Running Out of Time?

Today’s Topic: Running Out of Time?

Hello everyone.  I’m live today talking about one of the biggest myths that I have heard throughout my coaching career.  A lot of the time it’s with young people, which is kind of shocking, but not if you are immersed in youth sport culture.

“I am running out of time.”

It’s amazing how often I hear this from 11-year-olds or 12-year-olds.  It’s that, or, “I’m too old,” is another one.  This stressing about time, I’ve heard it so much that I want to really address it here and give you an idea – if you feel like you’re running out of time to reach your potential, to get to competition season, or to get to the level that you want to get to in your sport, that’s okay.  I am going to help you get a little perspective on that.

Case Studies

I’m going to share a couple of case studies/situations where this has come up.  The first one is a gymnast.

Beam Block

Now, this gymnast is had mental blocks on beam in her series.  For those of you non-gymnasts, it’s just going backwards, doing a couple of things in a row, sort of scary stuff on beam.  She was doing phenomenally well.  She was on this elite track and then all of a sudden, she couldn’t tumble backwards on the beam anymore.

Seeking Help

She comes to see me and we start talking it out.  She immediately gets this really great attitude.  She’s following my suggestions, and next thing you know, she’s on the high beam.  She is walking around like she owns the place (even though she’s still scared), and she has a couple of methods that really work for her.

Progress Shift

She’s making big progress and then I get this email from mom: “Oh my gosh, she’s falling apart.  What’s going on?  We were making such good progress.  What do I do?  I don’t want to be her mental coach… I just want to be mom.”

So I reach out and say, “Let’s see what’s up.  Let’s see what’s happening here.”  She’s been on this winning streak, everything’s been going great, and then all of a sudden a big hiccup. Now, my intuition/experience working with athletes in this situation for as long as they have told me, “Okay, I know exactly what’s going on here.  We’re about three months out from season.  This is the official time for everybody to start freaking out about season.  It happens every single year.”

I talked to the athlete and asked, “All right, what changed?”  She responded with, “Well, my coaches started giving me these lectures saying, ‘You better get it together.  The other group is here and you should be here and you’re not there yet.  If you don’t get it together…’ and so on.”

Added Pressure from Coaches

So after every single event, the coaches are harping on these kids going that season is coming, saying, “You’re not where you should be. This is where you should be,” and so this girl, who has been focusing on progress, celebrating the progress and started moving towards her goals, bit by bit by bit, slowly and steadily… all of a sudden she has this big flash of “you are not moving fast enough”.

Shift in Self-Talk

So that’s the new self-talk that she’s just adopted.  Which then, of course, when you have that going through your head, you’re thinking, “I have to hurry. I have to hurry.  I’m running out of time,” and it creates tension.  It also creates this behavior that is not conducive to confidence.  You stop asking for help.  You stop trusting the process.  You stop taking suggestions and you start thinking, “I have to force it.  I have to try harder.  I have to try again, and again, and again,” even though you’re balking or you’re bailing or you’re falling.

Then you feel like, “There must be something wrong with me.  I don’t want anybody to know that there might be something wrong with me because then they’ll get mad.  So I’m just going to try harder, try harder, try harder,” and then they end up in tears.

Hyperfocused on Time = Negative Outcome

That’s what happens when we put the emphasis on time.  Is this a winning strategy?  Not for everybody.  For the kids who are not as high strung, not as stressed out, they’re more easy, going.  They’re the ones who need their coach to say, “Hey, come on, get it together.  It’s time,” and then their focus narrows in and they get to work.  But that’s maybe 10% of athletes.  The majority, when given this time pressure, are going to tense up and start rushing when they feel that pressure.

Rushing Won’t Fix a Block

So coaches, if you’re using that as a general strategy for your whole team, I would suggest that you look at the personalities of your athletes and any athlete that you know really wants to please and is a little bit more on the anxious and a little bit more on the perfectionism side.  Do not talk to them about time.  It’s just not useful because the solution to a mental block does not change when competition season is coming. That’s the thing that you have to know.

If you’re working with me and PerformHappy, if you’re working with me one-on-one, or if you’ve just been following the information that I put out there today, then you’ll know how to deal with a mental block.  You’ll know it does not change depending on where you are in the season because your brain doesn’t care about competition season.  Your brain only cares about keeping you safe.  If you start freaking out, your brain’s going to go, “Oh, shut everything down.  We must not be safe.”

