How do I pull myself of a rut? Last year I played out of this world, and my coach and team expect so much from me this season. I am a senior, and I don't want to let the stress get to me. I don't want a stress filled last year to do what I love. Yet already I feel as though I won't be better than I was and I feel like I peaked last season. How do I get out of my own head?
Oh my goodness, I love this question because I feel like I was in this exact position! As I discussed in my story, I was (still am) a struggling perfectionist. Although I was dealing with a lot and even some mental health issues (another discussion in itself), this was the cause of most of my struggle. I set this standard for myself, and if I didn’t meet it, then I thought I was a bad goalie and let everyone down. All of the pressure I put on myself only made me play worse. That’s all to say that I 100% get how you feel and it’s hard.
So what do you do?
I was listening to a podcast recently about a completely irrelevant topic – money and time management as a working mom—and something resonated with me that they said (podcasts are my commuting saving grace). I have no idea who initially stated the quote, but it was to be “present not perfect.” When you think about it, this is a pretty profound sentiment that can be applied to life and playing goalie.
Throughout my goalie career, everyone always told me things like, “let it go, you got the next one” or “just worry about the next shot.” However, both of those sentiments still provoke possibly anxiety, fear, or stress. When you’re truly present, your only focus is what is right in front of you. You aren’t thinking about the last shot or the one that’s coming. All that’s in your head is watching that little yellow ball. When you’re in the cage or have a moment outside of it try to take deep breaths and just think about the yellow ball. Not even saving it, just the ball itself.
When you’re a perfectionist like me, many times, you overanalyze every little detail and every interaction. While this is great once you get into a professional setting and writing a paper, not so great for when you’re trying to play at your best. Another recommendation would be to try meditation. Seriously, just try it for at least two weeks. Through meditation, I’ve learned breathing techniques and how to stop my thoughts from going down a rabbit hole. The Calm app is a great place to start -- but there's a ton out there!
I’ll be honest, it’s not easy, and there are still days where my thoughts spiral. But you know what, that’s okay because I’m not perfect! Here are some other thoughts that I think could help you:
- You say you don’t want to be stressed doing something you love, well remember that. Remember that love you have for the game. Think about some of the best games you’ve had, the best memories you’ve had with teammates. For me, thinking about this would always at the very least put a smile on my face.
- Prepare. With preparation comes confidence knowing you’ve done all you can to play at your best.
- Take deep breaths. Yes, I’m talking closed eyed deep breaths. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen goalies get frustrated, made them stop and take 3-5 big deep breaths and they restart the drill on fire. It’s a great quick way to clear your head.
- Practice meditation. This will only help you in the cage and in life to deal with any stressor you face. When you practice meditation, it helps you to stay mindful. You don’t think about past or future; you’re just taking in each new moment one at a time. Practicing your mental skills is just as important as practicing your lacrosse skills.
- Fake it ‘til you make it. A lot of times, if you can force a smile, or force yourself to stand tall, you actually start to feel better.
- I know as goalies we’re taught to keep it all in when you’re frustrated, or down you can’t let anyone see right? Well sometimes just like playing goalie, and in life you need some help. Don’t be afraid to rely on your teammates. Grab them real quick and say “hey I’m feeling down, can you give me a pump up talk real quick?” My go-to teammate was always defender Megan Lerner; she can definitely attest.
I hope some of these tips will help you and others out there who might feel the same. I feel you, and others do too. Don’t forget too; lacrosse is only one part of this big thing we call life. In life, your family, friends, coaches, and teammates will never feel let down because of how you play in one game or the whole season – you got them for life! Please keep these awesome questions coming, message box can be found here!