3 Steps To Get Out Of A Slump In A Sport You Love

In a slump?

Today I want to talk about 3 ways to get out of a slump in a sport you love.

Hey everybody! I am coach Rebecca Smith and my job is to help young athletes build confidence, overcome fear, and build self-trust that not only helps in sport, but also helps big time in life.

I cannot say the word slump without thinking about the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.”

Dr. Suess says, “Unslumping yourself is not easily done!” And that is the truth.

If you have an athlete who loves their sport and they are not happy with their performance, this leads to self doubt. They have lower confidence because sport is life for a lot of these athletes.

So if their sport isn’t feeling good and they’re not feeling good about their performance, then they tend to not feel good in general.

I know I can still get caught up in this in any performance arena. If I feel like I’m not performing well, I feel like I’m not good.

So today I want to talk to you about how to get happy again, first of all, and then how to get through the slump.

It’s a three-step process.

It is not easy, but it’s simple. And if you follow this process, you will get out of a slump. Not only will you get out of a slump, but you will be so glad you had that slump because it got you motivated to do the work that it takes to become the true athlete that’s inside of you.

So first of all, before I mention those three steps, I want to talk about the necessary foundation that you have to have.

First of all, you have to believe you can get off the slump now.

I’ve talked to athletes and I’ve talked to many post COVID who feel like their sport lost its luster. They kind of liked being home with their family. They’re just not sure if they still love it. It’s almost like everyone was injured a year ago.

So they’re like, ‘Can I get off this slump? Can I get my mojo back?’

So there has to be a little, teeny little seed of hope of ‘Yes, I can get through this!’

Because when I was an athlete, I didn’t believe I could.

There’s a Confucius quote – ‘If you believe you can, you can. If you believe you can’t, you can’t.’

So if you believe you can get off the slump, you can. If you believe you can’t, you can’t.

If you believe you can, let’s proceed.

The second thing is actually to stop forcing it.

There is this major misconception that if you’re in a slump, you are not trying hard enough. So you have to try harder and you’re trying harder and it’s not working. And what’s the point. Am I ever going to get better? And then you start to sort of lose the love.

Now the love is still there. You’re just losing the happiness.

So you athletes have to have an open mind. You have to be willing to give me the belief that your lackluster performance is not because you’re not good enough. And it’s not because you’re not trying hard enough. It’s just because you have not figured out how to use your mind as a tool.

And you get into these places where your thinking takes over and you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s something wrong with me. I need to work harder. It’s not working.’ That negativity is part of it, but it’s really that you haven’t learned how to use your mind as your superpower.

So I’m going to talk to you about how to do that. And, and so when I say the word slump, I mean underperforming.  This could be due to mental blocks. It could be performance anxiety. It could be setbacks like having a quarantine. Low self-confidence can be a slump. Just feeling like, ‘I’m just not good enough.’ An unhappiness feeling, a dread or just low vibes about going to practice can be a slump. All of those.

The solution is the same. So here we go.

Here are the three steps to unslump yourself.

Step 1 For How To Get Out Of A Slump: Gain Awareness

The first step is you have to gain awareness.

Now other mental trainers out there will actually try to teach you something that I  don’t agree with, but basically they want you to block out what’s not working. Just distract yourself, trick yourself, come up with a little thing that you do that makes it so that you don’t think about what’s not working now.

I’m actually the opposite.

I want you to pay attention to what’s not working, whether it’s fear, whether it’s depression. Pay attention. If you are feeling like something doesn’t feel right, pay attention. There is a message.

Your brain is so cool. I took neuro-psychology when I was in grad school. And it was like the worst class ever because there was so much information. I was like, I’m never going to understand all of this, but the more that I learned about the brain, the more I’m like, “Gosh, this thing is so cool.” It sends us all these messages. And if we can figure out how to decode those messages, we can use this thing, like the best muscle in our body.

So what I have learned is that fear is feedback. Failure is feedback. It’s all data. You’re getting information all the time that will help you be an amazing athlete.

And those bad days, bad weeks, bad months, bad years are full of amazing, helpful information that can allow you to rise to your potential, to be the champion that you want to be.

But here’s the problem.

In order to listen to all those messages, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable because you have to take a good look at yourself and you have to be willing to go, ‘Oh, I am really negative.’ Or ‘That is a belief system that I’ve held onto for a really long time.’  Or ‘Oh, that’s not true. Oh, that’s not helping me.’

So this is not for the faint of heart.

This is only for athletes who would like to be a champion and who are willing to do not just the physical work in practice, but are willing to do the work of looking in the mirror and going, ‘Okay, where am I?’

