This Sunday millions of people will be huddled around their televisions with an array of jalapeño poppers and chips and guac to watch the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos (as well as the commercials). There has been a lot of talk surrounding Superbowl L as Peyton Manning squares off against Cam Newton–specifically around Peyton and if this will be his final game. Whether that is the case or just a rumor, athletes’ decisions to end their playing careers altogether or take breaks from their game are some of the most difficult decisions they must make.
There are many factors that play into deciding whether to take a break from/stop playing a sport completely—some are controllable and others, uncontrollable. A serious injury, for example, is a factor that athletes have no control over. Now, you may have control over how closely you stick to your rehabilitation process and if that injury was due to poor form, but most injuries are accidents and are therefore uncontrollable. Right after an uncontrollable event occurs, it is easy to get wrapped up in worst-case scenarios; however, we must step back and look at our situation with a lighter perspective. To help you do this, work through the following exercise:
Take a sheet of paper and draw a line vertically down the middle. At the top on the left, write “controllables”; on the right, write “uncontrollables.” Think about the situation you are in and write aspects of it in the appropriate column. For example, “broken ankle” is something you cannot control, but “going to rehab and doing the exercises daily” as well as “attitude about the situation” are two things you can control. From there, think about how you can control those “controllables” in the most healthy and positive way.
Whether you are talking about taking a break from your sport, transitioning into a new phase of playing, or retiring completely, spending time thinking about your “controllables” helps you mentally shift away from negative thoughts and toward positive actions that can help you get back on the field/move forward.