Break Sport Slumps and Play Your Best
A slump in sports is generally recognized as a temporary dip in performance compared to previously established averages, or norms. It is important to properly define a slump, as it is not a slump if an athlete continually fails to live up to a standard he or she has never achieved before (in this example the athlete simply hasn’t reached a goal, rather than experienced a slump). If you are an athlete (or the parent or coach of an athlete) experiencing a slump, the good news is the slump is likely temporary, and can be improved upon almost immediately.
Athletes experience slumps for a variety of reasons, including lack of preparation, playing against better competition, and sometimes slumps occur merely as a product of chance. Almost every athlete will experience a slump, and in most instances the slump ends when the athlete eventually has a good game. On the other hand, when athletes go through slumps it can turn out to be a dramatic, sometimes devastating experience, and this is especially challenging in this day of social media when everything is public and stories often go viral. If you are an athlete looking for help with slump-busting try going through the following prompts and questions to see how you stack up, as well as learn tips to break the next slump you experience.
- Is it really a slump? As was previously mentioned it is important to note the differences between not being able to live up to goals, versus being temporarily stuck and playing below previously established performance benchmarks. Many times athletes attribute their below-average performance to a slump, when in fact it is really their frustration of not reaching a goal that, to date, hasn’t been achieved.
- Rule out injuries and other issues. While it’s one thing dealing with a dip in performance because of performance anxiety, it’s another thing entirely when performance suffers because of injuries and/or other off-field issues. Do you have a nagging injury, or unusual life stressors (problems at home) that might be taking away from the focus and motivation needed to perform well in sports? Be sure to properly frame situations so that you can make wise decisions when it comes to getting help.
- Start with new goals today. If you are in the middle of a sports slump, it is important to refrain from dwelling on poor performances that have already occurred and cannot be changed. Yes, you should take time out to learn from mistakes, but if you are trying hard to make up for things that can’t be changed you are actually expending unnecessary energy that could otherwise be going to developing (and working on) new goals.
No athlete wants to experience a slump, but if you play sports long enough you’ll see that slumps are almost impossible to avoid. The question, therefore, is not if you will go through a slump, but when…and when a slump occurs how quickly will you bounce back? Athletes who understand that slumps occur and develop the coping and resiliency skills needed to break slumps are the ones who maximize their athletic abilities and reach their full athletic potential — are you up for the challenge?