After my first post on recovering from injury and getting back to playing, I got quite a few questions about strategies for dealing with an initial injury and getting through the recovery process itself. That’s what this post is all about. If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be:
Recovery is a dynamic process – be aware of changing conditions, adapt, be patient, and persist.
Here are my tips for getting through the process of recovering from an injury. As always, ask questions and share any other strategies that have worked for you!
Maintain Realistic Expectations: Plan for the roller coaster
What I’m about to say in this section isn’t meant to be harsh or get you down. It’s meant to prepare you if you’re just starting the recovery process. It’s meant to normalize your experience if you’re already deep into the process. It’s meant to help you say: I can get through this.
Experiencing and recovering from injury is a challenge. It can test your body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
It can be a mental and emotional roller coaster: You’ll likely have days where you’re upbeat and feel good followed by days of the exact opposite. Grief, anger, sadness, detachment, no motivation, irritability, lost confidence…these are all normal.
A provider (Dr., PT, ATC, etc.) may say, “You’ll be able to return to play in X months.” Then X months may come and go and you’re nowhere near being able to play. A friend may say, “I had that same thing happen and it took me forever to heal” or “I had that same thing happen and I was back a week later.”
Knowing that these ups and downs are coming can help us to manage them when they arrive and can help us understand they will come and go.
Keep a journal of progress & setbacks
I highly recommend keeping a detailed journal of your progress. Often athletes make small improvements that go unnoticed. And a common response to not feeling like we are making any progress is to push too hard.
The journal also helps you more objectively see the 'two steps forward, one step back' type of progress. Instinctively, we more easily notice and remember the 'one step back.' Reviewing journal entries can help you see how far you’ve come.
If you have a provider (ATC, PT, Dr., etc.) you’re working with, ask for their thoughts and feedback to add to your journal as well. They are experts and may be seeing progress that is hard to feel and offer a different perspective.
Track your progress & the strategies that helped. Track your setbacks & the lessons you learned.
Re-frame your thoughts
Are your thoughts about your injury and recovery helping or harming you?
If you find that your thoughts are not effective for your recovery, you’ll likely need to do some work to re-frame them. This takes practice and some effort initially, but as you begin to retrain your brain it will become more second-nature.
One strategy is to identify and recognize the reality of the situation (don’t ignore it, that’s actually not helpful) and then also identify where you have control and what you can do to help your body heal.
In the early stages of an injury, your thoughts may sound like: “I hate not being active, I can’t stand to sit around” or “If I don’t play I’m going to lose my spot on the starting lines.”
Re-framing these thoughts might sound like: “Not being active is hard for me, but I trust that rest is what my body needs to heal fastest” or “The only way for me to maintain my starting spot is to heal as efficiently as I can.”
Stay tuned-in to your thoughts throughout the recovery process. The thoughts that get in your way immediately after an injury may be different than the thoughts that get in your way a week, a month, or many months into the process.
Keeping track of your initial/unhelpful thoughts and the re-framed thoughts is another great way to see progress. It can also help you transition between stages. For example, early on you may need to be more protective and then transition into a stage where you need to push a bit more – different thoughts can be helpful in these different stages.
How you think matters to your recovery – choose to be your own ally instead of your own enemy.
Culture of respecting the recovery process.
Finally, but certainly not last: Coaches, leadership, and teammates have to be on-board with creating a culture where the recovery process is valued. More importantly, this should be explicitly stated as something that is valued. Otherwise, athletes inevitably 'mind read' pressure from their coaches/leadership/teammates to return to play sooner than they are ready.
Most athletes put enough pressure on themselves that they actually need the encouragement of others to hold-back. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Be aware of how your beliefs or preconceived notions may be influencing your perception of an injured athlete. Some people may push a top-tier athlete to return to play because they are needed, and some people may protect a top-tier athlete more than others. Some people may judge a lower-tier player’s injury to not be as serious and unintentionally pressure them to return to play. Tune-in to your thoughts and reactions to your athletes/teammates injuries and how you may be influencing their recovery.
The more people we have on our side through this process the better.
TODAY'S JOURNAL WORK: REFLECT & ADAPT
Where are your expectations set? Are they helping your recovery or making it harder?
Are you aware of your progress no matter how small? Would tracking your progress in a journal help you see your progress more objectively?
Is your thinking helping or harming your recovery? Could you be thinking more effectively?
