Friday 2 October 2020

Prepare for the Unexpected

By Lesley Timbol (Adapted from Dr. Patrick Cohn at Peak Performance Sports, LLC.)

You’re told to capitalize on your strengths and work on your weaknesses. What if you don’t know about a weakness until it happens? What if that happens during a competition? How do you prepare for that? How do you react when the unexpected happens?

Does adversity put a damper on achieving your athletic goals or does it motivate you to find another way to keep momentum moving forward?

Not expecting speed bumps, roadblocks and obstacles is unrealistic. You shouldn't go through the season expecting the worst, but you need to be mentally flexible to handle the adversity when it unexpectedly pops up.

A popular saying is "expect the unexpected" but it is more important to be prepared for the unexpected.

As long as you’re an athlete, you will face adversity. Gymnasts will fall in major competitions, softball and baseball players will suffer injuries, soccer goalies will give up last minute goals, hockey players will be caught out of position, bodybuilders will sabotage their diet or get injured.

Being prepared to act when the unexpected happens takes resilience, confidence, and mental toughness. How can you prepare for the unexpected?

Regardless of your sport, how do you react when things don’t go as planned? Can you recover quickly? Do you regroup or do you dwell on what is going “wrong”?

Like many things, recovering or regrouping is a skill that needs to be practised. Rather than “hoping for the best” and that everything goes optimally from every angle, accept this is a rarity. In other words, expect shit will happen. You don’t know what shit that will be but expect it. 

And then you adapt. Like a chameleon changing to fit into his environment, be open to adapt to whatever changes have presented themselves. Accept there will be times you will struggle but be aware that the struggle isn’t the issue, it’s how quickly you recover from the struggle that’s important.

Do you have confidence in your preparation for your competition or game? Do a quick mental recap of what you did to prepare for this moment. Now how are you going to strike back? What are you going to do right now to regain control of the situation?

With practice, you can develop some “go to” actions to deal with unexpected adversities. Start by mentally formulating some hypothetical situations. Ask yourself how mentally tough athletes would respond in such challenging situations. What does that look like and how can you practise that skill? Quite often, these skills are applicable to a variety of situations which will enable you to move forward towards your athletic objective regardless of the obstacle.

If you need guidance on how to develop mental toughness and mental preparedness, please contact me at (416) 805-6155 or email me at so I can help provide you with the boost needed to meet and overcome the unexpected.

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