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Inside the mind of a student-athlete on the road to playoff

By Rodrigo Verney, February 1 2024—

The Dinos are preparing themselves in a multitude of sports for the upcoming offseason. A time for sacrifices and hardships. Balancing academics, physical conditioning and the mental strength required for playoff competition can be overwhelming. Successfully navigating this crucial period requires careful planning, discipline and the will to not only withstand that pressure but to win it all.

A weight that looks like a lot to bear, however, has to be carried every year for the majority of their time in the program. Picking at their brains can reveal how they are able to handle all of this stress and maybe help you go through the winter term with whatever hardships you might be facing. 

First and foremost, academics must remain a top priority. The Dinos must work hard to stay ahead of their coursework, as playoff commitments can be demanding both physically and mentally. Establishing a proactive approach to study prevents you from conserving energy in class and reserving energy for practice or the game itself. Does that mean that you have to give one hundred percent on every activity you do? No. It means that you should always try to use a bit more than what you would minimally would. Find the optimal least energy routine that you can. This is not about trying to do the bare minimum but rather when to conserve energy. It is about winning in the long run. So keep in mind, you have twelve weeks to go.

Simultaneously, maintaining peak physical condition is paramount. The intensity of playoff competition demands a well-conditioned body capable of enduring the rigours of extended matches and heightened pressure. This can be applied to students too. Starting a study routine that follows the same format as these training sessions can be incredibly beneficial in the long run. Set a range for you to study in a week. This can be based on the time you are studying or even the amount of chapters that you go through in one sitting and try to beat that range in small increments each week. Twelve weeks, twelve small increments.

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in preparing the body for playoff intensity. The Dinos have to prioritize a well-balanced diet, focusing on the right mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to fuel their energy needs — so should you. MacEwan Hall is filled with a good variety of quick lunches that can get you full fast. However, it is time for us to get serious about what we consume in a day. Meal prepping can be a solution but it doesn’t have to be the ultimate saying on nutritional health. Just keep in mind how many calories you have to eat in a day and watch out for your protein intake as well. Staying hydrated is equally crucial.

Beyond the physical aspects, mental preparation is a key component of a successful playoff run. The Dinos are often faced with increased pressure, heightened expectations and the emotional rollercoaster of postseason competition. Implementing mental conditioning techniques such as visualization, mindfulness and goal-setting can help athletes and students to maintain focus, stay composed under pressure and foster a positive mindset.

Team cohesion becomes especially vital during playoff scenarios. Strong communication, trust, and camaraderie among teammates can be the difference-maker in tight matches. So don’t go into full study mode. Our mind can lie to us and before we realize it, we are stuck at home and haven’t talked to a friend in a long time. Remember to take solace in your friends. 

Striking a balance between intensity and relaxation is essential. Adequate rest and recovery are often overlooked aspects of preparation but are critical for peak performance. Students and athletes must prioritize sleep, manage stress levels, and incorporate recovery strategies such as ice baths, massage, and stretching into their routine.

Lastly, keep in mind that it is equally important to embrace the excitement and opportunity that this period brings. Rather than succumbing to pressure, students and athletes should view this time as a chance to showcase their hard work and dedication. Adopting a positive mindset and approaching each day with confidence can significantly impact an individual’s performance.

Preparing for playoffs as a student-athlete requires a holistic approach that addresses physical, mental, and academic aspects. 

By prioritizing academics, maintaining peak physical condition, focusing on nutrition and fostering mental resilience, student-athletes can position themselves for success on the playing field and in the classroom. With a well-rounded preparation strategy, students and Dinos can embrace the challenges of the winter term and perform at their best when it matters most.

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