Are you supporting your athletes and teammates in their recovery as well as you could be?
Another post in the Q&A series...
The first thing I want to say is that I hope people read this post whether or not they've ever been in this exact position with an injury:
Question: "What are some of the strategies you use in overcoming an injury? Specifically, is there a mental pep-talk you give yourself after recovering from an injury when you have a scary moment where you overreact mentally? I find myself apologizing and explaining that I had a recent injury, but need to pull myself together quickly to keep playing after a "close call." I've seen others struggle as well. Advice?"
Certainly, if you've been injured and felt like you've 'overreacted' in 'close call' situations during your recovery (or even well after you've recovered), it's important for you to know what's (likely) going on in your brain and body.
If you're a coach/captain/teammate/friend of someone who's ever had a serious injury or struggled to come back from injury, or has 'overreacted' in 'close call' situations, it's important for you to understand what might be going on for them.
Additionally, the information I'm going to present in this post is valuable for everyone to know because it has broad connections to any type of injury or trauma someone may have experienced in their life.
Let's start by defining the term "overreact." We use this term to describe the moment when our actions/reactions turned out to be more than the situation warranted. It is usually retrospective and it is usually judgmental in tone. I can't think of a time I've ever planned to "overreact" in advance. It usually just happens and it often happens before we really know that it's happening.
This post is written to help you understand why and how our brain and body react seemingly without your direction, much less your permission.
Here's how one athlete describes this experience:
"Everything is fine until all the sudden it's like my brain senses or feels someone running up behind me. I freeze – I go from a full sprint to a dead stop - my body just stops, tenses-up and I scream. All this to find out seconds later that the player behind me wasn't even close to me. The reaction – stopping in my tracks, tensing up, screaming – is instantaneous …it all happens before I even knew it happened. When the time warp ends, I stand there untouched, unscathed. Embarrassed, I apologize...but I feel shaken."
While there is a lot of technical neuroscience stuff that can explain these reactions down to the neuron, I want to keep it more basic here so we can all have a usable big picture understanding.
This is a textbook experience of what it's like when our primitive and emotional brains hijacks our thinking brain.
The primitive brain is responsible for our survival functions like breathing and threat detection. When a threat is detected, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and we experience symptoms commonly referred to as "fight or flight" such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, and surges of adrenaline. These physiological changes are designed to help us survive the threat by priming us to run or fight for our lives.
Another somewhat lesser known response is the "freeze" response. The physiological changes in the freeze response include a similar activation of the sympathetic nervous system, but a disabling of body movement. The primitive and emotional brains basically says, "this threat is so severe that our best chance of surviving is to play dead."
What's most likely happening for athletes who experience a freeze response while playing is that the primitive brain detects a threat because the conditions - 'someone running up behind me' - are similar to the conditions under which the athlete experienced a severe injury.
Other athletes may experience similar physiological or emotional symptoms to a lesser extent. Maybe they don't freeze, but they hesitate. Maybe it's not in the moment of play, but upon returning to the field where they tore their ACL or facing the opponent they were playing when they got a concussion.
It might seem hard to believe that the brain would create such a strong response to one data point when it has thousands of other data points that are strikingly similar and nothing bad happened. This happens because our brains are wired to encode emotionally charged memories (the one data point) significantly deeper than average, non-emotional memories. Why? To keep us safe. Unfortunately, sometimes they overshoot the mark - especially when it comes to strong emotional memories like an injury.
So what do we do about it? How do we reign-in our primitive and emotional brains and allow our thinking brain to execute some control?
TODAY'S JOURNAL WORK: THE PLAN
#1: Manage your expectations.
This is my number one rule for anything injury related and is especially true here. Retraining your brain to respond differently is going to take time and effort - trust that it's worth it.
#2: Remove the judgment.
Unfortunately, when we judge ourselves or others judge us for our 'overreactions,' it can actually reinforce the intensity of the emotional connection to the response, which can reinforce the response itself.
Try starting by acknowledging the judgemental thought: "I'm feeling embarrassed." Then, acknowledge that your response was in fact nothing to be ashamed of, but simply a survival instinct gone too far, "my brain felt threatened and took over, I wasn't in charge."
#3: Release your physiology.
When we have a survival response like fight, flight, or freeze, our bodies fill with neurochemicals and hormones that create physiological activation such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and muscle tension. If there is no threat, we want to release these things from our body as soon as we can so they don't continue to influence us unnecessarily.
