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Topic: Training & Recovery - August 26 2023
10 Tips for Tackling Preseason

As women athletes, preseason is an incredibly unique time in our calendar year that can pose various challenges like stress, comparison, and putting all of our skills to the test. Instead of viewing these few weeks as an obstacle to overcome, we can use them to our advantage. Using insight from Certified Mental Performance Coach and VIS Expert Anna Hennings and the experience of professional soccer player and VIS Athlete Samantha Rosette, here are some ways that we can get our minds right before our first competition to ensure a healthy mindset to endure through the season.

By: Eliza Bowman

VIS Creator™

Topic: Training & Recovery

August 26 2023

“Preseason” is a buzzword for us as athletes, sparking intense feelings of heightened focus on our sport. It can be an overwhelming ramp-up in time commitment, and it can consist of tough fitness tests and realizations of playing time. Preseason can make us excited for the journey ahead but is also the start of what feels like a never-ending grind. Here are 10 tips to tackle preseason, so that we can all be equipped to put our best foot forward.

  1. Find confidence through preparation

Preparing for preseason in advance will put us in the best position to succeed. This means being dedicated to workouts, adequate recovery, and nutrition even in the offseason. “You have to prepare for preseason mentally and physically so that it is not a shock to your system,” says professional soccer player and VIS Athlete Samantha Rosette. Walking into the first day of preseason knowing that you’ve put in work in the offseason to show up as your best self is one of the most effective ways to bring confidence into it. 

  1. Write down your why

In the grind of the season, we may have moments where we lose a sense of fun and motivation, especially if we are feeling fatigued, burnt out, or frustrated with our performance. Before then, we can take the time to reflect and put into words why we love our sport, creating something to look back on. “Re-ground yourself in your ‘why’ for your sport, and establish a connection between your athletic endeavors and dreams and your core values as a human,” says mental performance coach and VIS Expert Anna Hennings. “The more you can align your actions with your values, the better chance you give yourself at thriving.” Make this mantra tangible; write it on a sticky note and paste it above your desk or on your mirror to remember each day what this journey means to you. 

  1. Establish consistent habits

In advance of preseason, getting our bodies and minds used to a consistent routine will help us hit the ground running when our sport ramps up. For Rosette, this means creating a baseline of enough sleep, waking up at the same time, and sticking to a morning routine that provides comfort and familiarity. One key mental performance skill that we can adopt is a simple mindfulness practice. As a beginner, start with one minute of quiet breathing each day. “Staying connected to the present moment throughout a practice, a tough conditioning session, a game, or race is one of the most efficient ways to give yourself the best chance at performing how you want,” says Hennings. To learn more about mindful breathing and meditation, check out this article on VIS. 

  1. Get organized academically 

Another controllable factor is establishing our approach to schoolwork in advance of our busy in-season schedule. In the first few weeks of the semester, we can block out a couple of hours to organize our assignment deadlines and communicate directly with teachers or professors. Being proactive with academics will set us up for success and remove unnecessary stress.

  1. Shut down self-comparison

As women athletes, being competitive is part of our nature. But, the heightened demands of preseason can make it easy to slip into unhealthy patterns of comparing ourselves to our teammates. Theodore Roosevelt wisely said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Having worked with many athletes who focus heavily on playing time or making a roster, Hennings adds, “You want to focus your attention, energy and effort on your own improvement, development and team contributions, and on creating a strong bond with your team, and pay less attention to the decisions, like playing time, that are out of your control.” We can use our competitive nature as fuel, instead of to our own detriment.

  1. Create a support system

Preseason is the perfect time to build meaningful relationships with the people in our corner, particularly teammates and support staff like athletic trainers and mental performance coaches at our schools. We should lean on those connections as early as possible, and not hesitate to ask for help when we need it. Just as importantly, when we become older and more experienced members of our team, let’s provide the same support to our younger teammates so that no one ever feels alone.

  1. Set and visualize attainable goals

As we prepare for the season ahead, it is important to set goals that are within reach. These can be goals for our personal performance, but can also be intangibles like our positive contributions to our team, leadership impact, and strong friendships. For athletic performance goals, we can use skills like journaling and visualization to mentally prepare far ahead of a high-pressure situation before we are in it. 

  1. Identify the specific obstacles and a plan of attack

To avoid getting overwhelmed by the various challenges within preseason, we can identify the specific ones that spark the most stress or apprehension for us and break them down into manageable pieces. “If you want to mentally prepare for a fitness assessment, for example, identify your main mental blind-spot or weakness about that assessment,” says Hennings. “Is it your nerves just before it begins? Your self-talk while executing the tasks? Identify the obstacle, and make and commit to a plan in advance for how you can tackle it in the moment.”

  1. Prioritize growth over outcomes

We can be so hard on ourselves as athletes when the season arrives, wishing for immediate success. Shifting our focus from outcomes to learning and growth will allow us to celebrate the small victories, be proud of ourselves every step of the way, and foster a healthier mindset towards how our sport adds to our life. Often, the results will come when we adopt this approach.

  1. Make time every day for life outside our sport

With the time, effort, and passion we dedicate to our sport, it can feel like our whole lives ride on the outcome of one practice, game, or race. Preseason is an opportunity to actively reserve time for other things that spark joy and remind us of our value outside athletics, creating a sense of balance and gratitude in our daily life. Spending time outdoors, calling a family member, or resuming an old hobby reminds us that, despite how important our team and sport is to us, our value as a person does not end there. “I like to start my day with some goal setting and gratitude, some that have to do with my sport and some that don’t,” says Rosette. “This way, I know even if something happens in my sport that day that isn’t what I wanted, I have value and things to be thankful for outside of it.”