How Coaches Support Athletes After the Finish Line

By: Mackenzie Brown, PsyD

I find myself having an interesting parallel. About a week ago, I consulted with a coach for a client to facilitate athletic gains. Often times in sport psychology it involves a team: you and the athlete, you and the coach, you and the nutritionist, you and the strength and conditioning coach, you and the athletic trainer, among many others I haven’t necessarily included. It all depends on what the athlete may need and how you as a sport psychologist can best support them in their goals.

So, back to my parallel. I found myself in conversation with a coach for how to support their athlete when life strikes, thereby impacting training, racing, and mindset. Suddenly, it struck me that I had found myself in a similar spot. Training for my A race was done, my season was over, I was shifting gears to a different way of training in the off season, and was experiencing a bit of the “post-race blues” as I like to call it. While my triathlon coach and sport nutritionist are very helpful and supportive, no one was really helping me through the off season slump I found myself in as it coincided with a peak in other stressors.

Coaches, be aware of your athletes and their needs post-race. Expand beyond what the training needs are for physical recovery and be sure to open a conversation around emotional recovery. Many athletes can experience a sense of loss after a major competition is done (regardless of the outcome) because they have suddenly lost the carrot they were chasing that dangled before them. Depending on the sport, the way the season progresses, and what is happening for them personally can create a perfect storm for your athlete. Help them weather it by checking in, offering support, and directing them to additional resources such as a sport psychologist. In the end, none of us can win the race alone… there is always a team behind us to help us cross the finish line.

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