Athletes: Ideas for dealing with self isolation, social distancing, and not having access to weight rooms or athletic facilities.

by Brian Cain, MPM

No one has ever been through something like “this” before. Seasons just… over.  High school and college athletic careers… ending. 

Not with a lost game or a championship, but with uncertainty with what the present and future will bring. And while I’d love to tell you “Here’s what you should do”… these are uncharted waters for me, as well. 

Self isolation, social distancing of this magnitude, and not having access to weight rooms or athletic facilities—for months possibly—are things we’ve never faced in this lifetime. 

But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. And it certainly doesn’t mean we should just toss our hands up and say, “Well, nothing we can do.”

Not even close. 

So in the face of all this uncertainty, here’s what I DO know: We have to respond. And how we respond is up to us. 

And as hard as these times are, it’s also creating a margin for things that many of us previously just didn’t make time for:

  • Now is the time to figure out what’s “nice” to have… and what’s downright crucial. 
  • Now is the time to find creative ways to stay connected, stay focused, and find ways to make the best of a bad situation. 
  • Now is the time to optimize your mindset. 

So today’s article may be a little different than usual. A little less “5-step how to” and a little more “here are some ideas to try.”

Now, rest assured these aren’t just random tactics. These are strategies I’ve taught to help the world’s top performers overcome immense adversity for the past two decades. 

And as I’ve shared these with the elite athletes, teams, and coaches I consult with over the past few weeks, I’ve heard from many of them just how powerful these are proving to be in light of current circumstances. 

If you’re an athlete: This could help you navigate these trying times.

If you’re a coach or parent of an athlete: Pass this along to the athlete(s) in your life to help provide them guidance they need right now.

Everyone’s going crazy… I’m in self-isolation (and I don’t have any toilet paper). 

At the turn of the new year, if you’d have told someone THIS is where we’d be by March 2020, they would have laughed you out of the room. 

“That’ll never happen here”, They’d say. 

But it HAS happened. And now you HAVE to respond. 

The question is: How will you respond?

Are you going to sit on the couch eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and binge-watching Netflix for the next two months, making excuses about how you can’t do “this” or “that”… or are you going to use this as an opportunity for growth?

I’ve said this countless times: An elite mindset is the foundation that mental performance mastery rests on. So step number one right now is to pause, take a deep breath and DECIDE how you will respond. 

Your response is in your control. 

Your Action Plan

For many, approaching the current circumstances with an elite mindset will require a shift in perspective. 

Rather than focusing on what you can’t control, what you don’t have, or how bad this could get—you’ll have to choose to flip this around into what you CAN control, what you DO have, and how you can make the best of a bad situation. 

A decision you’ll have to make daily… hourly… minute-by-minute. 

Take a look at the image below. Consider downloading it to your phone or and printing it out to look at daily. This is the choice standing before you today (and as this continues to play out): Will you respond with an elite mindset… or an average one?

The rest of this article aims to help you adapt and respond with an elite mindset. But before you’re even ready to think about implementing “strategies”, you have to make a commitment to approaching all of this with an elite mindset. 

Real life perspective: You’ve probably heard of Bethany Hamilton. In 2003, a terrible tragedy struck when a shark bit off her left arm. As she recovered, she made two promises to herself. 

The first was that she would not moan about her terrible misfortune and the second was that she would get back on the surfboard. Someone with an average mindset would have been resigned to failure. Wallowed in the misery of their situation (which, let’s be honest: This is a BAD situation). 

But after only 26 days, Bethany was surfing again. She is now ranked as among the top 50 female surfers in the world.

Talk about an elite mindset and an elite response to adversity!

Let this serve as a reminder that people have been through adversity that rivals and surpasses what we’re currently experiencing many times. And those who optimized their mindset and committed to making the best of a bad situation, always found a way to come out better from it. 

There’s treasure in the trials—you just have to be willing to find it (and work for it). Let’s talk about how you can do that. 

I can’t meet with my teammates right now… what should I do?

When adversity strikes, people tend to separate into three groups: Those who step DOWN, those who step ASIDE and those who step UP. 

People are scared right now. Much of what you’ll hear in mainstream media and from well-meaning adults around you will unfortunately perpetuate the spread of more fear and anxiety your way. 

And it’s easy to descend into the pit of pessimism…

  • Maybe sports are just over… forever?
  • This will blow over in 2 weeks… No, it’ll be MONTHS… maybe longer!

You start reading an article or two about the pandemic and soon are left thinking: Well, pretty sure this means the world is ending… might as well just call it quits now. There’s no point in staying connected to my teammates. 

I wish this was an extreme example, but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s too far off. And this is why those around you—especially your teammates—need a leader. 

Yes, your coach is there. And they are hopefully providing leadership during these tough times. But having leadership from a teammate—someone who is truly sharing the same experience as his or her peers—takes the power of leadership to another level. 

You can step up during times of adversity and help the people around you keep taking action, no matter the circumstances. 

Your Action Plan

Real life perspective: In a video I shared last week, I outlined the action plan of one of my high school clients that follows the acronym “COVID”. 

