Every athlete who competes in sports will eventually experience some type of a sports “slump,” or a period of time where he or she doesn’t perform up to athletic potential and expectations (Sport Success 360). In some cases, the slump is due to an injury or some other unusual circumstance, but in the majority of cases slumps are really just a product of “life,” and the reality that we cannot always be perfect all of the time. A slump, therefore, is actually a normal occurrence for athletes, and usually develops between the interplay of on-field failure combined with decreasing levels of self-confidence and focus (and increasing levels of fear, self-doubt, and anxiety).
Fortunately, there are things athletes can do to more quickly and successfully work through sport slumps, including the following:
- Avoid perfectionist thinking and instead strive for excellence. Hear me out on this one: Perfectionism is NOT GOOD! Think about it for a moment, a perfectionist is only happy when he is “perfect,” and anything less than perfection is seen as a failure. When you consider that we all make mistakes and fail from time-to-time in life, you can easily see that trying to be “perfect” is a futile endeavor. Rather than trying to be perfect, instead strive for excellence, or working to maximize your athletic abilities. Using this approach, failures are seen as teaching tools rather than evidence of inadequacy, and as a result actually help an athlete get better (instead of go into a slump).
- Normalize slumps. Remember, all athletes experience stress, adversity, failure, and yes, slumps. When you realize that you are not alone in going through a slump, it makes it that much more easier to regain the confidence needed to break the slump – and once again play your best.
- Keep a journal during your sports season (and you should do this), go back and read through some of the entries from earlier in the season to see how you felt when you were playing well. Sometimes simply revisiting these positive emotions can pull you through a slump, while other times you might read about something tactical you did earlier in the season that was working but you have gotten away from as the season progressed.
- Go back to the basics. Depending on your sport, you may want to simply break down the basics again and start from scratch. This does not mean you are regressing in your sport, but it does suggest that often when we go through slumps we either forget or overlook the basic fundamentals that helped us become so good in the past.
- Start a new calendar. If you have been in a slump recently, try forgetting about it and “start” your season today. Since you cannot change what has already happened, it may be advantageous to simply begin your new season today and keep track of your progress form this point forward.
Of course, if you feel your sport slump is unusually long and leading to emotional difficulties, including anxiety and possibly depression, talk to your coach about meeting with a sport psychologist or other helping professional that can assist with mental challenges associated with slumps. Learning a few key skills, like relaxation techniques, imagery, and ideas around focus can really help with self-confidence and mental toughness — and on-field success.
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