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                             First Downs and Second Guesses

                          Blog #187 - January 2021

Happy New Year to everyone.  It's great that 2020 is behind us, but 2021 will mirror the angst and uncertainty in the world of sport that we saw and experienced last year.  But there are some ways to make 2021 better for many of us.

I have been a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) since its inception in 1985.  The organization has gone through a few name changes, but the philosophy of how sport psychology can assist in daily living stays the same.  The association published a blog in 2020 when the pandemic was just getting off the ground.  

The first item mentioned that we are all in this together.  It doesn't matter who you are, what you do, or where you live.  A pandemic loves everyone and does not carry a bias.  The emotions you feel are real, and your experience may be like a rollercoaster over time.  

Make sure you put your basic needs first (and those of your family, of course).  Maintain communication with others virtually, using text, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, and social media.  Make sure you stay updated regarding health matters.  Keep exercising, and closely monitor your mental and emotional health at all times.

There are some recommendations for various members of the sports community as well.  This month, we'll talk about athletes and coaches, teachers, and instructors.

1.  Athletes and other performers:
a.   Identify people you trust who you feel can be a source of support and guidance.  Stay in touch with your coach and teammates via text and social media.
b.   Consider how you want to continue engaging in your sport.  Talk with your coaching staff to perhaps revise goals or expectations.
c.   Focus on physical and mental fitness.  If you want to continue physical training, ask your coach, trainer, or strength and conditioning coach for guidance.  You can even compete virtually with other people through various apps and programs like Zwift, Garmin, MapMyRun, Strava, and ErgBuddy.  For mental training, locate a sport psychologist for help or use an app like Headspace, Calm, WellU, woop, or Fit Brains.
d.  Establish a daily routine.  Decide how you want to begin and end your day.  Get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, and incorporate other acts of self-care, like journaling and engaging in personal hobbies.  Mostly, routines help you establish control in your life.

2.  Coaches, Teachers, and Instructors:
a.   Stay connected as much as you can with your team collectively and individually.  You may be the person most trusted by the players, so be open and ready to talk about your player's feelings and emotions.
b.   Continue to be a resource.  Based on the needs of your athletes, provide insights into continued training options via credible online programs or apps.  You can also consider creative ways for them to stay involved in their sport, such as sending them sport-specific trivia questions for them to research or books to read.
c.  Remain neutral and factual regarding any governing body's decision to cancel or postpone events.  Athletes will look to you for how to respond to this crisis.  Composure and resilience are key.
d.  Practice and model self-care.  Determine methods of self-care that you want to add to your daily or weekly routines.
e.  Connect with your professional community.  Professional organizations that provide resources for coaches, teachers, and instructors recognize the stress and responsibilities that have been added to your lives this year.  These connections can help provide valuable professional support and enhance your work with your athletes.
f.  Take care of your mental health, too.  Give yourself space to acknowledge your own feelings related to managing this pandemic.  Rely on your support network, including other coaches, to talk about how you're doing, mitigate stress and challenges, and share best practices, resources, and referrals.  Mental health professionals are available for provide support, not only to athletes, but to coaches and other support staff as well.

Next month, I talk about recommendations for athletic directors, sports administrators, and parents and guardians.

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