During the last nine months, we are all dealing with tough times, experiencing the COVID-19 situation on a global level in many ways. The world of sport also feels the enormous impact of this situation working to save the season and competitions whenever is possible and promoting the spirit of sport and true values it has.
Players, coaches, referees, and any other sports professionals feel the changes that range from minor ones (i.e. competing in ‘bubbles’ in empty gyms) to severe life adjustments (i.e. losing their jobs or not being able to perform at all). While some finding ways to safely continue their training, there are others who are not able to adjust.
The experience of anger, frustration, sadness, or loss has risen significantly and many doubt about the future and new suspensions of the games. No one knows how long this pandemic will last and what changes it may bring. It is the uncertainty that takes time to accept, to understand and to learn to live with.
The feeling of uncertainty can awake many negative thoughts and feelings that arise from unpredictable circumstances, frustration towards what we don’t know and can’t control, or fear of the negative consequences in the future. Uncertainty exists in our lives and it is everywhere in our universe, even in our very own nature. It will never go, it will always be in our lives, but it is important how we are going to face it.
“Life, like basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and an open heart. When you do that, the game, and life, will take care of itself.”
– Phil Jackson –
If you make a reflection and think about how you prepare for the games, you’ll see that is somehow a similar situation. You never know what will for sure going to happen in the game or what the result is going to be at the end, but you go with the intention to win, to present your best performance and gain valuable new experience. You are prepared for many situations, have many solutions (strategies) and focused on your tasks and responsibilities.
In this situation we are experiencing something like playing in overtime (or even two) – we do not know for sure how long this situation is going to last, when it is going to end, and how is going to look like when it is over, but we need to stay focused on our strategy, our strengths, tasks and responsibilities, and solutions we have.
CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLE
Many circumstances in our life, like this one with COVID-19, are out of our control, but we are in control of our effort, attitude, thoughts and behavior, the way we prepare and respond to what is happening around us.
Recognize the things you can control and use them effectively. Stay focused on solutions, tasks, actions, and responsibilities. Ask yourself: “What can I do in this situation?”, “What is under my control?”, “Which skills and strategies should I use?”, “On what important things should I put my focus on?”
PRACTICE FLEXIBLE THINKING STYLE
Be creative and innovative in a way how you think, behave and what can you do. Choose self-talk that is inspiring, constructive, and productive! In that way, you can expand your ability to cope and adapt to different situations in different circumstances. Optimistic, flexible, and adaptable mindset are among the most important traits we can develop.
KEEP CONNECTION & COLLABORATION
Is there someone I can turn to for support and is there someone I can offer my help? Your relationship with your teammates and colleagues during these times could have a huge impact on your relationship and collaboration in the future. When you show them your support and understanding it can influence their engagement, optimism, and productivity, but also their overall well-being and motivation.
This is important because keeping regular and open communication with colleagues we show support and understanding. We get an insight into how they are, what is their state of mind, how they are experiencing all this, and what solutions do they have to face this situation.
Remind them of their strengths and competencies, on how they are resourceful and adaptive. How precious experience they have (as players, referees, coaches) as they manage to deal with many stressful situations and challenges during a season, and even during a single game. These messages can be strong and powerful foundations of your future collaboration and its success.
“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest
– John Wooden –
PRACTICE GRATITUDE & REFLECTION
When we face situations like this, we start to think about what we can’t do, what we might not have, and what are we missing from the past. We forget about the important things we still have in our lives, or we take them for granted.
Even if you are currently not able to participate at any games or competitions regularly, it is precious time to recall all the great memories and experience you have as a player, referee, or coach – all the games you had, all the places you have visited, and what is more important all the people you have met and new friendships you have made.
These great memories can help you to overcome uncertainty and stay motivated to continue with preparation and an optimistic mindset. This will eventually pass too, and there will be many new opportunities in the future.
PREVENT THE BURNOUT
It will be not uncommon to experience burnout as a result of how this situation has impacted your professional and personal life. Think about yourself and your needs, and make sure to add some self-care routines to keep you moving forward (i.e. relax, sleep, engaging in some hobbies or physical activities, have proper nutrition, practice gratitude, regular talk with friends and family, etc.) These healthy and positive behaviors can help you feel you have more control, and prevent possible burnout.
When you think you cannot handle the situation, remind yourself of the precious experience you already possess and all the challenges you have overcome in the past, and all the possibilities that may arise in the future.
As summary, we cannot fully control this situation, no matter how much we would like to, but there are many actions that are within our control that could help us stay focused, prepared, and safe. This is like an ‘overtime in a game’. We’ll focus on our tasks and responsibilities, ‘play by play’. With successful collaboration, we’ll eventually ‘win this game’.