Starting Strong This Fall
Posted by: Katie Pagel | Director of Mental Performance
Hello CRYSC athletes, coaches, families, and fans, and welcome to our Fall 2022 season! CRYSC Sport Psych is looking forward to another season fueled by a love of the game and rife with learning, growth, healthy competition, and – above all – FUN. With that in mind, we’re kicking things off this season by sharing a number of hand-picked resources that will prove especially useful to our athletes at this time of the year. Whether an athlete is feeling a bit of new-season nerves, is looking to set a new round of goals, or wants some additional support managing the stressors of school and sports, you’ll find that – and more – below!
Managing New Season Stressors
The start of a new season is always an exciting time. The chance to be back on the field, working hard, competing, and having fun playing a sport we all love is a highlight for athletes, coaches, and fans alike. As much as the promise of a new season brings anticipation and excitement, for many, it can also create a bit of angst. A new season is just that – it’s new; and new – whether it be a new team, a new coach, a new competitive level, a new position, a new opportunity to show what you can do, or returning to the pitch a new version of ourselves – can be a bit stressful. So what determines if we see each of these “news” as stressful or exciting? Largely, it comes down to our own perception of the demands of the situation we’re in, and how equipped we feel in being able to manage those demands. This is a primary reason why Person A may report feeling incredibly stressed by a certain situation that Person B is unbothered by; Person B believes they have the mental, emotional, and physical resources, tools, and overall support to manage the situation at hand, while Person A does not.
The great news for our athletes is that CRYSC already has a number of resources to help you feel more equipped to manage the potential stressors you may face this Fall. If you (or your athlete) are feeling a bit overwhelmed going into the new season, look through some of the resources below for strategies for managing common start-of-season challenges.
- Anticipated Transitions: The start of a new season is what we call an “anticipated transition”; a change that, though we know it is coming (unlike, say, having to pause play due to an injury), can still cause stress. Read through this blog to learn a handful of best practices for approaching and growing through this, and other, anticipated transitions.
- Coping Strategies: The best way to effectively manage stress is to build our repertoire of coping strategies: Actions we can intentionally take to better manage a situation we perceive as stressful. Give this two-part blog a read to learn more about coping strategies, including how teammates can work as a unit to deal with shared stressors.
- Performance Anxiety: It is very common for athletes to experience an uptick in performance anxiety at the start of a new season. Wherever it stems from – worry about perceptions of a new coach or teammate, competing at a higher level – this blog describes a number of practical tools for identifying and managing performance anxiety.
- Fear of Failure: Alongside performance anxiety, fear of failure is a common struggle athletes encounter at the start of a new season. This two-part blog series addresses the impact that fear of failure has on our body, mind, and performance, and shares skills for managing and overcoming fear of failure.
Helpful Hint: Many athletes cite within-team competition as a primary source of stress for the start of a new season. But let’s take a moment to look at the origin of competition. The word itself is from the Latin competere (com- with or together, petere – to strive/seek/agree to go). In its truest form, the word literally means to strive or seek together. What’s more, early instances of modern “competition” were born from the realization that individuals perform better when performing alongside someone than when they do so alone. It had very little (if anything) to do with one person beating or being better than the other, but rather that both individuals would perform better if they trained and performed amongst others. Keeping this perspective in mind – that playing alongside someone else helps you improve at a faster rate than if you did so alone – can be incredibly helpful for mitigating within-team competitive stress.
Setting the Stage for a Successful Season
While managing stressors is necessary for an optimal start to a new season, it is not sufficient; in order to truly set ourselves up for a season of maximal growth, enjoyment, and quality performance, there are a number of other aspects to bear in mind. If you (or your athlete) are looking to do all that you can do to set the stage for a successful season, check out the resources below for guidance on actions to take and mindsets to cultivate.
- Goal Setting: The start of a season is one of, if not the, most natural times to set goals. Well-built and pursued goals not only enhance performance, but also show positive changes in anxiety, confidence, motivation, and fulfillment. Read through this blog for practical tips on how to best approach goal setting and goal pursuit.
- Growth Mindset: It’s no secret that going into any development opportunity with a growth mindset is beneficial. This two-part blog series shares strategies for cultivating a growth mindset and reminders for how to engage in quality practice, both of which will promote maximal learning and growth throughout the season.
- Diversity & Inclusion: Starting with a new team or coach can often mean meeting new and different kinds of people. This blog reminds us of the benefits of diversity and shares actionable best pratices for creating inclusive environments, two crucial aspects of ensuring everyone has a top-tier experience, on and off the field, this season.
Helpful Hint: Some of the most important contributors to a quality soccer season are also some of the most overlooked. As athletes return to both school and sport, and schedules inherently get more and more full, it is imperative that athletes prioritize the pillars of their physical (and mental) health. Eat three quality meals a day, and be sure to have snacks on-hand as needed. Drink plenty of water. Sleep 8-10 hours each night, and build healthy routines for nighttime and waking. While these actions seem simple (and obvious!), consistency in these areas is often one of the first things to go when schedules get busy. Maintaining these healthy habits throughout the season is essential for optimal learning, development, and performance.
No matter how you (or your athlete) are feeling kicking off this Fall season, we hope this blog provided some practical and useful information that will benefit you on and off the field. CRYSC Sport Psych is excited to continue to create and share quality mental performance and general wellness resources with our members throughout the season, in order to build our athlete’s mental strength and stamina alongside that of their bodies. This focus is achieved not only through learning and applying concrete mental skills (such as goal-setting, visualization, self-talk, and emotional management among others), but also through reflection and discourse pertaining to our personal identity within the game, how we relate to soccer, and what stories we believe to be true about ourselves as athletes and people. With that in mind, keep an eye on this space for monthly resources pertaining to mental skills that optimize growth and performance and discussions with staff and coaches on their experiences with and their relationship to the sport we all love.
To see the full slate of CRYSC Sport Psych resources, visit the Sport Psych blog page and webpage. Thanks for reading, and here’s to a great Fall 2022 season! We look forward to seeing you on the field.
CRYSC Sport Psych wants to hear from you! If you have a blog topic you’d like to see addressed, or have any questions about mental performance or general wellness, email CRYSC’s Director of Mental Performance at [email protected]