Part 4 of the list for most common challenges athletes face is the ability to overcome strss when it comes to the unknown territory of change. Changes that can be faced during the competing days and also the great challenge of retiring.
Yes, we can say that every sport in any way is made of consecutive changes. Not one second of every race or game is the same and for sure not everything goes the way we want it to go or as “planned”.
Athletes are great in understanding that and in a way this understanding has found its way to the very core of their being, manifesting also in their personal lives and in their general behaviour away from the game.
But what are those changes?
Talking about the in-game changes or situations that occur and the way we respond to them would be too easy and I would not be putting any value by describing them. We know those and the training method an athlete uses is designed to deal with them.
I want to go further.
Let’s start by making categories of some of the challenges which occur.
The most common would be:
There has never lived an athlete that hasn’t been injured. Ever. Nor will there ever be.
Of course injuries differ; there are serious ones(even career-ending ones) and there are minor, everyday injuries. Nevertheless, all are an obstacle in the “normal” flow of things.
Athletes know they will come accross injury time, although not actively wanting it or expecting it.
This factor can strike when you are at your personal best or even before the tournament you have been waiting for all your life!
To make things more radical: injury strikes right before let’s say, the Olympic Games and then you never get the chance of competing in the Games ever again! It happens. It could happen.
Point is, you don’t know.
But you must be prepared. Mentally.
When injured, an athlete takes some time away from the thing he/she loves and has become a part of themselves as an identity factor. There is the first form of crisis. One can begin questioning everything.
The right approach to this situation is to focus on what you are doing, on what you are willing to do to get back. Not saying better, because it cannot be guaranteed. Hard but true.
Follow the rehabilitation program as it is. That program is now your training time.
Take on a hobby to fill the hours that you are sitting out not able to train. If you stagnate and not find something of meaning to replace the activity, that is a path leading to depression and all other kinds of problems. Read, get to know yourself better.
Get your mind straight. This is not the end of the world. Opportunities arise from everything. Don’t go down the “Why me, why now” path. It is destructive. Go the “what is asked of me now” highway instead. It is all a matter of how one views at things. Ok, sure personality plays a role, but you can learn how to keep things at bay, things that are negatively affecting you.
The right mindset would be something like: “Ok, now this happened, it cannot be undone, what am I doing about it so that I can go back to where I was in the best possible way?”
Let’s face it; there is no way that you will be able to perform physically at the same level as years pass.
Fact of life. You can extend your prime by some time, but eventually….
The body functionality changes and there are things you were able to do earlier, but not now. In sports this is really characteristic and specially hard to accept, for higly motivated young people.
The solution here would be realization. Acceptance. Then finding ways to deal with it.
My personal experience is that after 32, I gave great focus on nutrition. You will be amazed on how important it is! My body kept doing things that let’s say it “shouldn’t” be doing by some standards. And without million dollar trainers, nutritionists or training methods.
But with age, comes a gift; experience. You know, after a point, you don’t need to be the quickest, strongest, high-jumping dog out there. You learn to let the game come to you. Kind of seeing what will happen, before it actually does. That is a form of advantage too.
It is all about accepting every moment and every stage of the path, they all have the magic in them.
One of the driving factors of Athlete Legacy program is the education of these changes, how an individual can thrive under all circumstances.
Another less-addressed issue but too important to ignore is
Not the way you suppose.
When there is motivation, it is all roses, right?
I’m talking about the handling of the opposite. When it is not normal. When you find yourself losing the flame, the passion and the motivation to keep going. This situation can originate from bad results, good results leading to a feeling of nothing more to accomplish, the end of a season/tournament, age, social factors such as having a family or fans/others losing interest in your athletic performance.
It again all comes down to talking with yourself. Finding that extra motivation to do the next step on the road.
You know what motivates you. The self-talk should go something like this: What have I achieved up to this point–> How did I do it–>What is there to be achieved still–> How–> Can I commit to it–> Is it important for me–> Why–> Why not?
-and it’s perfectly normal- realizing that a chapter is over and it is time for something new to begin. Is it time to retire? Has something else taken the important place of your sports journey? It is absolutely normal, although we are programmed to not view it like that. You are not being disrespectful on your past, no worries.
You really can’t be balanced trying to revive something that has died naturally.
As seen, change comes in all shapes and forms, and I even didn’t touch the aspect of continuous travelling, moving around, all the cultural changes that an athlete faces, that is more of a 1on1 approach in the program, but rather highlight some of the more commonly faced ones.
If I was to give one last advice it would be to reach out to someone who has been through it before, you will see there are all kinds of approaches, don’t stress out, rather try and understand what it is you’re dealing with.
You cannot win the game against an opponent if you don’t even know that you’re playing!