Ever feel like your emotions are all over the place especially because of this pandemic, now with 5 months of uncertainty? Will there ever be a vaccine? If we get a vaccine, how long will it last? I hear there’s a second wave of COVID coming, what can we expect and how do we prepare for it? How long is this going to last? Questions, questions, and more questions without answers will definitely bring an onslaught of emotions.
As an athlete, we question whether or not the competition for which we’re preparing will go on. The uncertainty itself can affect an athlete’s motivation, practise, performance, routine, and consistency. What has habitually started as excitement in the preparation stages can dip into discouragement, doubt, and disappointment as shows/games are being cancelled. A further dip of “why bother” leads to a mindset of giving up.
So now is the point of asking yourself do you prepare solely for a competition or is there something more? If there isn’t, you need to look for more intrinsic reasons for why you compete. There needs to be a reason beyond the winning. Recall not everyone can win and many athletes can relate to prepping, not winning a show/competition yet prepping again. So theoretically, if you compete only to win, that would mean if you lost you wouldn’t compete or you would burn yourself out by trying and feel horrible if you never won.
Consider the concept of winning but with that intrinsic motivation I brought up earlier. Do you love to train? What feeling does that give to you that you enjoy? What benefits do you achieve from practising/training? What is it about the competition experience that helps you grow?
Now return to the rollercoaster of emotions. What if you were able to ride out the highs as well as the lows? What if you remained focused, in control no matter what happens? The “why bother” would shift to “oh well; time to get back to work”. Stay calm. Even and despite the pandemic, keep training to build on your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses. Then take it to a more challenging level and create mini challenges for yourself to keep yourself interested and engaged.
If left unchecked, riding the emotional rollercoaster can make an athlete lose their determination, drive, focus, and energy. They often react with fear and doubt which affects their routines, motivation and confidence.
Learning how to respond to various stressors requires resiliency. Do you have a stubborn bone in your body? Good! It’s time to use it to bounce back after any type of setback or obstacle. Like working on a specific skill or body part you wish to improve, it is important to work on how you react to both positive and negative outcomes. Can you remain calm, cool, and collected? This requires mental training. You can’t control everything but you can control how you respond and your experience will be better if you accept what comes, good or bad. Easier said than done. It’s converting that roller coaster into a kiddie version so you can manage your emotions better.
How do you do that? Practise practise practise! Practise accepting what comes, good or bad. You can try using a universal response as a starting point. For example, you can use the “that’s interesting” response. Regardless if you’ve had a positive or negative experience, point out to yourself the positive of that experience in a matter of fact voice tone. What did you learn? What can you improve upon? What will you do next time? This process helps to depersonalize your feelings from the outcome.
Secondly, enjoy the process of practising and training. Enjoy and remind yourself of the positive aspects of the athlete lifestyle. Make a game with yourself by making mini improvements within your physical practice. This process can help you learn to enjoy the process more than the outcome (from the show/competition). Think of all the athletes who still train to some extent despite retiring from the game.
It is absolutely fine to be competitive, motivated, and enjoy celebrating your wins but avoid attaching yourself to them. Break that connection by depersonalizing your experiences (both positive and negative) with practised, planned responses, be intrinsically motivated, stay calm, be resilient, and have fun challenging yourself to stay motivated and engaged with mini goals.
What are you waiting for? Get back to it! 😁💪