Many of the student athletes I assist are feeling lost and confused right now, longing to get back to some sense of normalcy. For several months now athletes have been away from practices and games, leaving them without daily routines, their team/support system, and countless additional sport-related experiences. Some of my clients have expressed mood state fluctuations, anxiety, school/career concerns, and new stressors they feel they are not equipped to overcome. “My world has been turned upside down,” and “I’m running out of eligibility” are common concerns for me to hear, while others talk about struggles to find their focus staying in shape for when things do eventually return to normal. With the cancellation of youth summer sports looming on the horizon, what should student athletes be thinking and doing during these times of uncertainty?
Tips to help with focus & motivation
While some folks have adapted well to these unusual times, many have not. For student athletes whose lives often follow specific, set routines, the new found freedom away from traditional classes — and sports altogether — have created unique issues and concerns relating to focus and motivation. Online classes being substituted for traditional courses have provided a great deal of freedom and flexibility, and having no practices to attend have made it very easy to become lethargic and unfocused. Assignments have become loosened, exams less intense, and the normal anxiety associated with grades has been put on hold as teachers work to help students shift their attention from long school hours, to helping out at home with family needs.
So how do you stay sharp during these tough times? How do you stay motivated to keep up with school, sports, and other life responsibilities? For kids, these questions are especially complex as many struggled with these issues before the pandemic. As we work together to get through these challenging times, remind kids of the following tips to help:
- Seek good information. Learn where kids get their information, and vet to see if they are credible news services. Remind kids that often Facebook and Instagram posts can be misleading, confusing, or simply wrong. Work with kids so that they can become more proficient at seeking solid news sources, critically examining news, and then applying what they learn to their own families and communities.
- Keep routines. Help kids keep a normal routine that includes time for training and practicing as much as you can. Some kids have weights and other equipment at their homes, while other kids can be encouraged to use the tried-and-true methods of pushups, sit-ups, and jogging — exercises that require no equipment at all.
- Display & promote optimism. Kids watch us closely, so make sure to bring your A-game when it comes to your attitude and demeanor. Rather than complain about conditions currently beyond our control, try to instead use this time in positive and productive ways. Smiling, laughing, and keeping an open demeanor can go a long, long way right now when it comes to keeping kids optimistic and focused on the future.
- Use mental health services as needed. Ask kids directly how they are doing during this pandemic, and learn as much as you can about they ways in which they cope with the stress they are experiencing. Are their coping mechanisms healthy and effective, or ineffective and problematic? Many mental health providers are now doing teletherapy, and increasingly more are beginning to meet with clients at their office again.
These are tough times for sure, but we will get back to normal eventually. Right now is a great time to talk to kids about process the things that are in/out of their control, how to manage their attitude and emotions, and how to effectively deal with stress relating to the pandemic. Serve as a great role model, allow kids to ask questions, and give them the time they need to process all of these sudden changes.