By Kaytlyn Poberznick
This year has strained the minds of everyone, and athletes are no exception. It’s brought new struggles and taken the mind game to a new level.
As a first-year college athlete for the NAIT Ooks women’s basketball team, the thought of never being able to play in a collegiate game leaves a massive uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Whether I like it or not, this is the story of my rookie year.
Any serious athlete has the dream of playing at a high-level. The thought that next year may not be much different from this, leads me to believe that sport might not be changing back either.
Although the chance to practice is still being given to NAIT teams, practicing doesn’t always give the same fulfilling feeling as competing on a court against high-level athletes. The rush of adrenaline doesn’t fill your body as much as it does when it comes to game time.
Practicing of course is where the magic happens, but practice without performance restricts one from knowing what they have to build on.
This year has scrutinized my mental strength. It has shown me how rock bottom my mindset can be. I was at the biggest low of my life, albeit I haven’t lived through much, when returning to the court in September after having gone without playing for a full year. I felt I wasn’t mentally prepared for the high intensity of university sports.
I soon realized that my ‘inability’ to play at university standards for basketball was simply the negative voice in my head telling me I didn’t deserve to play at such a distinguished level.
Being locked in quarantine for months made my mind wander.
I was put in a position that I’ve never prepared for. I didn’t feel equipped for the high demand of self-care the mind needs to combat self-doubt.
Going from isolation to training for high-level sport without the promise of competition was and is difficult.
The time away from the game can erode ability to keep a winning mindset, meaning that the months of perpetual criticism I was giving myself had to stop so I could have the potential to build a stronger foundation to hone new skills.
With that being said, the ability to train the mind has become a larger asset than that of training the body. I believe I speak for most athletes that on those days where the personal standard of execution isn’t met, it’s usually because of a demoralized mindset.
This affliction has become all too familiar in the idleness of the present day.
I hope that “normal” will come back soon. All I can do is focus on what opportunity has been given to me: time.
Unlike other years where I would’ve been thrown into the deep end of a season, everything moving a mile a minute, this time around I have the chance to focus and build on the things that haven’t previously been given the light of day.
I’ve been given a chance to build my mind game and grow to teach myself not to dwell on the missed shots, but to take every opportunity to develop as an athlete and give myself the best shot coming out of ‘this’.