Sports Psychology Tips: Riding the Waves of Transition
Transitions in sport and life can be tough at times
Life can throw us off track when we least expect it whether you are a professional athlete, a young athlete with potential or an experienced coach – things happen that are out of your control and they can mess with your emotions and decision making.
For me, when I was in my early 30’s, one huge thing that impacted on my life and the way I played my sport (golf) was the diagnosis of terminal cancer and death of my wife, Alex. For others that I have supported it’s been:
- A sudden relegation or being dropped from the first team set up
- Being released from an academy
- Serious injuries
- Burnout caused by sport and life stressors
- Relationship issues at home
- Gaining a contract with their club
- Losing a contract with a governing body
- Turning professional
- Moving up a weight
- Promotion to a leadership role in their sport
- Death of a relative
Some of us find it can be manageable; we focus on what we can control, at least most of the time. Or maybe we have a good support system who help us find our way into a great relationship or new direction in our sport that helps us make sense of our situation.
Not everyone is so fortunate, however, some succumb to excess alcohol, drugs or gambling addictions, their weight may increase or their mental health may suffer.
3 Tips to help you remain in control and manage your situation better
Tip 1: Focus on the Future
Give yourself the opportunity to step back and understand yourself better by making time for personal development. I’d recommend that you consider the following questions:
- In 10 year’s time what do I want to say I achieved and experienced
- What is my purpose for being on this planet?
- What gets me out of bed in the morning and excites me?
- What do I dislike and will not tolerate in my life and sport?
- What do I stand for?
- What roles do I play in my life and sport?
These questions followed up with expert guidance in how to get what you want with detailed short term goal setting can be very motivating in your sport and helpful for a person’s self-esteem.
Tip 2: Focus on the Past
In times of transition it is inevitable that you will compare yourself NOW to a PAST you, pretty much everyone on this planet does it to different degrees, it is the way our brains are wired. Allow yourself time to do so, it is healthy to do so, however – a word of caution – set some time limits otherwise you may spend a lot of time emotionally low or empty.
The trick is to catch yourself when you do fall into the habit of taking yourself back in time. Identify situations when you get caught up doing so, then come up with a tactic to snap out of it. I call it the 3 R’s process – recognize, regroup, refocus.
You’ll find the next tip a simple, yet very effective tactic.
Tip 3: Focus on the Present
While focusing on the future can be helpful in planning your way out of a tough situation, it can be overwhelming and frightening for some people. Paying too much attention to your past, can also create unpleasant emotions such as anger and resentment and can be emotionally draining if you spend a lot of time there.
So here is a very helpful strategy to quieten an overactive mind. Why not try it after you’ve read this article….
The exercise can be done anywhere indoors or outdoors and you can take as long or as little time as you want. I’d recommend a minimum of 3 minutes to notice a difference.
Stop what you are doing and simply note what is around you. Be curious, similar to a small child and scan your surroundings or scenery, look at small tiny details that you may have never noticed before. If you’re indoors, things like the patterns in carpets or rugs, appliances, bookshelves or other pieces of furniture. Outdoors, the sky, blades of grass, leaves, weeds, paths, roads, familiar views.
It’s important to think about the finer details, using your senses, your sight, touch, smell and taste. Oh and the exercise can be done with a partner as in the example below…..
Person 1 says: I can see a tree, a small tree with green leaves on it, the leaves are small and different shades of green and prickly to touch.
Person 2 says: I can see a bench, a brown bench, with a plaque on, the plaque is gold, however rusty now, the bench appears to be quite old as the wood is worn and soft in places.
Person 1 says : I can see a toaster, a silver toaster with a black cord attached to it and a black plug. The make of the toaster is Kenwood.
Person 2 says: I can see a lamp, the light is switched off. The shade is smooth to touch and a creamy colour.
And so on…..
It is important if you feel your mind wandering (which happens to most people, especially those who are new to the exercise) not to judge yourself as poor at the exercise, simply notice that your mind has wandered and get back on track with the exercise.
With regular practise you will get better and better at this and your internal chatter will reduce. Your focus and decision making will also likely improve.
Feel free to share this these tips with your friends or family if you found it useful. Or if you enjoyed this blog offering Sport Psychology advice in dealing with transitions be sure to sign up to “The Mental Edge” for regular updates.
To get in touch for one 2 one Sports Psychology Coaching with a Leading Sport Psychologist, David Charlton, based near Newcastle upon Tyne – Face to face, via the telephone, SKYPE or online via email available.
Sports Psychologist located near Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK and willing to travel Internationally. Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence. With over 10 years experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, quickly.
T: +44 7734 697769
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