4 Ways Any Athlete Can Break Out of a Slump
The goal for every serious athlete is to play at their highest level, but sometimes athletes experience bad games and tough stretches during a season. In fact, at some point or another, nearly every athlete goes through a slump, a period when they consistently play below their potential. During these times, athletes find themselves making uncharacteristic mistakes, lose their confidence, and fail to fully capitalize on opportunities. Clients of mine have told me that during a slump it feels like nothing can go right, and often they become a victim of their own negative thinking as a result.
Slumps can occur for many reasons, including poor mental or physical preparation, injuries, or just plain bad luck. But perhaps the worst thing about a slump is the athlete’s distorted thinking. Once a player begins to believe that he or she is doomed or not good enough, these thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies. You have a bad game because you thought you’d have a bad game. Then you have another bad day. And the cycle continues….
Slumps are frustrating, but they’re also quite normal—and quite curable if you have the right mindset. If you are in a slump, you can put a stop to it. Follow these tips to get your game back to its peak.
- Forget the past. Athletes should forget about past performances every time they step onto the field. Your previous games—whether they were wins or losses—no longer matter. Since slumps often happen when athletes fixate on the things they did wrong in the past (worrying that they’ll do them again), approaching every game as a blank page will help you focus on what matters: the here and now.
- Trash your negativity. Blew a play or two? Thinking that you stink at your sport? Write down those negative thoughts; put them all down on paper; then take that list and tear it up. Throw it in the garbage can, and get those thoughts out of your life. Let this exercise symbolize your trashing of bad thoughts, so you can make room for good ones—and better on-field performance.
- Get in a groove. While the word “routine” may mean “boring” to some, for an athlete, a pre-game routine is a great way to block out negative thoughts and concentrate on the tasks ahead. Going through a simple ritual—like always putting on your uniform in a certain way—takes the thinking out of pre-game prep, allowing you to direct your focus on the game. Imagine yourself making great plays. Listen to inspiring music. And visualize success. All of this will help you let go of the bad play you made yesterday, so you can play better today.
- Enjoy the ride. Like life, sports are full of peaks and valleys. You’ll inevitably go through some tough times as an athlete; but you’ll also have moments when everything clicks. If you are stuck in a rut, remember that you have been great before, and have confidence that you will do so again. By thinking positively and keeping your confidence high during challenging times, you’re more likely to recover faster—and to reach your true potential.
Slumps are inevitable, but they don’t have to last very long if you are committed to future improvement. While it’s easy to become angry, frustrated, or even sorry for yourself, the only way to break through a slump is to remain optimistic and employ strategies designed to get you back on track. Try a few of the ideas presented here and keep a positive outlook, and before long you will be back to playing at a high level again.