Transition Time

iStock_000004316057MediumTransitions are a part of every sport. We go from offense to defense, sometimes by design and sometimes as the result of a turnover. The mountain biker or runner switches from uphill to down. Athletes who are good at transition, who handle it well stay in the game , have more fun and are often healthier.

The fall season has ended for a lot of the high school athletes we work with. Whether you are transitioning to a winter sport or looking ahead to the next club season here are a few things that might be helpful in the transition.

Ease into it. You’ve been training and competing six days a week for at least two months. Now is the time  to reduce the volume, and cut back the intensity. Stay active though. Continue to move in ways you enjoy. Hike, bike, switch to ultimate frisbee for a while, try yoga. Do your stretching. Approach the next few weeks like a long cool down rather a full stop.

Get healthy. This is about more than injuries. It’s about restoring the balance that gets lost over time when we are competing and training. Take an inventory. How’s your sleep, nutrition, social connections? Is there one that needs some attention? Pausing now to reset those things will help you heading into the next season. Flourishing is about resilience not endurance.

Reconnect. Relationships take time and energy. There’s only so much to go around during a season when you are part of a team. It’s natural for them to ebb and flow. Are there important relationships where the connection has worn a little thin lately? Now is a good time to reach out and renew those. One of the things those relationships do is remind us of who we are outside of our role as an athlete.

Reflect. Experience is a great teacher and sports offers some wonderful lessons but, only if we stop to reflect from time to time. What went well and why do you think it went well? Is there something you want to do better and how would  you do that?  Gratitude is a big one here too. Name three things you’re thankful for from this past season. Researchers have found that a sense of gratitude is a positive predictor of team satisfaction, life satisfaction and lower burnout for young athletes.  Write down your reflections. Getting it our of our head and onto the page is helpful. The old saying is “ink it, don’t think it.”  It can be helpful to share it as well. Taking time to reflect also helps us close the chapter on the last season so we can move forward to prepare for and enjoy the next one.

Plan. After a little time to relax, reconnect and reflect we can start to look forward. The best time to get clear about your goals and the steps you want to take to accomplish them is before the next season.

Take advantage of the moment. Just like a good transition in a game helps us move from offense to defense and back again, a good transition between seasons helps us move from one to the next ready to give our best and continue to grow and develop.


A New Season Starts Monday

Seasons change. We’re in the midst of a seasonal change here in the “north country” ; somewhere between fall and winter. Dates on the calendar are only a rough guide. You really have to go by what you see and feel. Trust me, if the thermometer said 20° next week and there were six inches of snow on the ground it would no longer be fall. The same is true when it comes to developing young athletes. Age or grade or competitive level or past performance give us a rough idea of where people are but when we’re actually working with players we have to work with what’s really there and what they’re capable of here and now.

Certain aspects of development, like seasons, are pretty reliable and predicable. The big maple outside my window is going to turn bright orange and red sometime between the end of September and the middle of October each year. But it wont be the same every year because it’s not the same tree and it’s not the same weather or exactly the same environment. It’s growing, getting bigger, maybe it’s struggling against a drought or damage from a storm or it had a perfect summer of sun and rain.

It’s like that with these young athletes too. They’re coming back for another cycle in their development  but they’re not the same athlete they were last winter or spring or even at the start of the fall. They’re maturing and developing physically, mentally, socially. They may be healthier than they’ve ever been or dealing with an injury or illness. Their last season may have been a tremendous success or a real struggle. Same person and yet … not the same.

I’m especially mindful of it because yesterday I had a nice conversation with one the players who played his last college game on Saturday. We’ve worked together since he was a freshman in high school and it’s been such a blessing to watch him develop as a person and an athlete. Then as soon as we got off the phone I started with a new group of U12 soccer girls. That’s a big jump.

So one season’s ending. Another one’s starting. Next week we jump back in with four new groups of high school soccer and lacrosse players. It’s going to be great. Some of them will be new – most will be returning. Either way it’s a brand new season. We’re building on the past and yet it’s a fresh start. Pretty cool when you think about it. Can’t wait for Monday!