We can consider what YOU need to bring your A game to every performance. While we might not share the same taste in music, I am here to support you in creating your personalized pre-game playlist that will help you achieve success more consistently. Sign up for a FREE mini session with me today!
If the world was a perfect place, you would be in every hall of fame. But I know even that wouldn’t be enough.
Despite all the coaches, trainers, and teammates we’ve had, you have always been my biggest supporter.
You may have never had the opportunity to wear a medal, hoist a trophy, or even get your name announced over the loudspeaker, but I always knew that you deserved every ounce of recognition that was given to me.
You never openly told me, but I now know how hard it was to pay for my athletic career.
I never went without. I was always able to do whatever my heart desired, and you made it work. And I know it would be impossible to try to measure the amount of time you spent driving me to and from practice, tournaments, and private lessons.
Looking back on it now, I should have said thank you 100 times a day. The thousands of dollars of equipment you selflessly bought for me is now packed away in various boxes and collecting dust in the garage; most of it broken due to both overuse and underuse. I was too blinded by my own childhood dreams of playing forever that I never realized that you would be there for me long after the game ended.
Mom, you were always there for me even when I didn’t play. You would tell me “You did so well!” Even when the most action I got was drinking the two Gatorades you got me before the game. You didn’t care because you were going to support me no matter what I did.
Sports have taught me a lot about how to deal with adversity and how to push myself beyond my previous limits. But you, Mom, told me I could overcome anything. No matter how frustrated I was with the slumps, the disappointments, and outright failures, you told me to keep going when I wanted to quit. The encouragement you gave wasn’t empty or merely words to make me feel better. You always told me “You are stronger than you think. You can do this.” Those words have meant more to me than you will ever know.
You have loved me in so many ways.
You told me I could when no one else believed; not even myself. You were always there to offer me a hand whenever I didn’t want to get up from whatever just knocked me down. You pulled me from dark places when I was injured and couldn’t play. Your support was bigger than sports.
I thought you were preparing me to have a good next game, but I realized that you were preparing me for the next chapter of my life.