Let’s face it, getting injured is devastating and frustrating…
But maybe it can be a good thing?
Even if it doesn’t seem that way initially.
I have a lot of experience of being injured and have struggled with many different injuries throughout my years of playing sport.
Everything from several shoulder dislocations, shin splints, broken thumb, torn ankle ligaments, hamstring strain, compartment syndrome, frozen shoulder, patella tendonitis to name just a few.
The series of injuries that forced me to stop playing international hockey are the ones that haunt me the most.
For many sport is an outlet to release emotions and those ‘feel good’ endorphins which leave us feeling fantastic. But what happens when we are no longer able to do what we love and we’re left on the sideline?
It can feel like a piece of your identity has been taken away.
How do you deal with a body that doesn’t do what you want it to?
This is something that many fear, whether we realise it or not.
Back when I was training with the national team in Holland in preparation for the Olympic Games, I dislocated my right shoulder the day before selection. My left shoulder had dislocated several times before in the previous 10 years but this was the first time the right went.
From experience I knew it would take at least 6 weeks to get back to playing, let alone be ready to play at the highest level at the Olympics.
I was one of the strongest, fittest and fastest in the team, how could this happen?
After reflecting on it, I realised that this wasn’t an isolated incident.
And it wasn’t just physical.
It seems that whenever I was just about to be successful I unconsciously sabotaged myself, often through injury.
The best way to explain this is that despite really wanting to make the team and working hard for it, deep down (unconsciously) I doubted whether I was good enough and if I deserved it.
“Never underestimate the power of the mind”
When you have conflicting beliefs/messages between the conscious and unconscious brain, the mind can start to affect the body.
Our emotions and conflicting beliefs can affect us physically, often more than we realise.
What I have learn’t in my experience is that under pressure or stress your weaknesses will come to surface.
That is why you have to train both your body and your mind, especially if you want to prevent getting injured at crucial times.
The Journey of Overcoming Injury
When you get injured there are different stages that you will go through and it’s important that you deal with the different emotions that you may feel, such as denial, acceptance, regret, self pity, anger, frustration, etc.
The first step to overcome an injury is to accept what has happened
You MUST realise that nothing can change the past.
Until you have accepted your injury you won’t be able to move forward. It’s easy to say but not so easy to do.
‘Injury can make you or break you’
I’ve noticed that often people focus more on what they CAN’T do instead of focussing on what they CAN. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself, but it’s important that you don’t get stuck in a victim mindset.
Perhaps a better way of thinking about injuries is:
Now that I have extra time, what other area’s of my game can I develop?
Just because you can’t do some things, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything or that you can’t improve in other ways. You may just need to be creative.
Being injured allowed me to learn about and work on other things like mindset, nutrition, core strength, power, vision, tactical awareness, injury prevention, decision making, etc.
After having a shoulder operation I spent a lot of time on the sidelines and I spent more time helping others. And it was during this time that I decided I wanted to make a difference for others so I turned my focus to coaching.
Don’t get me wrong, it was tough not being able to play sport and I had many dark days eating junk food out of self pity but I knew I had to do something to help others rather than feel sorry for myself.
With more time on my hands I decided to put everything I had learn’t into a training course to help others.
My purpose suddenly shifted from being a player to teaching others.
The feeling I get now when players share their results and success after working with me is unbelievable (better than playing).
It makes me realise that being injured was actually a blessing in disguise, because I’ve discovered a purpose & passion.
I’ve not only learn’t valuable lessons during my own experience but now I am able to help others through what I have learn’t.
When you’re injured your focus needs to be on what you have to do to get back onto the field and how you can come back even stronger and better than you were before you got injured.
I’ve seen many examples of sports people who’ve come back from injury as better players. This is because they worked on other parts of their game that they wouldn’t normally have done.
Being injured is an opportunity to step back and see things from a different perspective.
And it can be a blessing if you allow it to be.
The key thing is to set yourself small daily objectives that you can put into action. You must start by taking one step at a time to rebuild and then aim to come back stronger than before with help from others.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Bio: After taking a gap year to England, Lauren Penny ended up staying in the UK for 10 years (returning back to Cape Town in 2014). While living in the UK she got selected for the South African National Hockey Team.
She also captained the u19 South African Women’s cricket team in 2005 and was part of the Kent women’s cricket team in England that won the national league for two consecutive seasons (2009-11).
After struggling with various injuries she decided to turn her focus to performance coaching. With over 12 years experience in the field, coaching others to greatness has become her true passion.
Her unique gift is inspiring, motivating and helping others to be more confident, perform under pressure and develop the consistency required to reach higher levels of sport & life.
Visit Lauren’s Website and learn more about her organisation ‘Beyond Skills Coaching’