Try starting by noticing which of these symptoms you're experiencing: "My heart rate is through the roof, I'm short of breath, and my shoulders are hunched up to my ears." Then, take deliberate action to release these sensation such as a few deliberate breaths, shaking out your arms, or a quick sprint. Be sure to pay attention to what it feels like as your symptoms release.
#4: Start rewiring your brain.
Once the judgment is contained and our body is returning to baseline, we now want to get our thinking brain truly back online. The thing is, you want to be as deliberate about this process as you can as this is a great time to start rewiring your brain for the long haul. I highly encourage you to pre-plan these thoughts in a moment of calm instead of relying on them to come to you in the moment. The stronger the emotional resonance, the more effective they will be.
Try starting with a word, phrase, mantra, or image that fills you with a positive emotion such as hope or gratitude. It could be something as simple as "I'm OK." It could be more complex like a reminder of 'your why': why you play the sport, why you love the sport, why you're pushing to play past this experience. Perhaps something like, "I'm a living example of perseverance for my kids/friends/teammates." If possible, connect this new thought to your calmer physiological state or the positive emotion it elicits. This will help you more deeply encode this response.
Numbers 2-4 are a plan for in-the-moment. The first few times you try to engage these strategies, it might be a bit slow, clunky, or bumpy. That's to be expected. The idea is that this new plan will become easier and more natural each time. You'll start to recognize indicators sooner and be able to more quickly recover. Numbers 5-X are strategies to rewire your brain in calmer moments.
Our brain has a hard time distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. It's why we feel physical excitement just from thinking about something exciting; or feel stress from thinking about something stressful. Use this to your advantage by training your brain to respond how you want it to in your mind first.
Try starting by imagining yourself playing, using all of your senses. When you get comfortable, imagine yourself in the conditions that usually elicit your intense response - like feeling someone running up behind you. It is likely that you will start to feel some emotional and physiological activation at this point. Ideally, instead of letting that primitive brain response take-over, you imagine yourself staying calm and playing through that moment.
It may take many repetitions at this to 'get it right' and actually see yourself playing through it without having an extreme reaction. Your brain is a powerful thing, harnessing it will take time (see rule #1). If you do still see yourself responding with a fight/flight/freeze response, see yourself implementing your new recovery plan (#2-4) and returning to baseline faster.
#6: Enlist help.
Struggling is hard. Struggling alone is harder. Know that other people have gone through what you're going through. Those people may not be on your team, but that doesn't mean your team can't still be helpful.
Try starting by taking time to think about what you need/seek from people in those moments. Do you need to make eye contact with someone? Would you benefit from someone saying something specific to you? Then, think about who you want to ask for that support. Maybe start with a best friend, maybe start with a coach - whoever you feel will be most helpful for you.
#7: Embrace a new normal.
It is important to understand that injuries, even when fully physically healed, still impact us. Pay attention to what mark that injury is leaving on you and know that you can work to frame that mark in a way that it is helpful instead of harmful.
Try starting by recognizing what impact you might be noticing: "I'm not planting and cutting as much off my surgery leg." Then, think about how you could frame that in a way that is helpful: "That is forcing me to tune-in to my cutting patterns in a way I never have before." The idea here is to recognize and embrace that big things impact us, and with some deliberate work they can have a positive impact on us.
Many people who experience major life events (like athletic injuries) recognize that while they'd never wish it on anyone else, they appreciate how it has helped them grow. We might be smarter, stronger, or straight-up tougher than we were before. Let's recognize and leverage it.
I really hope you found this post helpful in understanding what might be happening for people with injuries. If you want more information on any of the topics discussed or have questions about your own experience, please reach out and let me know!
Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank a few people for their contribution to this post: E Kruise (a fellow sport psych consultant for some mind-bending 'nerd out' conversations), Jenn Housholder (a trainer with the Trauma Resource Institute for her insight on injury and the brain), and the athletes whose first-person accounts inspired and informed this post.
A few additional resources for those interested in the details of the brain and the different responses, check-out the videos below...
Emotions and the brain:
Areas of the brain:
This post was inspired by a conversation I had with an athlete this week and is shared with their permission.
We are working on increasing this athlete’s confidence and consistency. One major barrier to that has been their self-talk – the things we all say to ourselves in our own mind. Their self-talk has historically been quite critical.
