#195: Q&A: How Do I Help My Athlete Through Injury?

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Injuries are just the worst, aren’t they?

As a parent or coach, it breaks your heart to see your athlete hurting – both physically and emotionally. You want to fix it, to make it all better, but sometimes it feels like there’s nothing you can do. Trust me, I understand.

Injuries are an unfortunate reality of sports, especially for our dedicated young athletes. Whether your daughter is currently sidelined or has been out of the game for a while, knowing how to support her during this emotional and physically challenging time is crucial. But here’s the thing: injuries – as tough as they are – can actually be a chance for incredible growth. How?

I’ve seen firsthand how the right mindset can transform an injury setback into a comeback story. This episode is all about the things you can do to help your athlete navigate the ups and downs of injury and emerge stronger than ever. Because remember, you’re the most important part of her team. Let’s work together to turn this challenge into one of her greatest victories!

5 Key Steps to Support Your Injured Athlete

Here’s a five-step guide on how to help your athlete navigate the road to recovery:

  1. Acknowledge and Validate Emotions

Injury isn’t just a physical setback; it’s an emotional rollercoaster for athletes. So, the first thing you need to do is to help your athlete get clear on how she’s feeling. As parents, it’s essential to recognize and validate your daughter’s feelings during this time – they’re likely feeling overwhelmed with emotions – from sadness to fear of being re-injured. Instead of brushing these feelings aside, create a safe space for her to express them. Validate her feelings, let her know that it’s okay to feel what she’s feeling, and that these emotions will pass. Helping her process her emotions is important for her overall healing.

  1.  Shift the Focus to Growth

While it’s important to acknowledge the negative feelings, help your athlete see the potential for growth in this situation. Injuries can present a unique opportunity to learn the game from a different perspective, sharpen mental skills, and contribute to the team in new ways. Encourage her to view this experience as part of her story, a challenge she will overcome and emerge stronger from.

  1. Build a Support System

Recovery is a team effort. Make sure that your athlete has a solid support system that includes her doctors, physical therapists, coaches, teammates, friends, and perhaps a mentor or even a mental performance coach. Feeling surrounded by a caring and supportive network empowers athletes on their recovery journey.

  1. Prioritize the Mental Game

An injury layoff is the perfect time to focus on the often-overlooked aspect of sports – the mental game. Encourage your athlete to learn mental skills like visualization. Have her picture common game scenarios in her head or re-imagine the moment of her injury, but this time with a positive, injury-free outcome. Help her adopt positive mantras and focus on overcoming limiting beliefs. If possible, explore structured programs like “The Elite Mental Game” to guide her towards mental toughness.

  1. Returning to Play: Patience and Positivity

As your athlete starts playing again, remind her to trust the process and be patient. Starting with small goals and focusing on what she can do – rather than what she can’t – will boost her confidence. Help her see this as a fresh start, an opportunity to write a new, stronger version of her athlete story. Most importantly, discourage comparisons to her past performance or to teammates.

The Power of Mental Strength

One of our athletes in the Elite Mental Game program recently shared her inspiring story:

“Tonight was my first night back after my injury and I’m extremely satisfied. I was at my team tournament that weekend after I got hurt. And after watching them, it gave me a whole new perspective on mindset and how important it is. I took the time I was off to focus my mind and do the visualizations. I played back every moment that I’ve played in my mind, I imagined how it would be when it got back and it helped. I went into this practice knowing I would play good. And that doesn’t mean being the best player. It means being the best teammate and to myself. I was relieved and relaxed during this practice. And after I made a mistake, I did my reset, and I was fine. I just want to say thank you this program has benefited me in ways that I would have never thought.

This athlete’s experience proves how powerful the right mindset can be. When athletes use their time away from physical play to work on their mental game, they can return even stronger.

Remember: This is a Phase

Injury recovery takes time and there will be ups and downs. As a parent or coach, you can be your athlete’s strong and steady beacon of support. Remember these mantras to help yourself navigate this period:

“I can support my athlete as a sturdy leader during her injury.”

“This is a phase; this will pass.”

“I do not need to take on the emotions of my daughter.”

I’m Here to Help!

I hope this guide helps you support your injured athlete. Remember, she’s got this, and you’re there to help her build not only physical strength, but the mental toughness that makes champions.

If you’d like to learn more about strengthening an athlete’s mental game, visit my website and check out my free training for sports moms at trainhergame.com.

Episode Highlights: 

[00:00] Supporting athletes through injuries and reengaging in sports. Importance of equipping athletes with mindset to not compare themselves or get hung up on mistakes.

[02:44] Supporting athletes during injury, including visualization techniques and emotional support. Helping athletes understand and express their emotions during injury is crucial for recovery.

[05:21] Five key points for parents when their athlete is injured.

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