The global pandemic of Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the athletic world. Professional, collegiate, amateur and youth athletes of all sports are all having to cope with disrupted seasons. Some will have to wait months to compete again, others may have had their collegiate careers end unexpectedly. For those athletes, parents of athletes, coaches or fans, here are some helpful tips to cope with recent cancellations:
Allow yourself time to grieve the loss of this season. It’s important to recognize all the feelings that may arise from this unexpected situation. The faster you allow yourself to feel the emotions that occur, the faster you can process them and move forward. Some may feel anger, sadness, disappointment. Other athletes may experience feelings of relief, and then feel guilty about feeling that way – however you feel, give yourself permission to experience those emotions. Pushing them away or covering them up is not helpful and will only prolong this process. Grieving is different for everyone, be patient and understanding toward yourself and others during this time.
Elite athletes love competing, and they love winning. With competition and championships on hold or canceled for 2020, it’s easy to feel like the work leading up to this point was all for nothing. It’s not helpful to your mental health to look at it this way. Instead, look at your sport through a non-competitive lens. Consider the little things about your sport that truly make it meaningful; the life-long relationships you’ve made, the discipline you’ve developed from going to early morning workouts every day, the dedication you’ve given to your team and teammates. These are life skills and experiences your sport has given you that no person or virus can take away from you.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in YOU when something so important is taken away from you. Remember that this is more than you, your season, and your team. Recognize that the game you play is a GAME, not life and death. Protecting the public health and vulnerable populations from the spread of this virus – actually is.
This is impacting athletes AROUND THE GLOBE and is a historical event we are witnessing. Grieve with your teammates, reach out to opponents you compete against. It can be helpful to connect with others that are in the same boat as you. Thankfully, technology and social media have made this incredibly easy.
A lot of athletes are having that “What am I supposed to do now?” moment. Now is the time to work on things you never had time to put serious time and effort into before. Maybe your core stability is a weakness of yours – get on it! Maybe there is a new pitch you want to master - start some spin work at home! Cross-train to stay in shape, give cycling a try, or trail running. We are always asking for more hours in the day – in a way, now you’ve got them. Find ways to use them in a positive and productive way.
Research suggests that the practice of journaling can help heal wounds faster. It’s an easy way to process your emotions. It can help the grieving process move along and can help you practice gratitude in a thoughtful and purposeful way. Not only that, but the ability to look back and see your thoughts and feelings in response to the Covid-19 pandemic is also a pretty invaluable opportunity. Carve out some time each day to put pen to paper and let it flow. No rules, no censorship, for your eyes only. You’ve got the time, and it can’t hurt…what’s your excuse at this point?
A season-ending GLOBAL PANDEMIC – is quite the story that only a handful of athletes will experience. Use this experience to help other athletes understand that every game truly could be the last. Play like there is no tomorrow, enjoy the little things, live in the moment, and take nothing for granted. Even though there may not be a championship to compete for, live life like the elite athlete that you are; use this unfortunate event to help others and RESPOND in the face of adversity.
Nicole Denes is a performance coach and licensed professional therapist in the state of Oklahoma where she works with professional, collegiate and amateur athletes to help them reach their highest potential. She is a former pitcher for the University of Oklahoma and has been providing professional pitching and softball instruction for 20 years. She founded Be Complete Athletics in Oklahoma City in 2018, a facility that provides elite-level softball instruction and mental skills training in confidence, leadership, and mental game strategies to young athletes.
Nicole Denes, LPC
Founder, Be Complete Athletics
FB: @becompleteathletics | IG: @becompleteathletics