Realizing we had a short turn-around between our session and an upcoming tournament this weekend, I was looking for ways to have them practice the skill of quieting their mind in everyday life between now and game time.
“Are you as critical of yourself in everyday life as you are in Ultimate?” I asked.
A knowing laugh and sheepish “yes” was the answer.
“Me too!” I said. (I don’t think they were expecting the mental skills coach to say that).
“For example, this morning when I was unloading the dishes from the dishwasher (and our son was sleeping in the next room) I banged a metal baking pan against another pan. I instantly berated myself with a harsh, ‘aw c’mon!’”
There was that knowing laugh again.
“But that was the end of it,” I said. “I couldn’t stop that first millisecond thought, but after that one thought I took a breath and emptied my mind.”
“But don’t you want to fix it?” They asked. “Isn’t the point of the criticism to help you fix the behavior and wouldn’t it be selfish not to fix it?”
“Absolutely. But who says I didn’t fix the behavior? I did: I was more careful and quiet with the rest of the dishes with a quiet mind instead of continuing to berate myself.”
This story might make me seem like I'm good at this all the time. I'm not. Quieting the critical mind is a skill, a process, and a practice. We may not always find success, we may not always remember, but the point is that we always choose to return again.
This is the choice we all have: We can continue to berate ourselves as we fix the behavior, correct the mistake, or simply carry-on with our task. Or, we can fix the behavior, correct the mistake, or simply carry-on with our task with a quiet mind. That quiet mind allows us to be in the present-moment instead of in the past. Being in the present moment is our best chance of being our best.
“But don’t some people use that self-criticism to motivate themselves?” They asked.
“Sure, we can do that. But is it the most helpful and effective motivation?” I said…answering a question with a question (my athletes get used to this overtime).
We talked through another example, this one Ultimate related: you drop a pull in a close game.
In that moment, you could think of that dropped pull and maybe the guilt you’re feeling and use that to motivate yourself to play really hard defense and work and try your hardest to ‘get the disc back’ by making a big play. And we see TONS of athletes do this…and coaches reinforce it. But that motivation can be counterproductive.
If you're over-amped and working so hard to make a big play to get the “D” – you might be thinking about poaching the lane and let your cutter get away from you. Or you might be thinking so much about redeeming yourself with a hand-block causing you to over commit on a fake and give up an easy around.
If you were able to let-go of that mistake, quiet your mind, and play in the present moment you would be more likely to be focused on playing your best defense in that moment. You'd probably stay more focused on your cutter and stay truer on your mark…which is what your team actually needs from you in that moment.
I wanted to share this quick story because I think a lot of people are in this boat together. We think that being critical of ourselves can motivate us to fix the behavior or the mistake we made. Perhaps that’s true, but couldn’t we also fix the behavior or correct the mistake with a quiet and gracious mind? How would life be different if that’s how we operated?
The point sank in for my athlete. “I feel like that’s a big life change to make,” they said sort-of jokingly.
So often when I work with athletes on their mental game in sport, we also end up talking about their mental game in life. If you train your brain to think in a certain way all day every day, how can you expect it to think differently on a moment’s notice?
That couldn’t be more true of a critical mind. Learn to quiet your mind in daily life and the skill will transfer to the moments that matter.
JOURNAL WORK: Learning to quiet the critic
When you make a mistake, become aware of the critical thoughts that enter your mind. As soon as you regain control, find a way to empty your mind.
For me, I actually either say the words “blank” or “empty” to myself, take a breath, and fill my mind instead with my current surroundings. If I’m in the kitchen, it’s as if my mind becomes the kitchen. It might seem silly, but it literally takes your attention away from the self and puts it in the task or moment.
Imagine how powerful that would be if you were on the Ultimate field and your mind became the field and everyone on it and that was the only thing in your mind. That is present-moment-focus.
Quieting your mind is a skill.
Your way of emptying your mind may be different than someone else’s. You may have to do some trial-and-error to discover the best strategy for you.
Quieting your mind is a process.
Success may ebb and flow. Some days may be easier than others.
Quieting your mind is a practice.
You may not always remember, but always return again.
Question: "Are there mental warm-ups we should be doing in addition to physical warm-ups?"
I love this question.
Think about the purpose of a physical warm-up: to prepare your body for whatever you're about to ask it to do...train, practice, or compete. We know - and have normalized - the fact that our bodies need some deliberate preparation to perform optimally.