I have another case study here on a swimmer who, no, it’s different time, but same sort of stress.

Emphasis on Winning

So this 12-year-old swimmer said to me, “I’m too old.  I’m just too old.”  I’m thinking, “You’re 12!  Are you kidding me?  You’re not even in high school?  How is that too old?”  Of course I didn’t say that.  I said, “Oh my gosh, that sounds very, very challenging.  Let’s dig into that.”  Basically she was doing really well when she was young, then every time she went up in age division, she didn’t win as much.  There had been a lot of emphasis on winning and times, and now that she’s in these higher age cuts, she’s not qualifying to the big meets like she used to when she was younger, so she starts to feel bad about herself.

Loss of Effort

Then her effort suffers because she starts to feel like she’s not good enough, she’s too old, and she doesn’t have time to catch up to her teammates.  Then the future “what ifs” pop in and she loses effort.  So it’s kind of one or the other.  If you’re focusing on time, either you start over-trying, which creates tension and fear and anxiety, or you feel like “I’m just not going to make it” and then you lose your effort.

I was an older gymnast and I didn’t care in the beginning, but then I got to be closer to the higher levels and thought, “Well, I can’t really go the distance because I’m already 14 and I’m scared of stuff so we just don’t have the time.”

It’s Hard to Ask for Help

But I’m going to challenge that.  I’m going to give a couple of examples of people who did not let that stop them, b first one more thing that I want to mention.  Another gymnast that I was working with this week, I know her personally and she is awesome.  I’ve been working with her team forever and when the coaches really wanted her to work with me and she’d say, “No, it’s okay,” and what’s happening is she doesn’t want to need help.  She doesn’t feel like she has time to get help with the mental walk.  So her strategy is, “I don’t have time to slow down.  I don’t have time to back it up a step.  I don’t have time to ask for help.  I just need to do it, I just need to go, and I need to do it right now.”

Finding/Recognizing the Patterns

So I was watching her do the skill that she’s struggling on.  She got up and she balks once.  I asked her, “What was going through your head?”  I always like to know the patterns, what’s happening before the bail, what’s happening after the bail, what’s happening before the success, after the success.  She said, “I was just saying, ‘You have to do it, you have to do it, you have to do it.'”

Changing the Self-Talk

“Okay, okay.  What if you just want to do it?  What if you don’t actually have to do it, you just want to do it?”  She looked at me like I was crazy, gets up, and balks again.  Then I was like, “All right, what can you do?  Because it looks like this isn’t working right now.  What can you do?”  And she said, “I could do it in my head.”

“No, no, no.  What physically can you do?  Where in the gym could you go do this right now? She said, “Well, I could do it over there.”  So she gets up and she goes and she does it.  I asked her what was going through her head, and it was the same response as before – that she had to do.  I told her, “Let’s try it again.  Want it, just want it.  You don’t have to do it.  Nobody’s gonna kick you off the team.  Nobody’s going to stop you from competing.  Nobody’s going to do anything if today you’re not doing it perfectly on the surface you want to do it on.”

What CAN You Do?

She would have stayed on the higher surface and struggled and struggled and struggled.  I saw it in her eyes that she would’ve just tried harder and probably been in tears when she went to the next event.  Instead, we went over to a different surface that was a little easier and she made a bunch of them and she was a little disappointed.  But that is what it takes.

You have to get something done.  Even if it feels disappointing, any success is better than a colossal failure.  That’s the perspective that I have because I’m not in the gymnast’s mind going, “It’s October and all of a sudden I can’t do the skill.  I was making progress and now I’m running out of time.”  Instead, I’m like, “The solution is the same.  Whether it’s October or December or February or March, it’s the same solution.”

I watched her get up there and, and I saw it as a success.  I told her, “This is just what needs to happen.  You have to go slow,” and she looked at me like I’m nuts.  But if you are coming from this place of “I’m running out of time”, you’re not doing your confidence any favors.

