Injuries are an unfortunate and unfair part of participating in athletics. Nearly every athlete will experience some kind of injury during their career and some may be more severe than others. How you respond to an injury and the potential disappointment will say a lot about you.
Even if you are sidelined there are still ways you can contribute to your team in a big way! You also have the opportunity to chose your attitude and how you carry yourself during this moment of adversity. We featured a great example of this during the 16U PGF Premier National Championship game that you can read, here. Let’s talk about how to handle these situations, strategies, and general things to keep in mind.
1) Attitude is everything
First and foremost, I want you to know it is completely acceptable to be upset and disappointed. Injuries are awful and I wish there was a way we could eliminate them from everyday life. So, be okay letting yourself feel those emotions; it’s not healthy to bury them or pretend like they don’t exist. Once you’ve taken a moment, now you get to choose your attitude moving forward especially when you are with your team.
The biggest tip I have is don’t feel sorry for yourself! It is possible to balance your emotions while still being a positive presence. Often, when athletes do and act this way it appears extremely selfish. Find a positive you can focus on, rather it’s the chance to learn more about the game from a new perspective, how to lead in a different way, or something else. Use this as a learning experience to deepen your knowledge, abilities, leadership skills, etc.
2) Find new ways to help your team
Finding new ways to help your team can be exciting and a great way to learn more about the game. Here are some ideas:
– Can you chart pitches during a game? Track what the opponent is doing and look for tenancies. Example, every time their pitcher has a 1-1 count she throws the curve ball. On the flip side, you can chart your team’s pitcher as well. This can be used for review following the game or to make changes during. If she becomes too predictable, the opponent may pick up on this and make adjustments. Pitchers are creatures of habit, sometimes they may not even realize the route they’ve fallen into.
– Can you score the game? Or do you want to learn how to keep the book? Ask your coach if this is something you can do. Even if you don’t keep the “official” book you could maybe keep your own while in the dugout.
– Expanding on keeping the book, help your team prepare when the opponents hitters are up. Let them know where they are in the batting order and what the hitter did during their last at-bat.
– Can you help rely defensive or pitching signs?
– Are you interested in how your coach is calling a game and setting up hitters? See if you can stay by him or her to learn what they are doing.
– Be a big time vocal supporter! Keep the energy high, ensure that your teammates are locked in and focused. Cheer on your teammates loudly and proudly.
– Does your right or left fielder need a throwing partner in-between innings? If your injury does not prevent you from doing this go play catch. If you cannot throw, help collect the balls from in between inning warm ups.
– Help your hitters. Make sure someone is ready for being on deck, help them with their gear, let them know any tendencies you are seeing.
– While at practice, continue to take this time seriously. See what you can learn! Can you hit fungos? If not, can you feed your coach balls so they can hit them and speed up the process? Can you throw light bunting practice? Can you shag or collect balls to help your teammates take more reps? Can you again be a big vocal leader? Can you receive balls at a position during defense (you can work on things receiving balls, picks, angles to the ball, etc). Say your arm is injured, can you participate in some of the drills but not throw?
3) DO YOUR PHYSICAL THERAPY!
If your injury requires the use of physical therapy, do what you’re supposed to! That may seem so obvious but it can be easy to not take PT as seriously as one should, especially when one is nearly healed. Do your exercises, be mindful, and do them as you are told – don’t add more reps or change things. Listen to your PT! I speak from personal experience…
Let’s say you’ve pulled a hamstring that just needs to heal, this may not necessarily require PT but it could be smart to speak to a physical therapist or exercise professional anyway in some cases. Is this a chronic injury? Is there an issue in your form you can work on improving? Is there any strengthening work you should be doing to better support system, muscle, or area of your body?
Sometimes injuries just happen, they heal, and there isn’t more to it. But the resources are there to learn more about how your body and muscles both work, ways to prevent injury (or re-injury), and more. Take some time to consider these options when battling back.
4) Keep working in other ways that do not impact your injury
One of the worst things that can happen when you are out for an injury is falling out of shape or losing the place you are at. If your injury allows it, keep working on skills, exercises, etc. that will not aggravate your injury. You should consult a doctor, physical therapist, and/or an athletic trainer before jumping into any exercise or modification to ensure you are not putting yourself at any risk.
– Are you able to work on your core? Do that! A strong core is so important.
– Can you work on stationary rolled ground balls? Or can you do them from your knees?
– Can you work on building your grip strength? This is especially helpful for hitting!
– Is it a lower body injury? How about working on some upper body? And vice versa.
– Are you able to work on your cardio to maintain – or maybe even get into better shape? Walking is great! So is swimming!
– Pitchers, can you work on spins?
– Fielders, can you work on transfers?
– Catchers, how about working on receiving? This doesn’t necessarily have to be done from a squat!
5) Give your body the time it needs
Please don’t rush yourself, that never ends well. If you come back before your body is ready the odds of re-injury or even sustaining a new injury are high. Now, you do need to learn the difference between tired and sore from injured! If you aren’t sure, ask! Don’t just assume, work with people to help you figure out what is going on, if or when it is or isn’t safe to push through, etc.
But again, there is a time to rest and a time to push. Risking your long term well-being is not worth it. That can be hard in the moment but in general, every day situations it’s just not wise.