Funny thing is, while most of us acknowledge that our minds also need to be ready in order to perform optimally, we haven't normalized that our minds also need deliberate preparation.
I have two opinions/approaches/recommendations on both physical and mental warm-ups that I'll share first. Then I'll dive into a few strategies to try.
First, your physical warm-up should be what you need as an individual player to get your body ready. I know most teams have specific team warm-ups with running and plyos and mobility and stretching. All of that is good. And, each individual athlete, if they want to perform at their best, has to know which of those exercises in which order at what intensity is right for them.
My opinion is that while teams can/should run some element of a structured physical warm-up for those who need it, they should also be open to athletes who say "I need something different."
I insert this opinion on physical warm-up within the 'mental warm-up' post because ultimately, being ready physically can have a big impact on our mental readiness. Allowing individuals the time and space to do what they need to do to be ready is one small step captains/coaches/leadership can take to improve the mental performance of their athletes.
Second, your mental warm-up should be what you need as an individual player to get your mind ready. While I would say the vast majority of teams still don't incorporate deliberate mental warm-ups at all, I would also say those that do often miss the mark. Largely what I've seen is captains/coaches/leadership taking the same approach as they do to physical warm up: asking everyone on the team to do the same mental warm-up at the same time. This is usually imagery of a highlight reel, talk to your pump-up buddies, or breathe/meditate.
While these are three great go-to strategies, the trick is in encouraging individuals to customize their warm-up to incorporate them when needed (which I'll discuss more below). Now let's talk about how to improve those mental warm-ups or create them from scratch.
#1: Know your end state: what physical/mental/emotional state are you trying to create with the warm-up. I wrote a series of posts on this topic called so that I could tease-apart the details and help people understand how to identify their ideal state. "Switch On" Part 1 and Part 2 deal with identifying your ideal state and you can find those posts here and here. The general idea is: you have to know where you're trying to go if you want to get there on purpose.
#2: Develop/discover how to get there: Some athletes really like having a set routine you do the same way every time. Some athletes have bits and pieces they incorporate as needed. Some athletes discover what they need day-by-day. Interestingly enough, the world of sport psychology is rather polarized on this issue: some say you need a set routine and some say you don't. My approach is that you have to know you...How you get to your ideal state is up to you. "Switch On" Part 3 is largely about discovering and developing what you need to be mentally ready. Hint: it takes some work so you'll find most of what you need in the "Journal Work" section.
#3: Have a variety of strategies to introduce or try: Different strategies produce different results. And, sometimes a strategy that worked before doesn't work in a particular moment and you need another option. Below is a short-list of strategies to try.
Finally, as always...Train your mind like you train your body: Warming-up physically for a competition isn't the first time you've warmed-up physically. You physically warm-up for training and practice as well. So my question is, are you mentally warming-up for each of those events as well? If not, start there. Try these strategies in practice first to see what works best for you.
Let me know what questions you have from this post. And, this list of strategies is nowhere near complete. Please feel free to comment on our FB page with the mental warm-up strategies that work best for you, especially if I didn't cover it here!
One comment/question that came up on our PC/Ultimate Mindset Facebook page - and got quite a few 'likes' - was: "I loved the "3 Things" exercise for in-the-moment work. I'd love more ideas for how to try and quickly recover when struggling."
I'm excited about this question because having a tool-kit full of strategies to use in-the-moment is an important part of mental toughness. I'm going to breakdown some of these strategies into individual "quick-tip" posts so that they're more easily digestible. And, I re-tagged a couple older posts as 'quick-tips' as well so you can search for those more easily. Just remember, do your best to give these strategies a test run during practice so you know how they work for you before you hit game time!
Quick-Tip: Helping or Harming?
This strategy is insanely simple and yet I have seen it produce amazing results and get people back on track FAST.
Here it is:
When you're "struggling" ask yourself this question: "Are my thoughts and emotions helping me or harming me right now?"
This one simple question reminds us that we are in control of our thoughts and emotions - we are in control of ourselves.
If what we are thinking and feeling is working for us in the moment, that's great - drive on! If our thoughts and emotions aren't working for us (which is most likely the case if we feel we are 'struggling'), it gives us the opportunity to think and feel something different.
A few notes:
I hope this quick-tip reminder that you're in control is helpful. As always, email/post any questions or feedback for me!
