Rock Hill got over 2.5 inches of rain last Sunday. Not surprisingly, this bad weather led to many games being delayed or canceled. Long weather delays are a challenge to any athlete or coach because it disrupts focus. I have seen star athletes return from a delay and play way below their potential because the break allowed their minds to wander. Long weather delays can also kill momentum, allowing the losing team to rally and win.
As a coach or parent, there are several things you can do to help athletes successfully bounce back from weather delays and cancellations. Here are three strategies that anyone can implement, regardless of the sport or experience level:
▪ Focus on what you can control. Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather. No amount of worry, stress or discussion will help the sun come out any faster. When faced with a rain delay or cancellation, focus on what the athletes can control. A good place to start is reviewing game strategy. Talk about how the weather will or will not affect the defensive tactics. This approach acknowledges the bad weather, but instead of complaining about the rain, it emphasizes what the athletes can do to adapt to the situation. In addition, you can have your athletes use imagery to mentally rehearse different scenarios before the game resumes.
▪ Prepare for anything. One big worry with bad weather is poor performance. Rain makes everything slippery and challenges even the best athlete’s discipline. However, performance is less disrupted by inclement weather if you practice in it and for it. Do not cancel practice because of rain, use it as preparation (of course within reason, do not practice in harsh conditions). In addition, practice game delays by prematurely stopping a scrimmage or drill. Have the athletes re-focus, and start the scrimmage or drill again. Now when bad weather comes, the athletes will be confident in their ability to handle the poor conditions.
▪ Keep calm. When bad weather hits, the athletes will look to you for how to react. It is important that you immediately model appropriate behavior. If you become visibly agitated then your athletes will adopt that same attitude, which will undermine their confidence to handle the conditions and negatively affect their ability to focus. By being calm and relaxed, you will send the message that the bad weather is not a big deal; it is not something to worry about. It is important to note that this calm demeanor starts in practice. Just as your athletes should practice for bad weather, you should practice staying calm when things do not go as planned (such as a wet and muddy practice field).
I wish I could promise that implementing these three strategies will guarantee that your team will be unaffected by the next rain delay. Just with any sport skill, performing at your highest potential, despite the weather, is a learned skill that must be practiced. In addition, as a coach or parent, you will know how to best tailor each of these three ideas to your situation.
Do you have a question about how to improve your athletic performance? Dr. David Schary invites questions from any athlete, coach, or parent. Email any question or comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.