Post By: Emily Cohn  | Monday, June 22, 2020

sport psychology performance STRESS support

As summer is starting and some states are beginning to ease their lockdown restrictions, a lot of people are left unsure how their old relationships will resume with these new socially distant standards. Are we ever going to shake hands with opposing teams? Will celebrations at sporting events begin to look different? In the golf match with Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson we saw a perfect representation of this new change. Our instinct is physical celebration after success. A high five for an athlete is as natural as breathing, but in that moment on the 12th hole we saw the adjustment happen in both of these professionals. Here's how I interpret Tom Brady's thought process “Yes! I can't believe I made that putt! I have to high five Phil. Oh wait, coronavirus, I'm already mid high five, pull back! Now smile, now….talk? Say something supportive and appreciative of the performance.”

While this may seem like a very niche example of how our social support will change in sports moving forward, it was a perfect example and one of the very few live sporting events we have been provided since these lockdowns began. Personally, I'm optimistic about this shift that will have to happen among teammates, friends and coworkers, as we will now be more explicit and clear in our communications because we can no longer (in the near future) replace phrases such as “well done” with a high five, or “you got this” with a small pat on the back. So, how do we remain supportive of friends and teammates without these physical gestures that are so ingrained in our bodies? We talk to them.

As things start re-opening and sports begin to resume, communication is going to be more important than ever between all people on a team or within an organization. While it was important before to make sure people were comfortable in their environments, it was never a necessity. Now, I would argue that being mentally comfortable in your performance environment is, in fact, a necessity. Because there are so many unknowns surrounding every factor of life right now, we must stay focused on what is in our control. The one thing in our control is our emotions and reactions. Feeling comfortable is hard to pinpoint when there are so many unknowns, and that is ok. Let me say it one more time for everyone: it is OK to feel uncomfortable right now without a concrete explanation, and you must be ok communicating that to your support system.

During the three month pause, everyone has had a vastly different experience. Hopefully, you and your support system, whether it is your family, teammates, friends or coworkers have figured out a way to check in on one another. If you haven't, now is the time to ask. The question “how are you?” is somewhat irrelevant and the answer “good” should no longer be sufficient. Ask “how can I help?” or “how can I be there for you?” and it will spark a conversation that will create a more supportive relationship moving forward.

Conversations like this should already be part of the team environment. If this is a new idea, now is a great time to get on a call and talk prior to resuming in person. Everyone has a role to play on a team, and knowing who to go to when times get tough is important on and off the field. Teammates and coaches should move forward into this “new normal” from a stance of understanding and acceptance. While this might be more complicated for professional athletes, team members be given the opportunity to say whether or not they feel comfortable attending practices in the early stages of re-opening. Athletes, performers and coworkers cannot be expected to perform to their same physical and mental ability when they feel an overriding sense that they may be putting their lives or the lives of their loved ones in danger during the re-opening.

I am hopeful for a time when we get back to “regular” competition and high fives can come back. However, until then we must all increase our communication and ensure that those around us feel emotionally comfortable and supported before they can be expected to resume in interactive environments. In the meantime, if you need help feeling connected to your sport or professional environment and accomplishing your goals reach out to us on the Mindurance platform so that when you do feel comfortable, you are mentally prepared to perform your best.