The next few posts will be responses to questions posted on our PC/Ultimate Mindset Facebook Page. Enjoy and keep the questions coming!
Original comment/question: "Getting the team hyped up the wrong way - during a game there's an important point - do you pump up by saying "do we want this?! Do we want it more than them?!" ...etc...Do you pump at all? I feel that's when a lot of teams make mistakes is in that game point...certain things you say I think can have a more negative impact because you're putting more pressure on it.
I'm guessing this question is stemming from experiences with the often used strategy of a rowdy pep-talk intended to pump people up to increase motivation, effort, or execution. We yell things like, "C'MON, YOU KNOW WE WANT THIS MORE THAN THEY DO!" or "THIS IS OUR GAME!" or "WE'RE BETTER THAN THIS TEAM, WE'VE GOTTA STOP PLAYING DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL." Etc...etc...etc.
I'll be clear, I say "we" because I have given my fair share of these speeches (feel free to check with my Ultimate and soccer teammates dating back to high school). Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.
Why is that and how do we fix it?
Problem: Everyone is different.
Okay, maybe not everyone. But on a team of almost any size you're going to have pockets of people who have different needs in different moments. That speech will work for the other people who need that type of speech in that moment. Unfortunately, in that same moment, you'll have pockets of people who need calming reassurance or a deliberate breath and that speech will only derail them further.
Strategy: Make a plan as a team.
Take 10 minutes during a stretching session at the end of a practice to ask people to talk about what they need in those moments. Make it a conversation driven by curiosity and team growth - aka, don't heckle people's contributions. Ask what works for them and what doesn't. Not everyone will participate, and that's okay...but get as many people talking as you can.
Key takeaways from this conversation should be:
-We hear you, we took notes and we (captains/leadership/coaches) will cater to everyone's motivational needs as much as we can, but it'll never be perfect. So....
-Each of us is responsible for our own needs. Be aware of where you're at, what you need, and how you can get it. (This may mean staying in the huddle but tuning out the speech).
-Find buddies who have similar motivational styles as you so you know who you can talk to or simply be near in those moments.
If the pump-up speech is a leader's only strategy it is likely going to lose value and effectiveness.
Strategy: Look inward / Speak up
If you're the leader/teammate overusing the pump up speech: Look inward. Pause, relfect and ask yourself curiously why is that my go-to strategy? What am I seeing/feeling that makes me want to say something? Do I have an accurate read on how my speeches are perceived by my team? What are other strategies I can try? The answers to these questions may not come to mind readily, so give them time. If you don't know how your speeches are perceive - ask around. If you're not sure what other strategies you can try...practice breaking down what you're seeing: is it an effort thing? is it a precision thing? is it a confidence/composure thing? As you refine your observation about what's going wrong, you'll be able to diversify what you're saying to fix it. (And, as always feel free to ask me anytime).
If you're a teammate of someone who is overusing the pump-up speech: speak up. That doesn't necessarily mean go straight to this person and tell them you think they're overusing the pump-up speech. I'd suggest first speaking to other teammates to make sure you're not the only one who feels it is overused. (Caution: this should be approached with a behavior-focused, problem-solving manner...Not as a gossip session which tends to be done in a person-focused, problem-lamenting manner.) If your data suggests others have the same sense you do, then speak to the person directly.
Problem: The message and the messenger
If the message comes across as inauthentic, fake, or simply lacking the right emotion - the speech will likely demotivate instead of motivate. If the message is too focused on the outcome instead of the process OR the person giving the speech is too emotional - the speech will likely create unnecessary or unhelpful pressure.
Strategy: Be flexible
I almost always see inauthentic speeches when coaches/captains/leadership feel like it is their sole responsibility to motivate. This means they give a speech even if they aren't feeling it or they try to get the team to calm down, but they're a hot mess.
I encourage all team members to look for the person who has what the team needs in that moment and leverage them. If your team needs fire, who's got fire? If the team needs calm, who's most composed? It might be the rookie. It might be the quiet one. It doesn't matter. Ask them if they can share what they've got in a way that works for them. This is a task not just for leadership, but for all team members.
Keeping speeches focused on the process takes practice. It takes re-training your brain to first think about the process: Yes, we want to score this point or win this game, but reminding people of that often adds pressure that people weren't expecting in that moment. Instead, tell us what we can DO to make that happen: shut-down person defense? taking more risks with the disc? taking fewer risks with the disc? running through catches? better sideline talk? simply out-work the other team?
