The Mental Side Presented By Motovan- Off Season Reflection

A Season in Reflection By Sean Poitras

Another season is in the books, and with the winter months approaching, it is time to gear down and pack it all away until next spring. However, just because you are not physically on the bike practicing or competing does not mean that your training is complete. Mental skill training does not have an off-season. I do strongly believe in a break from the sport, both physically and mentally, to recharge and re-ignite that passion to compete again next season, but just like everything else, it must be done with a purpose. 

As we make our way through the early part of the off-season, now is a great time to reflect on the past season. Photo by James Lissimore

One habit I always try to encourage all of my athletes to do is to practice the routine of reflection and closure following every game, event, competition, or, in this case season. As it is with most sports and performances, there can be ups and downs, highs and lows, and positives and negatives to every outing. And there are takeaways and lessons to be learned from all of them. Unfortunately, our brains tend to focus primarily on the shortcomings, missed opportunities, or mistakes made. These recollections often fester in our heads and create more negative thinking patterns in our personal self-talk. These kinds of thoughts are usually useless for our performance development and can make it much more difficult to find closure for that particular event. 

To counter this, I always recommend to my athletes to limit yourself to a purposeful and structured reflection of your performance immediately following the event. The addition of a physical action or routine along with it can be helpful. For example, utilizing the time spent after an event removing your equipment as your allotted time for reflection. Typically, this is a private time where you are alone with your thoughts, and you can symbolically structure your reflection around this block. 

Dylan Wright has become very good at having a short memory when it comes to the ups and downs of racing motocross. Photo by James Lissimore

I worked with a very successful junior hockey player who would start his reflection time the moment he removed his helmet. He would structure his reflection from upper gear being first and second periods, to lower gear being third period. He would start with the missed opportunities, always actively keeping his thoughts positive. When I refer to positive thinking, I do not necessarily mean rainbows and puppy dogs. I am referring to whether or not the thought is instructive or destructive. Are you telling yourself what you want to do or what you don’t want to do? A positive reflection might sound something like “next time I have that opportunity, I will do (this) differently” or, “Even though I made that mistake, (these) were the things I did correctly to get me to that opportunity”. Once the reflection was complete, he would have one final associated action that would symbolize the end of that event and the end of his concern or energy for the failures or victories experienced. For him, it was taking off his skates, and once they were off, he would not allow himself to dwell on that game. The lessons learned from both the successes and failures experienced have been noted, and he will start the next game or practice with a clean slate. 

The key component and rationale behind this practice is to encourage your focus to be on the task at hand. Our performance is at its best when we are present in the moment and when we are prepared for that moment. Too much attention on the past can draw our concentration away from what’s important now (the WIN mentality). Seeking closure is an effective way to keep your focus on the next task. Closure provides us with the assurance that we have learned from our mistakes, reinforced the positives and attended to any lose ends which may have affected our performance. Since every performance is unique, it is helpful to go into a new game, event or competition with a completely blank slate.

When it comes to the end-of-season reflection, I suggest the same approach. Take a few moments, grab a pen and paper, and actively reflect on everything you set out to accomplish this year. Highlight those goals you were successful in achieving, as well as those in which you failed to accomplish. If you did not set any defined goals at the beginning of the season, go off of instinct and opportunities you had this season. Go ahead and create a short list of achievements and missed opportunities or areas to improve upon. This will be your time, and you will allow yourself to look back on the season as a whole, learn from it, and prepare for next season. 

Racing motocross is challenging at any level so it’s important to try and remain positive. Photo by James Lissimore

Things to focus on should include preparation and how prepared you were going into each competition. What are some things you can do differently next season to improve your preparation, and what were some things that you feel helped you most with your preparation this year? 

How did you cope with failure? What sort of things did you/can you learn from your failures? Was it easy for you to move on or find success again? What did you do to overcome the negative thoughts that may come with failing?

How did you cope with success? What was learned with each victory? Was it easy for you to maintain a successful outlook? What were some of the positive thoughts you experienced from your successful performance?

Now is the perfect time to hit the gym and build some strength and endurance for next season.

Finally, what adjustments need to be made next season with regard to goals, routines, training, or any other aspects of your game? A simple look back can spark some of the most measurable changes to a season. These steps seem obvious but are often overlooked. Self-reflection creates one of our most valuable mental skills arsenal tools: self-awareness. We are the experts on ourselves, and the better we know about how we behave in certain stress-filled situations, the more we can control it.

Chris Pomeroy

1989 Rookie-of-the-year and former nationally ranked pro racer who turned into a dirt oriented scribe

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