A Letter to the Girls Missing Sports and Preparing to Return. PART II by Keesha Shankle, DPT
I am so excited to share Part II of our blog about returning to sports. For this part of the blog, I reached out to my close friend Ashleigh Carpentier and asked her to share with us information that will help with the mental challenges related to this long break. She is an expert in sports psychology. I fully believe that to reach your maximum potential as an athlete, you need to fully understand your mind and body. A strong mind will lead to a strong/confident body and increased success in sport. Enjoy!
My name is Ashleigh Carpentier and I grew up playing soccer and basketball through high school. I was then privileged to get to continue my athletic career into college where I played NCAA Division 1 Women's Soccer at Western Michigan University. I always struggled with pre-game nerves, taking tums to settle my stomach, thinking I was never good enough and afraid to make a mistake. Although I loved playing, these thoughts and feelings took a toll on me emotionally and physically. They hindered me from fully reaching my potential and completely enjoying my experience and time playing.
It was not until after my years as an athlete that I learned about tools and techniques that can help manage performance anxiety, eliminate fear of failure, and increase confidence and enjoyment in sport. Learning about these things is what led me on my journey to becoming a Sport and Exercise Psychology Consultant or some like to say a Mental Performance Coach. What is that you might ask.
Well, have you ever faced any of the situations I mentioned I went through?
Have you ever struggled with overcoming a setback?
Have you ever made a mistake because you were not completely checked in and focused on the right thing?
Have you ever played amazing one game but struggled to consistently have that level of performance?
Have you ever made one mistake, which led to another and another, unable to stop the downward spiral?
I could continue, but these are just a few of the key aspects of an athlete’s mental game that I help train, condition, and strengthen.
You see a complete athlete has 4 fundamental aspects which you can see in the diagram below.
Physical, technical, and tactical are usually addressed consistently, but often the mental aspect gets forgotten yet blamed frequently for losses and mistakes. The mind is a muscle and must be trained, conditioned, and strengthened just like we approach the body. So after becoming a Sport Psychology Consultant, I started my company Tier Training Performance where I coach and train athletes in their mental game so they can have the X-factor needed to become the top in their field.
As an athlete, you are always climbing a mountain to get to your goal (the peak). Covid-19 created a massive landslide on your path. You cannot just go around or easily climb over, but must wait for others to clear or pave another path. It is completely out of your control for once. However, I want to challenge you to look around and enjoy the amazing views, and take in lessons being learned, rather than fixing your eyes on the problem.
I understand that Covid-19’s “landslide” has been larger and more devastating to some than others. Yet all of us have had our lives changed, influenced, and deeply affected by it in some way. It has been hard; it has been long; it has been out of your control and at times made you feel helpless and overwhelmed. It would be ridiculous to think that you have not gone through a lot these past few months. Yet with every obstacle comes an opportunity.
As you prepare to return to your sport and get back on track to your goals, use these last moments of pause to become more prepared and stronger for the journey ahead.
1. Reflect and remember
Having this time off can give you the time and clarity to reflect and remember just why you love to play.
Ask yourself and journal:
What do you miss the most?
What makes you want to get back to your sport?
What excites you about getting back to your sport?
As you get back into your sport it can be easy to fall back into the “I have to…” mentality. Allow this time off to be an anchor for you to remember what it was like to have your sport taken from you and that playing is a gift. That “You get to…” do your sport. A simple mental shift of “I get to” vs “I have to” can give you the edge in overcoming hard practices, difficult moments, and burnout down the road. Take this moment to journal the feelings you have right now so you can go back and reflect on them whenever you feel like “You have to” do something.
2. Win this moment
Be present and mindful of how you can win this moment right now. Not tomorrow, or next week, just right now.
When you begin to feel stressed, afraid, or insecure, reset your mind by breathing and refocusing yourself with a power statement.
Take a breath, breathing in for a 6 count, hold for 2 then out for 7.
Breath through your nose
Breath into your stomach then your chest
Have good posture with your chest up and chin down
Repeat 5 times.
Create a positive statement that will help refocus your mind and replace the negative thoughts.
Remove any No’s, Don’ts , and Can’ts
Keep it simple and clear
I can do all things. I will face everything and rise. I have got this. Bring it on!”
Act now, not tomorrow. Start moving, working out and doing some small technical things you can do on your own daily. Aim to just do 1% more daily. Small, consistent actions lead to massive results in the long run. You don’t have to be game ready today, but if you start today you will be game ready when the time comes.
3. Start seeing yourself succeeding and competing
Utilize visualization to get yourself back on the field and your mind ready for you to compete.
Journal about one of your best performances.
Close your eyes and focus on your breath for about 5 breaths. Once you are fully relaxed, begin to replay that performance in your mind in as much detail as you can from start to finish and in real time, not too fast or slow. When you have finished, open your eyes and write in your journal.
What you saw
What you heard
What you felt emotionally
What you felt physically
Now close your eyes and replay it in your mind one more time. Repeat these steps with other great performances.
These few simple and easy tips will help you be mentally ready once you are able to return to play. But remember what is easy to do is easy not to do. Make a commitment to yourself and someone else (teammate, friend, parent, etc) to do at least 1% daily. Mental toughness comes from having the discipline to do the right things with your mind consistently.
At New Season’s Physical Therapy, we fully believe in caring for the entire athlete and working with other healthcare professionals to provide you with complete care. As Ashleigh spoke about, there are 4 pieces to a complete athlete. We are confident that we can help you with many pieces of that pyramid, but are so grateful for amazing providers like Ashleigh to help with some of the pieces that we are not experts in.
If you are struggling with any physical symptoms, book a FREE call with us. In this 15 minute call we want to learn about you and what you are having a hard time with. In this call we will be able to determine next best steps. Maybe it is an evaluation or movement assessment with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy or maybe it is a referral to one of our preferred providers.
If you are interested in reaching out to learn more about tackling any mental challenges you’re facing Ashleigh has kindly provided her contact information.
For more information or to schedule 1on1 mental skills trainings check out her site at www.tiertrainingperformance.com or follow Tier Training Performance on Instagram and Facebook.