Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Follow the Bread Crumbs

As the season begins, there are good habits to also begin that will pay dividends down the road (can you say playdowns?). One of them is journaling! Don't argue, just do it! I don't normally talk that way but in this case it's warranted because when you start your journal, making entries each day, it will be a royal pain the the backside. Don't quit! Soon, you will not be able to wait to enter the day's thoughts! And that's exactly what they are, thoughts.

The first question I'm asked when I encourage athletes/teams to begin journaling is, "What do I write?". Answer, "anything that comes to mind!" If it's a thought about your day, it's worth including in your journal. Don't feel you have to justify what you do or explain why you did it. Do that if you like, but it's not necessary as you begin your journal. The reason for recording the activities and challenges of your everyday life is because your "real self" many times affects your "performer self". We don't live and perform in a competitive vacuum. Even professional athletes, despite the tangible resources their profession brings, deal with the same daily ups and downs as we regular folk. They sometimes don't perform to the standard to which they and their fans have become accustomed not due to some technical difficulty but because "life got in the way"!

It's only natural for an athlete to see him/herself in training or in competition as "athlete" and when they're in the workplace or at home or in a social setting with friends, they see themselves quite differently. What they don't see is the connection between the two, the real self and the performer self, and the events in each which can affect the other and the door swings both ways.

Spouses and partners of elite athletes, either professional or amateur, have a clear set of guidelines as to how they relate to the athlete when he/she (the athlete) comes home after an excellent performance or one that didn't quite meet the standards mentioned above. They learn the coping skills necessary in each situation. Rare is the athlete (or coach) who comes home and is the same type of person regardless of what happened on the field, rink, court etc.

When you record events, reactions and thoughts as you go through your day, one in which there may not be training and/or competition, over time you will see cause and affect relationships. You'll begin to connect the dots to learn that when certain events and reactions to those events happen with your real self, they affect, either positively or negatively, your performer self but without the journal, those connections may never surface. And as I said two paragraphs above, you'll quickly see how your performance in competition is affecting they way you relate and in some more extreme cases treat those closest to you. And, when a poor performance occurs, you can "follow the bread crumbs" back to the cause that only your journal revealed.

Your team should also have a journal, frequently called "The Team Bible"! This journal will be kept by the player on the team most amenable to the task but everyone will contribute from time to time. I'll deal with The Team Bible in the next post but for now, start that journal. It's worth the time and effort!

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