Wellness Wednesday: Seeing the Light After the Dreaded Sophomore Slump: A First-Person Perspective

Edie Sawyer

Seeing the Light After the Dreaded Sophomore Slump: A First-Person Perspective

As a first-year collegiate athlete, you are filled with pride, confidence, excitement and are truly ready to take on the world. It is a high on life that is difficult to replicate a second time. Meeting new friends, being part of a collegiate team with incredible coaches, and living independently for the first time is exhilarating. First-year athletes experience a new way of training that is quite intense, and coupled with the mental high, success is almost inevitable. As a freshman at Ohio University, I achieved best times and a top-eight finish in the 100-yard breaststroke at my conference championship meet.

I expected to roll into sophomore year with the same vigor and confidence as I did my freshmen year, but that is not exactly how it played out. The new class of first-year swimmers were fast, especially in the breaststroke events. At first, I was not too worried about it. I was confident in my work ethic, and I believed it would pay off the same way it did the year prior. What I did not expect was that each day I would become my own worst enemy. I would compare myself in every set to the fast first-year swimmers who were continuously beating me every lap. My focus became more about trying to keep my place on the team rather than what I was doing each day to be effective in my performance. I knew this train of thought was destructive. I tried my best to bat away those thoughts and focus on what I could control but somehow, I struggled to do so. Every day, the comparison thoughts arose, and I felt like I was drowning in them. My times stayed flat throughout the season and the slump was hitting me hard. How was I going to live up to the standard of the year before?

I decided to meet with our team sports psychologist. It was a decision that was pivotal for me, not only as an athlete, but as a person, too. She put things into perspective and made me think of things differently than I was capable of doing on my own.

Edie Sawyer 2

Photo Courtesy: Ohio University

After not performing up to my expectations as a sophomore, I found myself motivated to make my junior year better. Every season, my coach has individual meetings at the beginning of the year to discuss goals and expectations of how we plan to achieve them. When I met with my coach this year, not only did I gain closure on why my sophomore season may not have been as successful as I had hoped, but I also learned how sometimes you need to change your habits and refocus your mind in order to see a change.

Something my coach said that really struck me was that you aren’t going to get different results by doing the same things all the time. Sometimes you need to do things differently in order to see an improvement. My coach’s statement made me realize that it is important to refocus your mind as you begin a new season so that you can reflect on the things that worked for you, as well as the things that could have been done better.

As I refocus my mind, set new goals, and build new habits this season, I am feeling mentally stronger and more focused on the daily changes that will make an impact. Rather than dreading a practice because I know it will be difficult, I look at it as an opportunity to get better because I am mentally aware of the goals that I desire to achieve at the end of the season. I have made it a point to prioritize the small things such as rest and recovery so that I can best prepare myself for the next practice. When I see others ahead of me, I choose to be proud of my own accomplishments rather than bring myself down. I can confidently say I have been eating healthier meals and getting more sleep than I have been the past two years of college. I set and wrote down new goals to remind me why I do what I do every day. I believe that small changes like these will work together to create big results at the end of the season.

Was the sophomore slump a frustrating and difficult experience to navigate? One hundred percent it was but I am thankful for it. I learned a lot about myself because of it. The sophomore slump allowed me to reset my expectations of myself, my practices, my mental state and my races. It gave me the clarity to focus on what I can control, and resist comparing what I am doing to what everybody else around me is doing. It gave me the chance to start fresh, set new goals and build new habits. The true test of the sophomore slump is what you do about it. Does it make you stronger and more motivated or do you let it take over and win?

Edie Sawyer

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