1. Mental training should be as deliberate as your fitness and skills training - both for individuals and teams.
2. Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves. Own that. Because when you do, what other people say and do will only effect you if you want it to.
Hopefully this was helpful and answered the question asked!
Other questions I'll be answering in the next few posts (in no particular order):
-What are other quick ways to recover and get back on track when you're struggling?
-What can players do to be good teammates when we feel the mental toughness/morale of the team slipping?
-Are there mental warm-ups we should be doing in addition to our physical warm-ups?
If you have a question that's not captured here, reach out via email or social media and I'll add it to my list!
A lot of the work we do here on the Ultimate Mindset is hard to see. It’s work you do in your mind. It’s often lonely. The results may show up quickly for some, and take seasons of work for others to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Because it is hard to see, we need to do everything we can to track your progress. To do that, I want to revisit the Performance Profile I originally posted last April (2017).
If you’ve completed a Performance Profile before, download and complete a new one before looking back at last year’s then compare the two and reflect. Where have you made the most progress? How did you make that happen? Did you regress in any area? What happened that might have contributed to that? What area do you most want to make progress on this year?
If this is your first time completing a performance profile, download the worksheet and follow the instructions. What areas are your strongest? How did you develop that strength? In which areas would you most like to improve?
In a couple days I am going to post a question on our Social media sites to ask some of you all to share the areas you’d most like to work on this year and ask any questions you’ve got rolling around in your minds about the mental game.
As always, I love hearing from UM readers so stay in touch!
download your performance_profile.pdf here
I just wanted to take a minute to welcome you back (or perhaps welcome you for the first time) to The Ultimate Mindset.
If you’ve been following along, you probably noticed that we’re coming back from a three month hiatus over the winter season. While I hope you didn’t miss us too much, I also hope that you’re ready to roll in 2018 and continue learning how to build your mental game.
Today’s post is going to be short and sweet, giving you an update on the direction we’re looking to take the Ultimate Mindset and asking for your help in moving that direction.
Here’s what’s up:
If Facebook isn’t your thing please send us a quick note and let us know where you prefer to hangout in the online social space and we’ll do our best to reach you and your friends through a different platform.
I hope you’re as excited as we are to kick-off this next season of The Ultimate Mindset. We’re looking forward to getting to know you better and making sure our content is serving you best!
Building resilience and mental toughness: TIPS FOR COACHES AND PARENTS OF YOUTH & HIGH-SCHOOL ATHLETES
The fall season is coming to a close, and many of our young Ultimate players will be competing in championship events like high school state tournaments or YCC Regional Championships.
As coaches and parents of youth and high-school athletes, you have the opportunity to develop their mental toughness and resilience. While this may as well be considered a full time responsibility of coaches and parents, your impact will be particularly strong during these ‘big’ championship-type events.
Some of your influence is explicit – e.g. how you talk to your athletes about winning and losing. And some of your influence is implicit – e.g. your body language (subtle and grand) when your team scores/wins or gets scored on/loses, etc. The 4 tips below will help you make sure your explicit and implicit influence is developing mentally tough and resilient athletes.
1. Focus on the process and the experience:
Let me be clear, I am not saying winning and losing don’t mean anything. I’m saying winning and losing aren’t everything. The thing is, focusing on the outcome often moves us farther away from our desired outcome. Focusing on the process keeps us motivated, learning, growing, and enables us to move closer to our desired outcomes. While most of us likely understand this, it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. Use these strategies and examples to stay focused on the process and experience:
*Parents: These are often the conversations you have after the game or in the car ride home. To keep your kids interested, motivated, and enjoying their sport consider moving your conversations toward the process.
2. Don’t sugar coat performance – have the tough conversation:
Often as coaches and parents, we have a gut reaction to protect our kids and athletes. Making a mistake, getting scored on, or losing a game can be embarrassing, frustrating, or devastating. So when it happens, we try to make them feel better. We say things like, “it’s okay” or “you’ll get ‘em next time.” While both of those things are true, they are not complete. Mistakes/losing/failure “is okay” because it is part of the learning process, but we as coaches and parents need to help that learning occur. That, after all, is what will help them “get ‘em next time.” The thing is, ignoring or sugar coating mistakes, poor performance, and losses prevents learning, growth and development of toughness. Calling-out/acknowledging, normalizing, and processing mistakes and failure fosters growth and resilience. Being sure to separate the behavior/incident/outcome from their value as a human being (“yes you failed, but that does not make you a failure.”)