C = Call. 

  • Call my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert’s Success Hotline at 973-743-4690.
  • Call your teammates and future teammates to stay connected. 

O = One. 

  • One day at a time. 
  • One decision at a time. 
  • Only need everyone (stay connected—don’t try to weather this alone). 

V = Visualize. 

  • Visualize your sports performance. 
  • Victor—not victim—mindset. 

I = Intention. 

  • Intentional with your behavior. 
  • Intentional with your investment in yourself. 

D = Don’t waste an opportunity. 

  • Don’t waste the opportunity you have to make the best out of a bad situation. 

As a leader, you can STEP UP and connect with your teammates to work through this plan together on a daily basis. 

Step 1: Share this plan with your teammates.

Step 2: Invite them to join in following this plan together for the next 30 days (or until you’re able to resume “normal” team activities.)

Step 3: Set up daily video calls (using ZOOM, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, etc.) to meet and talk about how you executed the plan that day. Text your teammates with words of encouragement each day. 

Lead others in holding each other accountable. 

You don’t need a weight room or perfectly manicured athletic facility to get better. 

Look back at that picture above comparing and contrasting an elite mindset with an average one. 

Which do you have?

An average mindset uses lack of access to the resources we’re used to having as an excuse to not do anything right now. An excuse to complain.

But an elite mindset will look at what’s currently going on and say, “OK, this is far from ideal. And to be honest, I’m kind of pissed about it. But I’ve still got work to do. How can I continue to get better with the resources I do have access to?”

If you have an elite mindset, you’re the person who’s saying:

  • I may not have my weight room, but I DO have a 40-pound dumbbell in my garage and a work ethic that won’t quit. 
  • I may not have a 94 by 50 foot basketball court, with newly finished wood floors and perfectly controlled temperature… but I DO have a goal in my driveway. 
  • I may not even have access to any of that^^, but I DO have 30 days where I’m stuck at home to master the mental game and come out of this thing with more confidence and more mental toughness.
  • I will not make excuses, I WILL make it happen

You’re putting in the work, while making the best of what you’ve got. Listen, I’m not saying you can’t mourn the fact that what’s going on right now is leaving you in a less than ideal situation. 

But spending time, energy, and mental space complaining about that or using it as an excuse won’t help you get any better. 

Your Action Plan

In life, there are difficult choices. Right now, you face a difficult choice. 

I’m not downplaying that or saying this will be easy. But at the end of the day, one choice leads to you wasting away, worrying about what “might” happen, and one choice leads you to finding ways to get better, no matter the circumstances. 

Will you use lack of access to facilities as an excuse… or find a way to use what you DO have access to and keep getting better physically and mentally?

It’s time to get creative. It’s time to develop an appreciation for the basics—and understand that hard work and grit are traits that will always prevail over the conveniences we’ve become so accustomed to. 

Real life perspective: In 1912, Jim Thorpe had his running shoes stolen the morning of his Olympic track and field events. He found a mismatched pair of shoes in the garbage, and ran in them to win two Olympic gold medals that day. 

Jim Thorpe could’ve thrown in the towel. Could’ve said, “Well, I’m missing one of my shoes, and the only one I can find isn’t even the right size. Forget this. I can’t compete.”

But he didn’t do that. 

Instead, he put on that mismatched show that was a size too big and he got to work. Rather than relying on the circumstances to dictate what he did, he fell back to his training (both mental and physical) and focused on controlling what he could control

You face a similar situation today. How will you respond?

If this feels like “tough love”, it kind of is… 

But I also recognize this is a very serious issue. People are losing their jobs. People are scared for the health of themselves and their loved ones. 

And I don’t take that lightly. So please know nothing about the “tough love” provided here is not meant to overlook the real and vast impact it is having across the world. 

Trust me, I’m feeling the weight of this, too. And it can quickly feel like there’s more questions than answers. 

But in the face of all this uncertainty, here’s what I DO know: Myself, and all the coaches and athletes I provide mental performance mastery training to are going to turn to our training during this tough time and we aren’t’ going to rise to the occasion, we’re going to sink to our levels of training. 

We’re going to lean-on the mental performance mastery training principles that have guided people through times of extreme adversity throughout the history of our world. 

You can do the same—and I’ll be here to help in any way that I can. 

Your next step: Discover the systems and secrets I use to help world-class athletes perform at an elite level.

Over the past few weeks, my email, phone, and dm’s have BLOWN UP with coaches and athletes asking what they can do to continue growing as an athlete during this time when they can’t meet with their team in person. 

The 30 Days to Mental Performance Mastery Course is my answer. And next week, on April 7th, I’m opening up registration (for a limited time). 

Listen, we don’t know how long this is going to last, but here’s what we DO know: While circumstances aren’t ideal, this is an incredible opportunity for you (or those you coach) to spend 30 days mastering the mental game. 

Click here to learn more about the Course: How it works, who it’s for, what you’ll learn—and how to save $200 of the regular price when I open the doors next week.