7 Sport Psychology Tips for Returning to Sport
Updated: Feb 24
1. Set new goals
New season = New Goals
While corona may have pressed pause to your sporting plans for the year, it is still important to set clear, specific and ambitious goals for the upcoming season. For help with setting your goals, download Mindframe Performance's free Goal Setting Handbook.
2. Manage your expectations
The return of sport is exciting and with excitement comes expectation. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with motivation and reward, and as discussed in a previous instagram post, levels of dopamine actually spike in anticipation and decrease during the event itself. My hypothesis is that after the long wait and the excitement of playing again, dopamine levels will be very high in anticipation. However, your performance may not be where you want it to be, as you’re out of practice. This may lead to a more severe drop in dopamine, creating more intense emotional reactions, such as high disappointment and frustration.
Expectations are hard to manage, but, when you are consciously aware of your assumptions going into an event (your high expectations), your emotional reaction will be less severe because you weren’t blind to the forces that were shaping your perception.
3. Remember WHY you play
Reflecting on and remembering the reasons why you play your sport and why it is important to you helps you regain your motivation to train and play. Feelings of disappointment and frustration can drain your motivation, so reconnecting with your intrinsic reasons for playing sport, such as enjoyment and social connection, can help protect against motivational declines.
4. Re-establish habits and routines
Focus on your processes. Be specific with your pre-game routines to try and get back into a performance mindset.
Lockdown = loss of habits
This is negative for your good habits but a great chance to break unwanted and unhelpful cognitive and behavioural patterns. For more on how to establish good habits, check out my previous blog on Building Effective Habits.
5. Accept anxious thoughts
It is perfectly normal to have anxious thoughts about returning to play. COVID-19 is affecting everyone differently, which in turn leads to different psychological experiences, reactions and coping strategies. These feelings of anxiety can spill over into your feelings surrounding your sport.
Identify when these thoughts and feelings arise, their triggers and their effects on your behaviour. Approach and observe them with acceptance and commit to action that aligns with your goals and values.
6. Focus on the positives
My guess is your performance levels won’t be where you want them to be right away. It takes time and practice to get your game back to where it was. After you play, write down 1-3 positive takeaways from your game to shift your mindset from negative to positive and to start building back your confidence.
7. Speak with a performance psychologist
Seasons are starting back up again, so now is the perfect time to get in touch with a performance psych to establish your goals for the season, develop your mental skills, nail down some new habits and move past any barriers preventing you from performing to your potential.
For help taking your mental game to the next level, take a look at the services available from Mindframe Performance or get in touch