And this isn’t just like, ‘Oh, I’m so terrible.’ This is just like, ‘It’s data.’

I’ve fallen in love with data recently because there’s no judgment and you don’t have to feel bad and you don’t have to hate yourself. You’re just like, ‘Oh, data. Make adjustments, do another experiment.’ It’s like another competition.

Anyway, the whole point of awareness is that you have to know where you are so that you’ll know why you’re not where you want to be. If you know where you are, like “point A, you are here,” then you can take that information and go, “Okay, where do I want to go? I want to go to point B, Great! Let’s make a map to get there.”

And so that’s the second step…


Step 2 For How to Get Out Of A Slump: Build Confidence

Once you have really gotten some good awareness, you go into step two, which is confidence building.

And that is the path between A and B that you’re building your ladder to success.

There are six ways to build confidence and infinite ways to destroy it.

So that’s why confidence is such a tricky little beast.

I’ll tell you real quick the six ways to build it. Within PerformHappy, my mental training program, we are constantly using all these different six ways to build it.

So the ways that you build confidence are pulling from past successes, taking control of the way your body feels, the images you see in your head, the way that you talk to yourself and the way that others talk to you, your mood and your emotions, and how you relate to the successes of others.

That’s how you build confidence.

There’s some really specific ways that you can use all of those facets to build super strong confidence. However, there’s this one tricky little thing that is always undermining confidence, and it is fear.

Perfectionism, over trying, or overly focusing on outcomes.

Those are all things that I see just draining performances. And they’re all fueled by fear of failure.

Then there’s the lack of communication with coaches or lack of collaboration with coaches, which I see leading to all kinds of confidence issues. And that is fueled by the fear of not being liked, by the fear of looking stupid, by the fear of being embarrassed. Essentially all slumps are caused by fear.

So the good thing about fear and confidence is that they are opposites. If your confidence is up, your fear is down. If your fear is up, your confidence is down.

So if we are doing the two-fold job of boosting confidence and addressing those fears that you figured out when you were in the awareness phase of  “Ooh, I really am afraid of failure” or “I really am afraid of being embarrassed or really don’t want to sound stupid” you can look at those fears and be like, “Okay, well let’s work with this. Let’s take this feedback and let’s work with it.”

Then all that confidence work you’re doing will stick.

And it allows you to start focusing on what’s possible rather than avoiding what you’re afraid of.

So then once you’ve done the work in the confidence training to eliminate your fears, you become aware of what works for you and what doesn’t.

Step 3 For How to Get Out Of A Slump: Self-Trust

Then we can go into phase three which is my very favorite part.

The third step to getting yourself out of a slump, and I’m going to be bold and say permanently, is self-trust.

It’s one thing to kind of know how you tick. It’s another to know how to build your confidence.

But this piece is what other mental trainers leave out too.

You’ve got to be able to let it happen. You might be completely able to do the skills, to perform at an optimal level, but if you don’t have the skill of self-trust, you won’t be able to let it happen. And you’ll be ruled by expectations or crushed by pressure.

You’ll have “what-if” thoughts that come in and steal your thunder.

So if you can, let go of those expectations and the weight of pressure and allow it to be the exhilaration of a challenge instead.

If those “what-if” thoughts were like, “What if this is awesome?” and you were no longer afraid of failure.

If you could just focus purely on execution strategy, letting go of those little nit picky “what-if” thoughts, you would be free to just perform. So that is the ultimate outcome for me is when you get through that trust phase and the successes and failures are equally valuable to your success in sport and in life. That’s when you know that you’re on the path to success.

Even if your path is meandering and it looks like you’re backtracking, you’re on the path and you know that you’re moving forward and you can trust it. And you’ll always continue learning from it. You keep marching, you keep working because you have a choice. And you choose to be there. You have the grit that keeps you going, and you have this faith in yourself and your training that you can absolutely do it.

And you know where point A is, you know where point B is, you know how to walk there and when you get there, you know how to let it happen!

I know I just threw so much information at you. What I want to do is invite you to a free training that’s all about how to break the fear cycle and build lasting sport confidence. It goes into detail about those three things I talked about.

I hope that you’ll join me there. Completeperformancecoaching.com/training is where you can go to register for that free training. It’s for parents and athletes to attend together. And if you are experiencing a slump, I strongly recommend this training. I know that an hour to watch a training is an insane amount of time for a sport family, but I promise you, it will be worth your while that you will take away something that will help you to get into whatever phase you need to be in next.


Superhero Confidence Challenge

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.