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Building Confidence post Lockdown: For Athletes

The COVID-19 pandemic had brought about a standstill in all areas of our lives, sports was no exception, bringing a suspension to the sporting calendar globally. Athletes of all levels had to be distanced from their routine training in their facilities with an ambiguous future ahead, which not only caused a disruption to the quality and the quantity of training but also led to physical, technical and psychological damage.

With the ongoing vaccination drive around the world, we all are geared up to enter “The Modified normal”. Sporting events have resumed, with eyes on the Olympics starting July 23rd. But the damage caused by the pandemic is only starting to surface in athletes. With the lack of a platform to showcase or assess their skills, athletes of all levels are at a confidence crossroad.

In this article, we’ll talk about how we can rebuild or even regain our confidence post pandemic or any crisis one might face:

1. Identification: The first step in regaining self-confidence is the identification of your feelings, thoughts or emotions. What you say to yourself affects what you think and feel. If your ‘talk’ is negative your thoughts and feelings will be too. If your ‘talk’ is positive, your thoughts and feelings will be too. Your performance is the result of this negative- positive talk and thus the first step is identification.

2. Visualization: Visualization or mental imagery, an act where you recall a successful competition or the moment when you carried out a skill efficiently. Visualization helps condition your brain for successful outcomes. It can also eliminate any unknown element(s) which will prohibit you to reach your ‘zone’. Pre- competition visualization can help an athlete reach his or her ‘zone’. Especially in times like this where globally athletes have missed out on competitions, it’s now more than ever important that athletes reach their zone, and this can be achieved through positive visualization.

3. Controlling the controllable: Through this pandemic we have realized that adversity can come and strike us out any time. And adversity doesn’t necessarily have to be a global pandemic, it can also be translated into an injury. Controlling the controllable is a philosophy which insinuates that the athletes should invest time and effort into aspects of their performances which they have an autonomy over, rather than aspects they have no control over. It’s also important to note that this philosophy does not entail to what extent you have controlled the controllable aspects, but it’s more about whether you are able to focus only on those aspects that are under your control pre- performance. The controllable aspects of your performance will be tactics, skills, pre- competition preparation etc.

4. Re-setting goals: Any adversity can become a lengthy ordeal, thus it’s important to re-set goals as it gives the athlete a more directional path to work towards. Re-setting goals can help an athlete focus better on what lies ahead as he or she is more self-aware of the reality of the situation. But at the same time, it’s also important that we reset goals in a way that they are meaningful, specific, realistic yet challenging and targeted.

5. Note to coaches: Coaches can be a big help when it comes regaining confidence post adversity. Coaches should maintain strong personal relations with their athletes whilst maintaining a task mastery environment. Post adversity it’s important as a coach that you redefine success, where the main focus is always on effort, proper technique and self-improvement. But with redefining success it’s also important to redefine failure, as coaches you need to see failure as when the athlete does not give his/her full effort. You should use this moment to teach them to embrace failure as it will build resilience.

As athletes and coaches, you should remember that bouncing back from adversity is difficult, but mentally quitting makes it impossible to make a comeback. You have a choice in how you respond to the challenges and making the choice to face the adversity is the half of the battle of dealing with it.

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