Turn Disappointment into an Opportunity

Dear Coach Bryant:

I’m wondering what you would tell young student-athletes who are feeling “robbed” by the pandemic. My two children – a high school sophomore and a 2020 senior (near graduate)– are just some of the thousands who have lost everything this spring – prom, commencement, sports and, for 2020 graduates, even college playing time next spring due to the return of fifth-year seniors.

Do you have any advice on how my kids and others can cope with these disappointments? 

At-Home and Heartbroken

Softball Player Disappointed by Recruiting Season Disruption

Dear Heartbroken,

First, I would agree with all the students who feel robbed. They have every reason to mourn their losses. Since we don’t yet know how fall sports will be affected, others may feel robbed — and fearful, too. Seniors feel robbed of their final high school year. Sophomores and Juniors feel robbed of this spring’s opportunity to showcase their skills to coaches. We should acknowledge the very real reasons they have to be angry. But I also think we should encourage these students to take advantage of this spring’s exceptional opportunities. Here’s what I would tell each of them:

Make yourself stand out physically

Since everyone is in the same situation, current high school sophomores and juniors can find new ways to catch the interest of coaches. Those who can’t get out on their field or court can do other things while at home – conditioning exercises, weightlifting, neighborhood running or other cross-training. We talk a lot about the risk of overuse injuries, but few find time to implement programs that address physical burnout. Devoting two or three months to such training could pay big dividends next season, while giving cross-trained athletes something to highlight during a coaching contact.

Make yourself stand out mentally

The best professional athletes in the world regularly manage their mental imagery, visualizing what they are doing on the field or court. There is plenty of research that shows even injured athletes can maintain their game by using their mental muscles to keep physical acumen sharp. Meditation is also an important discipline, helping players manage stress. Such initiatives not only impress college coaches, but provide mental skills for life.

Make yourself stand out emotionally

There are plenty of student athletes who feel robbed. While coaches understand those emotions, they are most likely to take a risk and fill their roster with the borderline recruit who exhibits a positive attitude. The stand-out players tell coaches how they’ve been training at home, what they’ve been learning through these tough times, and how they think they can apply those lessons to benefit their team. Instead of resenting fifth-year players, stand-outs recruits talk about how much they can learn from older athletes.  

The reality

While a “robbed” mindset is certainly understandable, dwelling on loss encourages fear. Those who can take charge of negative situations can better control their fears, turning adversity into opportunity. The students who can focus now on differentiating themselves could look back on this pandemic years from now as a time of great physical, mental and emotional growth. That’s the adversity response coaches try to nurture in their players. That response will not only benefit them in their sport pursuit, but in any pursuit throughout their lifetimes.

Need to know more about cross-training, visualization, meditation and other ways to help your student athlete? Check out my previous blog posts about the new recruiting game plan and how to be a virtual recruit. Or Contact me.