Six Ways Athletes Stay Mentally Sharp During The Off-Season
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As a former collegiate athlete I never felt like there was an off-season. When you are competing at a Division 1 school, the sport operates all year long. As a soccer player my regular season was in the fall, so even though we had practices throughout the entire year, the winter and spring were considered the off-season. If you are considering playing a collegiate sport my best advice is to use the “off-season” period to stay fit both mentally and physically. The college balance of sport, school, and social life is a lot to manage, so it’s incredibly important to find your why and point of focus to help you through the twists and turns of your collegiate career.
Check out our eight-episode series on off-season exercises that will help young athletes reach their full potential by increasing their agility, strength, and flexibility.
You may be wondering what staying mentally sharp even means? It’s easy to think about athletic performance being based on physical fitness and capacity, but the reality is so much of it actually comes from the brain. When you no longer have games twice a week, 6 AM lifts and team practices every single day it’s vital to still train your mind as if you’re gearing up for a regular season. TeamSnap has interviewed several former collegiate athletes and professional athletes about how they stay mentally sharp during the off-season.
Allison Carhart | College Soccer Player, University at Albany: “Keep a consistent routine with nutrition, exercise, and also rest. It’s always important to keep balance so you have energy and can physically recover.”
TIP #1: Consistency and balance.
Katherine Creamer | College Soccer Player, Providence College: “What was most important for me was keeping the consistent routine especially focusing on nutrition, fitness, sleep, and rest. When I was consistent with all three of those pieces it then in turn helped keep me mentally sharp as well. When I slipped on any of those pieces it was harder on me to be mentally sharp.”
TIP #2: Create a routine.
Rhea Barghash | College Soccer Player, Villanova University: “During the off-season we didn’t have as many hours together as a team so making sure I was physically fit (outside of lifting) was important and something I was more mindful of. Our team didn’t do as much conditioning at the end of practice so I always got together with a crew of 2-3 people who wanted to do the same thing was helpful in achieving/maintaining that.”
“Moral of the story: Surround yourself with like minded people on your team that want the same things to push you forward and keep you accountable on and off the field.”
TIP #3: Surround yourself with like-minded people.
For the last three tips, I’d say watch as much film and pros as possible. One of the best things you can do to perfect your sport and stay engaged is to watch yourself play, but also those who are better than you. Educate yourself by watching and take note of things that you think you should improve on.
TIP #4: Watch and learn.
Another way to stay mentally fit is to keep a daily journal where you jot down your thoughts, daily workouts and goals. This is not only a great way to keep yourself accountable, but also a nice archive to look back on during the dog days of any season.
TIP #5: Daily reflection.
The last piece of advice I would give to any athlete trying to stay mentally sharp during the off-season is to schedule out your weeks. Even if you don’t have a team lift or practice every day, write out the days that you want to hit the gym or run sprints. By creating a calendar for yourself it’ll keep you locked in and focused for the upcoming season.
TIP #6: Stick to a schedule.
We hope these tips will help you stay engaged even when the season slows down. By training your mind and staying focused during the off-season you’re positioning yourself for the best season yet.