“Older” Athlete Success Stories

Here are a few examples of athletes who didn’t let time hold them back.  One of my favorite, favorite figure skaters from the 2018 winter Olympics is Adam Ripon.  He started skating at age 10 and by 2010, I think he was 17 or 18… he was a teenager and he went to nationals and he’d already been a Junior National Champion.  He was on track to be a phenomenal skater.  In 2010, he went to nationals and it was a qualifying year for the winter Olympics.  He got fourth in the short program, fourth in the long program, and then ended up with fifth overall, which means he just missed the Olympic team.  They take the top three.

In 2014, he comes back and tries his best and gets fourth place.  He did not qualify for the Olympics.  Did he give up?  Did he go, “I’m too old.  I can’t do it.”  No.  He showed up in 2018 the most well-trained athlete there at the ripe old age of 28 with Nathan Chan, his teammate and competitor who was 18 at the time (most of them were, most of the athletes are in that like 18, 19, 20 age group).  He shows up at 28, the oldest rookie Olympian since 1936 I think in single skating. He shows up to Olympic trials with this one statement, I will never forget. He said, “The only way I am not getting on that Olympic team is if one of those other skaters’ mothers are on the selection committee.  I have trained, I have worked, I am ready.”  He gets out there and he kills it and he makes the team.

Choose Your Perspective

So yes, you can look at it and go, “I’m 12, I’m too old, and I’m running out of time,” or you can open up your perspective and go, “It’s bigger.  My career is bigger than this month, this season, this year.  I love my sport.  I’m committed to my sport and it is bigger than just this little teeny sliver of a moment and I want this.  If I’m not doing my series today, I will do it.  I will do it confidently.  It is going to happen.  I don’t know when, it might not be tomorrow, but I’m not going to give up.  I’m going to do this.”

That is what has to be in the eyes of each athlete.  That fire of,  “Alright, today wasn’t the best day today.  I got a little stressed.  I’m going to learn from it.  I’m going to show up tomorrow. I’m going to try again.  I will not give up then.”

If You Still Love It, Do It

I have to mention Oksana Chusovitin.  She’s 41, and if she goes to the Olympics in 2020 which is very likely, she will be an eight-time Olympian.  She’s already won three medals and she could be a contender for a vault metal at 41 years old.  They called Aly Raisman a grandma in the last Olympics because she was 22… Oksana is 41!  It’s completely unthinkable, and she’s vaulting!  She’s still a strong vaulter this woman.  People are asking, “When are you going to retire?”  She doesn’t know.  She loves gymnastics and she’s good at it, so she keeps doing it.

Don’t Let Fear of Time Kill Your Confidence

That’s what you have to consider if you’re stuck in this fear of time running out, thinking you’re not good enough.  That negativity is killing your success and it’s killing your confidence.  Here’s what you need: You must stay present.  It’s an interesting combination of staying in the moment and just going for progress.  You start where you are and you just go for progress.  Just make a little bit of progress, maybe like a lot of progress.  One day maybe you’ll only make the teeniest bit, but every bit progress counts to your confidence.

In the meantime, you’re staying in the present but you’re keeping the big picture in mind. You’re thinking, “This is just such a little dot on the line of my career and I will get through this.  It is just a matter of time until I have my confidence on this, so I’m going to show up and I’m going to work hard and I’m going to reach my goal.  It’s non-negotiable.”

You’re Not Alone

You put that out there and you go, “This is what I’m going to do and I’m going to be patient in the meantime and ask for help.”  You do have time to get help.  I mean if you’re struggling, don’t try to do it yourself.  Don’t try to be a hero.  Don’t try to rush it.  Don’t try to force it because I have seen over and over and over.  That just slows you down because you’re rushing and hitting a wall and getting set back.  Two steps forward, three steps back. Whereas if you’re being patient, you’re moving slower, you’re listening to the suggestions and advice of people who know, who have been through where you are and have and know what the solution is to the problem.

Listen, even if you think you don’t have time for that, well, you know what?  You don’t have time to not.  So that’s my advice.  If you’re believing that you’re running out of time, then you’re running out of time.  If you’re not, if you’re believing that you have as much time as you need, you’re going to get through it, and you’re going to ask for help and you’re going to take it one step at a time.  You will not run out of time because time is just a concept, it’s just a construct.

That is my message for today.  Thank you for tuning in and I will see you again soon.

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