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3 MENTAL TIPS TO HELP ATHLETES & COACHES DURING COVID-19

By Enio Sacilotto, www.coachenio.com

We are going through unprecedented times right now with the COVID-19 virus, most of the world is sheltered in place.  Uncertain times, isolation, the worry about the virus can bring fear, anxiety and panic.  This can be especially difficult for athletes and coaches who are used to being active with their sport. 

  1. Where is my focus? – At times like this you may be asking yourself questions such as how long will this isolation last?  When will I be able to go to the gym?  When can I train with my teammates?  When will school start again?  The answer is unknown and out of our control.  How about you switch your mindset and focus to things that you can control.  Things like your attitude, finding things to-do, turning off the news, are things you can control and is where your focus needs to be.

During times of adversity is when you experience personal growth.  So right now, is a great opportunity to practise your mental skills.

Let us look at 2 other things that you can control; 1) Your routine and structure and 2) an exercise to determine your strengths and weaknesses.  This self awareness will help you determine areas that you can set goals in.

You can use this form to make your own list of things you can and cannot control.

2.  Maintain routine and structure – Times are different right now – you are accustomed to a lot of structure in your life.  For students, a day may look like this:  get up in the morning, have breakfast, go to school, lunch, off ice training, on ice training, home, dinner, homework, bed then do it again the next day.   Normal structure is shut down, so you have to create a new structure. 

You don’t need to schedule every second of the day, but you need to prioritize the day.  Schedule times for activities such as: 

  • Study.
  • Work out (fitness) – you need find a different way to work out.
  • Skill work – hockey players can practise many skills off the ice.
  • Meals – make sure you look after your nutrition and weight control.
  • Practise meditation, visualization and mindfulness.
  • Find a new hobby or activity.
  • Journal.
  • Read books.
  • Connect with friends

Sleep patterns can change drastically, you want to make sure you do not stay up late at night playing video games or watching TV.  You will need to set a wake-up time and a bedtime to ensure adequate hours of sleep.   Sleep is important for athletes.

A good source to help you with daily plans and how to set a healthy lifestyle is: www.owaves.com.  Here is a typical day for basketball star Stephen Curry:  https://owaves.com/day-plans/day-life-stephen-curry/.  These changes are only temporary, once this is over you will go back to your regular routine.

3.  Evaluate your current strength and areas that need improvement – This is a great opportunity to do a self-evaluation and find out where you are at in your sport.  You can do this by using a technique called Performance Profiling.  Performance Profiling gives you the opportunity to:

  • Increase your self-awareness.
  • Help you decide what part of your game you need to work on.
  • Motivate you to improve.
  • Give you direction with your goalsetting.
  • Monitor and evaluate your performance.
  • Help you take responsibility for your development.

Here is a simple 5 step formula for you to do a Performance Profile.  When you are going through the steps, remember that there are no right or wrong answers, this is a self-evaluation, be honest with yourself.

Step 1 – Review the 4 performance components listed below (each has a link with a corresponding list of attributes/skills.  These are ice hockey examples).  Review the attributes/skills of each component.  Next, pick the attributes/skills that are most important for you to be an elite performer in your sport. It may help you to think about your favorite elite player and what his/her attributes/skills are, that make them elite.  You can use this form as a first draft.

  1. TECHNICAL SKILLS – The fundamental skills that are required to play the game (e.g. skating, shooting, passing and checking).   Skills checklist – Hockey Canada
  2. TACTICAL SKILLS – Individual Tactics are an action by one player using one or a combination of technical skills in order to create an advantage or take away the advantage of an opponent. A tactic is classified as offensive or defensive (fake shot, driving the net, defending the 1 on 1, etc.)  Defensive Tactics Checklist  Offensive Tactics Checklist
  3. MENTAL SKILLS – mental skills which refer to the psychological qualities or attributes that an athlete can learn and develop.  Psychological skills can be used to target athletes’ thoughts (e.g., imagery), or bodies (e.g., breathing), depending on the target performance factor the athlete wishes to improve (goal setting, visualization, self-talk, confidence, etc.). List of Mental Skills.
  4. FITNESS / PHYSICAL SKILLS – Strength, power, flexibility, balance, speed, agility, balance, core strength and flexibility are all fitness components that contribute to on ice performance.  List of Physical Skills.

Step 2 – Narrow your list down to 10 to 20 attributes/skills that are most important to make you an elite performer.  Then give a brief definition of each, this will make things clear.  Ten is a good number of attributes/skills to work with.  Use this Performance Profile Form.

Step 3 – Now rate yourself on each of the attributes/skills that you selected.  Use a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the best and 1 indicates you have much room for improvement).  This rating must be where you currently are right now.  Once you have done your ratings, you can use the Performance Profile Wheel (PPW) to give yourself a visual.  Here is an example of a completed PPW (for soccer).  Use this performance profile wheel template.

Step 4 (optional) – You can have your coach, advisor, performance consultant or a parent rate you on each of the attributes/skills.  You can then compare their ratings to your ratings, and if there is a discrepancy, you can discuss it and come to a mutually agreed upon rating.

Step 5 – Now take your lowest rated attribute that needs improving, set goals and create an action plan to improve.  After a certain amount of time you can rate yourself again to look for improvement. 

During this down time, you have a great opportunity to develop your mental skills.  Chose what to focus on, structure your day (you will get more done) and evaluate where you are at in your four sports components so you can set goals.

Next article we will look at some other ways you can practice your mental skills.

If you need any help with these techniques or any other mental training techniques and strategies I am here to help!

Coach Enio Sacilotto, President of International Hockey Camps and The Mental Edge Training seminar. Currently Enio coaches at the West Vancouver Hockey Academy, is Head Coach of the Croatian National team and has 36 years of coaching experience (including coaching professional hockey in Europe and coaching the Victoria Royals of the WHL).  Please email him at [email protected] or call 604 255 4747 if you have any questions or are interested in any of his services, website: www.coachenio.com.

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