Typically, when I write an article, I start by describing why something could be a problem (dehydration, decreased hip strength, burnout, etc.). This article is different, it's pretty obvious what our current problem is. To be honest, it makes all the other issues I've written about seem pretty minuscule.
We are now on what feels like week 100 of this quarantine. We've watched countless sporting events and competitions be canceled. We've done way too many zoom workouts (or maybe we haven't; I'll get to that later). We've tried to get excited for virtual training as we would for actual team practice. We've become frustrated at our decreased motivation.
I get it. When this quarantine started, I figured every passing day would bring me one closer to sports restarting. It hasn't. Over time, I've become even more uncertain, and every time I hear someone say this is the "new normal," I get upset. But in tough times, a person has a choice. They can either crumble or rise to the occasion. Sometimes it takes a daily reminder and a commitment to choose optimism. Sometimes that takes even more effort. If you had goals for 2020 that you are starting to lose track of, keep reading and learn how to recommit to them. If you do, then you might achieve even more than you hoped for in the first place.
Control the Controllable
Reflect for a moment on a tough game or match that you have played in the past. Maybe it was tough because of the weather, or obnoxious fans from the other team. How successful were you at blocking out all of the external issues and focusing on your skills?
This situation is no different. Yes, there's a lot of uncertainty. But there are many things we can still control. Your attitude, actions, and abilities are all your responsibility. By making a daily choice to focus on them, you can be successful, even a tough situation like this.
Start each morning by focusing on two things that you can control. Write them down on your phone, a notebook, a sticky note on your mirror. (Example: "I'll be proud of the intensity I completed my workout with." "I'll finish all the reps on today's training plan." Or, "I will wake up at my normal time today"). All you have to do throughout the day is focus on those two things—nothing else. If you find yourself drifting off into today's newsfeed, take a breath and get back on track.
At the end of the day, reflect and rate your performance on a scale of 0-10. If you did not stick with your plan, write out why. Over time, you will find satisfaction in your effort instead of basing your day or performance on things that are not in your control. And more importantly, these skills will translate to the field or court when you start playing again. You will be able to handle adversity, which is something every successful athlete can do. There's no better time to practice and develop this skill.
Work on your weaknesses
Every athlete has a part of their game they wish was stronger. Most of these, such as conditioning, core strength, dribbling, etc., can be done by yourself. This time away from your team is an opportunity to improve yourself. If you need ideas for drills, talk to your coach. He or she would be more than happy to give you some guidance during this time. Ask your coach if you can send them a weekly training log so that you can stay accountable or motivated to complete each workout.
Be a good teammate
We all need support right now. Schedule a weekly check-in with your teammates or friends. Each person could take a turn to share what they have done for training, and they can also share what they are struggling with. Encourage. Then, cheer each other on, no matter what the accomplishment. For example, running your fastest mile, or getting through a set of sprints require a lot of mental toughness. It's not as different than you think from celebrating points scored or blocks made. You can be sure these feats will translate into those things once you start competing again.
Maintain a base of conditioning
Determine what kind of fitness your sport requires. Do you need to sprint short distances for football? Run for 90 minutes of a soccer match? Not maintaining your fitness will set you up for lackluster performances and risk of an injury once you can start to practice again. Please talk with your coach for a plan, and keep yourself accountable to it.
Lastly, remember to honor how your body feels right now. The purpose of all this is to stay healthy. Understand that you may be more fatigued than normal from stress, nutrition, or disrupted sleep patterns. Talk to a professional, and address these issues to safely help your mind, body, and workouts perform at their best.
Stay safe, everyone! We will get through this, and you will compete again. I'll be cheering for you in the meantime.