*Parents & Coaches: It will take some practice. It may not be easy, but it is critical to helping them develop the mental toughness and resilience you want them to have in and out of sport. And, wouldn’t you rather they learn these lessons from you, their loving and caring parent or coach, than someone else?
3. Provide “effective” praise (not just praise/compliments):
Sometimes we inadvertently, unintentionally, or implicitly send the message that the only thing we can learn and grow from are our failures (see above). But that is absolutely not the case - we can learn a lot from our own success and the success of others! Indeed, this can be a great way to develop young athletes as it allows you to ‘coach’ them without criticizing/critiquing their performance. The thing here is simply remembering to label the effort, strategy, or skill they used to produce the success in addition to praising.
*Something critical to keep in mind is that your athletes/kids may not know what they did that enabled their success. By labeling it for them, you’re teaching them how to be successful again. While this might take a smidge more work up front, it actually enables them to repeat their own successes and requires less coaching and correcting later on. Remember: name the effort, strategy, or skill that allowed them to be successful in the first place.
4. Model mental toughness and resilience:
I saved this for last because I want to make sure it sticks with you. At the end of the day our actions speak louder than our words. As a parent or coach you could say all the right things, but if you aren’t living those things yourself – that’s what your kids and athletes will notice and remember most. I encourage both parents and coaches to deliberately think about the values, habits, and qualities you wish to instill in your kids/athletes. Write them down and make note of what they mean to you and what it looks like to demonstrate those values daily.
*Other questions to consider: How do I want my kids/athletes to act when we win? How do I want them to act when we lose? How do I currently act when we win/lose? What words do I choose and what message does my body language send?
I’m going to start today with a true story from my own athletic career.
I had a teammate on my college soccer team who, before every game, would turn up the music in the locker room and jump around like she was at a punk rock concert. As she got more and more pumped, she would jump and bump into people on purpose, get in their face and shout something like, “C’MON!! GET PUMPED! AREN’T YOU PUMPED?! I’M SO PUMPED!”
It sounds funny, but it’s true.
Whenever she would do that to me, I’d hardly respond. I’d give her a light chuckle and a bro-like hug and say, “Yeah, yeah…I’m pumped. I’m ready.” Each time I responded this way, she’d remember that I like to keep a lower energy and she’d go bouncing off like Tigger to someone else.
You see, the energy she needed to be at the top of her game was super high - quite literally bouncing off the walls. The energy I needed to be at my best was much lower – a reserved intensity. Were we both ready? Absolutely.
But there’s three important lessons to this story:
The essence of today’s post is:
what do you need to do/think/feel prior to game-time to get there?
TODAY’S JOURNAL WORK:
To get after this, I’m going to pose a series of questions and a few examples to help you think more deliberately about how you prepare for game-time. Take care as you answer these questions to base your answers on experience as much as possible. Think back to performances where you’ve accessed your ideal state and recall what you did prior to those games that you felt worked and didn’t.
*A note before you begin: I encourage you to read through the whole list before embarking on answering the questions. Some people may find they only really need to focus on a few areas while others want to take-on the whole list. Additionally, once you’ve read through the list, decide whether it will be most productive for you to go in the order I’ve presented or in the reverse order (game-time backward).
-What is important to you to feel prepared in the 2-3 days leading up to game-time?
A couple final notes:
*Your answers may be different than those around you and making sure you get what you need could take some tactful social-navigation.
*As much as you can, the elements of your preparation should…
- be controllable (i.e. they shouldn’t depend on anyone else or any particular circumstance).
- not be controlling (i.e. if I don’t do XYZ exactly and perfectly and in the right order then I’m doomed).
As usual, shout out with any questions or comments. I know a lot of us have Regionals coming up this weekend…If there’s anything I can do to help with your mental game last-minute, let me know! If you’ve got a question, it’s likely someone else does as well so I am going to try to run some Q&A on the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/performancecolorado.
Happy planning & happy playing!
Hi! My name is Petra. I am an Ultimate player, wife, mom, and human performance coach. My passion and my profession is to help individuals and teams perform at their best through research-based mental skills, resilience, leadership and team dynamics training.
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