The One Thing All Athletes Need To Hear During This Pandemic
As a former coach and administrator, my toughest conversations were with kids who lost their seasons due to injury. Their passion, their joy, and in some cases, their spirit – taken away from them in a single moment. And in that moment, many felt they lost their identity too. This creates a ripple effect that impacts self-esteem, social lives, and friendships, and oftentimes their purpose or goal in life. It also wreaks havoc on their daily existence, as an athlete’s life is completely structured around their sports schedules. They are left feeling isolated, depressed, confused, and dejected. Their world has come crashing down around them and they don’t know where to turn.
This pandemic has created the same effect, only instead of a handful of players on each team, it’s a massive number of athletes all at once. So now, more than ever, we need to impress this message upon our young people.
YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST AN ATHLETE
Tell your kids everything you appreciate about them. It could be how they treat strangers, how they conduct themselves, how funny they are, their caring demeanor, their academic achievements, their effort in household chores, etc. Build their self-esteem. Fill their jar. Although they feel like sports is their identity, it is not. It is simply a vehicle for fun, exercise, and development of life skills.
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Keep an ongoing dialogue about what you enjoy about them. And additionally, here are 7 more suggestions to help support your athlete:
- Honor your emotions about the pandemic. It’s normal to feel cheated, sad, and frustrated. Have conversations and use your support system.
- Keep perspective. You did not suffer a career-ending injury. Although sometimes it seems like the world is ending, you will get to play again. Continue to be an athlete by setting process goals.
- Visualize yourself playing again. You will have the opportunity to compete and win again.
- Find a way to enjoy your teammates. Play pick up, work out, and continue to motivate and have fun together.
- Create structure. Plan your day, be disciplined about it, and stick to a routine.
- Most importantly, work to stay positive. A Positive Mental Attitude is not a cliché. It is a scientifically proven variable that helps with overall health and well-being. You will have negative thoughts, but reframe them and find joy!
- Finally, take the time to develop another passion. Even when collegiate and professional careers come to an end, many athletes have a void and experience depression. Discover something new so when this happens again, you’ll have something to enjoy.
Some of the best coaches say, “Don’t let the wins or losses define us.” This is why. Character, perseverance, attitude, mental toughness … these are the traits coaches want their players to leave their programs with for situations like this. Sports have given us the tools to deal with this. Let’s help our kids realize that.
Dr. Jon Coles is a former collegiate coach, administrator, and high school athletic director. He is now a practicing sport counselor and professor of sport management. He can be reached at email@example.com