The Show Does Go On Kelsey Griffith, MS
Performance Enhancement & Rehab Specialist
For most of my life, dance was my life. From dance concerts to musical theater productions, I loved nothing more than listening from the wings to the hum of the audience, seeing the lights dim, and knowing it was go time. The feeling of waiting in anticipation for the curtain to go up is so palpable that, to this day, it gives me goosebumps.
As a performer, you often hear the phrase: “The show must go on.” Looking back on 2020, I can’t help but think how interestingly these words tie into our collective experience of living through a pandemic. To some extent, the show hasn’t gone on — schools closed, shows cancelled, games postponed…and postponed again. It has, without a doubt, been an incredibly trying year.
Yet, in another sense, the show has gone on. And it will continue to go on. Humans are remarkably adaptable. We have found ways to navigate this challenging year so that academics can be learned, dances can be danced, and sports can be played. And while these things may not look how we expect them to look, we have risen to the challenge with immense adaptability and resilience.
As athletes, there’s a sort-of rhythm to our year. Even though seasons change and sports transition from one to the next, for the most part, we have a pretty solid idea of what things should look like.
• Practice (practice, and practice some more)
• COMPETE (get out there and show your stuff!)
But in 2020, it’s this last piece of the puzzle that seems to be a bit misshapen (you know, like when your kid sibling took a bite out of it), or even missing entirely (darn those pesky couch cushions!). Without the complete puzzle, it can be hard to keep our eyes on the prize. Without the whole picture, athletes may find themselves asking: What am I doing here and how can I make the most out of it?
It’s a great question…
HOW, exactly, do we [continue to] productively approach
these moments that do not match our expectations of what should be?
Here’s some food for thought!
1. Shift perspective on the end goal of this season: For those giving 100% to their training without any sort of outcome measure in sight, the challenge is to view this year as a prolonged pre-season. This year is your time
• to get stronger.
• to get faster.
• to get mentally ready to face whatever’s to come down the road.
While somedays it may feel like a “waste of time” to go to practice, it is, in essence, the absolute opposite. Oftentimes, the greatest hurdles athletes face are those that come with competition pressure. Without this pressure, there is immense opportunity to capitalize on the benefits of intentional practice. Take risks. Challenge yourself. You’ll be amazed at what can happen!
2. Focus on personal progress and goals: Now is the time to ask, “Why do I do this?!” Shift your focus away from the win and give greater thought to the process. Let your training become about the “want tos” and the “cans,” rather than the “need tos” and the “shoulds.” Set regular goals for yourself: short-, medium- and long-term. Write them down. And be sure to follow-up on them! Reflect on your work – what’s working? And just as importantly – what’s not? Get comfortable being self-critical, but without judgement.
The more you can practice these skills now, when the stakes are a bit lower, the more readily you’ll be able to harness them in the heat of competition. Below is a tool I use regularly with athletes to help get them into these sorts of mental habits.
3. Use the time to explore who you are outside of sport: Now is the time to capitalize on time! Ask yourself, “How has this time allowed me to explore life outside of athletics?”
Maybe you realized you enjoyed drawing or painting
I’ve heard this from tons of athletes over the last few months!
Maybe you got to focus on injury prevention and mental skills
Music to my ears!
Maybe you had more time to spend with your family
Dinners at the dinner table are really quite preferable to dinners in the car!
Remember that your experiences outside of sport actually contribute to, rather than detract from, who you are as an athlete.
Now, is this all to say that the pandemic was a good thing for athletes? Of course not; 2020 has been a year of immense challenge. But as we navigate our way through a new season, I challenge you to accept what has been and move through those experiences. The show does go on and it’s up to you to determine its course.