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 with a Sterling Sport Mindset consultant to get started.

~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)

Sports Movies are Fiction

sports movies are fiction

Coach Carter is one of my all-time favorite sports movies. Why? Because I love how realistic it is. SPOILER ALERT: the team does not win the final game. In fact, despite overcoming all sorts of trials and tribulations, beating all the odds, and coming together as a family; they get bounced in the very first round of the playoffs. Getting to the playoffs was a huge accomplishment in the first place, but the movie did not end with the team hoisting the championship trophy in slow motion with inspirational music playing in the background as the credits crawled up the screen.

It was real.

It was raw.

Sports movies are my second favorite genre of film; second to any type of Christmas movie. And yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but that is an argument for another blog. One thing that I enjoy about sports movies is that they almost always follow an underdog that somehow beats the big bad team in the last game of the year. It’s a classic “good vs. evil” plotline that almost always has the good guys winning. 

But how realistic is that? 

  • What would have happened to Rocky if he got dropped in the first round to Apollo Creed?What if Rudy quit the Notre Dame football team because he had no shot of playing a big role?
  • What if the Titans of TC Williams High School lost the state championship?
  • What if Vince Papale had been cut by the Philadelphia Eagles and never sniffed an NFL field?
  • What if the Average Joes would have lost the final dodgeball match to Globo Gym?

Would movies still be made about these situations if they all lost? 

Probably not.

But why is that?

Because people go to movies to escape reality, not to be faced with it.

Sports are fantastic, and I am forever thankful that my parents signed me up for my first baseball team way back in 1998. Besides the Oklahoma State Little League Tournament of 2007, I have never won a championship. I have received zero individual on-field accolades. I barely played in college. The closest I ever got to playing professionally was the summer before my first year of college when half of my summer team ended up having pro careers. I did not have the most successful baseball career. As a pitcher, if you were to ask me my senior year of high school how many wins I would have by the time I graduated college, I would bet my life that I would have said a number higher than 1. Yes, I do only have 1 win in college.

Stereotypical happy endings are rare.

I believe that sports movies sometimes give us a false sense of entitlement that we have earned the right to have success in the big game because we have overcome adversity, obstacles, and have worked hard. 

The bottom line is that winning is never guaranteed no matter the perception we have of how we have “outworked our opponent” or how we “want it more than them.” Your opponent does not care about your heartwarming story. The fact of the matter is that your opponent might not have worked as hard as you, they might not even care as much as you, but if they are better than you on gameday, then they deserve to win. 

 Another hard truth: winning is not everything.

I never had my day in the sun or my Hollywood ending. I was never carried off the field as the crowd chanted my name. My trophy case is barron, and no director will ever call me for the movie rights for my life. And that is okay. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.

Like those kids who were coached by Ken Carter at Richmond High, I did not win the big game, but what I did win is something more valuable.I I learned discipline. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I gained mental and physical toughness. I learned how to work hard. I found my
purpose. I learned lessons that go well beyond any sport I played.

Sometimes we do have a movie ending where we go out on top, but for most of us we won’t. My point is the ending to your own sports movie may not be how you wanted it to end, but it is how it was meant to end. The trick is to figure out how your ending fits into the rest of your life.

I hope you all have the perfect ending to your athletic careers. 

But how are you going to respond if you don’t?

What are the things you will remember the most when it’s all said and done?

Let’s talk about it in a free mini session.