Come back stronger

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a large non-profit organisation which supervises approximately 500,000 student athletes across the USA. Its Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brian Hainline, explains how athletes around the globe can maintain rhythm throughout this current pandemic and come back even stronger than before. 

  • Dr Hainline says focusing on the short term and ensuring that you have a strong structure and support network are vital.  
  • Realising that some things are out of your control will help with understanding what you can control. 
  • Follow Athlete365 for the latest COVID-19 updates and expert advice. 


Emerge stronger 

Any time you’re faced with a crisis, there are two things that can happen: the crisis can take you away from who you are, or the crisis can make you stronger. You have to ask yourself if you’re ready to emerge from this as a different sort of person – a stronger one, who understands that a lot of things in our lives are out of our control – but also as someone who has control over matters at their level. 

One important piece of advice to remember is that when we re-emerge it’s not going to be an immediate green light when, all of a sudden, you’re back to normal; it will happen in increments. We have to get phase one right and we have to get phase two right, so think about it like a gradual rehabilitation so that you can manage those expectations well. 

Take it day by day 

As athletes aiming to compete at the Olympic Games, you’re often looking at cycles of four years, but you can’t allow yourself to think like that. The focus has to be today and so you have to create an interaction between the mind and body, even if it’s not easy 

Think to yourself, “What am I going to do physically today, and what am I going to do from a mindfulness point of view?” That’s an important thing to do each day because what happens very often during this period of uncertainty is you start getting this negative self-talk that you have to monitor. We always say that while you can’t necessarily control the thoughts that arrive suddenly, you can control what you do with those thoughts, which is why mindfulness is so important. 

While you can’t necessarily control the thoughts that arrive suddenly, you can control what you do with those thoughts, which is why mindfulness is so important.

Liaising with your entourage 

Your entourage should be thinking about this in a very structured way as well. When checking in with you virtually, coaches should try to keep it similar to normal circumstances where possible, but also have greater sensitivity and say, “Hey, I know we’re isolated. Let’s talk about that.” A willingness to engage at new levels is vital because these are uncharted waters.  

If you have an entourage of multiple people, you should all be getting together virtually and having a structured way of working through the expectations, your schedule, and of course, making sure that everyone is coping okay in the current situation. 

Want to hear more about how entourage members can help athletes? Check out US Olympic and Paralympic Committee sport psychologist Dr Karen Cogan’s advice on Athlete365.