Slumps are unexplainable. Sometimes it hits just a single player, while other times it hits an entire team at once. The worst part is that, by its very definition, a slump has to attack a vital member of the team…someone on whom everyone is counting. Is it a slump if a bad player continues to perform poorly? I don’t think so.
One thing is for sure, slumps are frustrating for everyone involved. While the slump manifests itself as a severe drop in skill level, I happen to believe there’s an equally (if not more critical) dip in confidence that affects slumping players. Imagine the player whose identity is wrapped up in being the best at what they do and what would happen to their confidence when they stopped being at the top of the heap.
So what can coaches do to help this player revive their confidence and regain their top skill level?
4 Steps We Can Take To Address A Player’s Slump
- Don’t talk about confidence. I wouldn’t suggest starting the conversation with, “So you’re lacking confidence…”. An elite athlete will almost never admit to losing their confidence even if it’s true. Beyond that, confidence and skill are intertwined so addressing the skill will more than likely take care of the confidence issue as well.
- Address self-talk. Many times, I’ll ask athletes who are consistently struggling in a particular area, what they say to themselves before they perform the skill. Without fail, they’re telling themselves, “don’t do this” or “be careful”…some sort of passive or fearful self-talk. Our goal has to be to get them to say what they will do correctly instead of filling themselves with doom and gloom over what could possibly go wrong.
- Work on a specific, tangible skill with specific goals. Most likely, our slumping player thinks everything they’re doing is awful and they’re just a hot mess. Our job is to pick one tangible skill that can be worked on and give our player cues to replay in their head when they’re performing that skill. A specific goal combined with a tangible skill could be something like: “I’m going to come to practice fifteen minutes early to practice every day for two weeks and work on keeping my elbow high when I serve.”
- Visualize success. The next thing we can do for our athlete is to give her steps to visualize her success. There is all sorts of research out there that says that our bodies react the same to a realistically imagined event as they do to the real thing. Meaning, if our player visualizes herself serving an ace on game point, cheering with her team, and the officials signaling the end of the game…her heart rate will increase just as if it were happening in reality.
Most of us will have to deal with a player going through an unexpected slump and they’ll be looking to us to help them figure things out. Check out this post, How To Fix A Slump, for more information…the comments section was particularly festive.