Learn from the Best: How Top Players Stay Motivated in the Off Season

learn from the best Jan 01, 2019

Going into the new year, we decided to ask some elite players how they maintain their resolve and commitment throughout the year to remain competitive. Below are their responses to the question, "What do you do to stay motivated in your training during the off season?"

Kelly Ross

DC Scandal

For me three main things keep me motivated during my training in the off season.
 
1. Sticking to a schedule - Being a more Type A personality, I found that having a schedule/training plan and sticking to it really increased my motivation. It's such a relief to be told what to do and when! And if I didn't feel like training one day, all I had to do was think about how it might mess up my schedule for the rest of the week. Dealing with that seemed worse than just getting myself to the gym...
 
2. Accountability - Making sure that you are staying accountable to your goals, your teammates, a training partner, etc. is definitely a way to stay motivated. Set dream goals for yourself (ex. I would love to play for a Beach Worlds team one day!), set year goals (ex. last year, I wanted to become an offensive go-to for a new team), and set small personal goals (ex. I want to increase my squat weight by x amount)—use these goals to hold yourself accountable and make sure you are working towards something! Also remind yourself that you have accountability to your teammates to be the best player you can be and finding a training partner (can be different people for different things!) to keep you accountable for certain workouts is definitely a great way to make sure you are getting things done. 
 
3. Having a personal highlight/lowlight reel - Thinking about what I did well/didn't do well during the season helps me stay focused. I want to continue to be at the top of my game for the things I do well and I want to round out my game by improving on other skills. Focusing on both the good and not so good aspects of my game helps me stay motivated while not becoming discouraged. Thinking back on either really great plays or not so great plays (if only I had been a tad more explosive/quicker/etc. right there...) really helps me push through tough sessions.
 
Also as I'm writing this, I am currently elevating a very badly sprained ankle...I haven't had to deal with a serious injury before and I know getting back to 100% will definitely be a huge motivating push for me this off season. Shout out to anyone who has had to deal with ACL tears, broken collarbones, a pesky sprained ankle like myself, or any other major injury. You are all a huge motivation for me right now! 

Austin Bartenstein

DC Truck Stop

In any aspect of my life, I work best when I am in a rhythm. When I'm in motion, I stay in motion. When I stop, it takes me a while to get back into it. If I can get in a flow and make sure my workouts are manageable day-to-day, I don't really need motivation at all—it just comes naturally. Firas Zahabi (Georges St-Pierre's trainer), explains this in a way that I find insightful. You could start at 7:43 (to see him talk about flow) or watch the whole thing.
 
It always helps to keep it fresh, too. When I'm not lifting or training, I like to swim, play soccer, practice yoga, hit body weight workouts, rock climb. Then I'm not always doing the same thing every week.
 

(Read about Austin's experience on the UAP here. As many of our athletes have said, having a plan makes a huge difference in your ability to stay motivated and stay on track!)

Hannah Brew

Iceni

Off season is actually one of my favourite times of the season. Which is maybe a bit odd, but sometimes I love the preparation for the season ahead as much as I love the season itself. 
 
Part of that is because of my obsession around planning and setting goals. I'm pretty spreadsheet-esque and so I love October time. I go through my notes from the previous season of the things I did well and the things I want to get better at. I then look at ways I can keep my strengths and improve on the weak areas. 
 
Typically I'll look at 3 different areas, which are the very basic fundamentals of frisbee! 
 
- Skills
- Physical performance 
- Mental game
 
I make sure to go through things I'm good at and not just get carried away dreaming of how to make my weak areas better. I think younger players will typically think of all their weaknesses and forget to ingrain their strengths. My coaching style, which is determined by my playing style, is "own your style". So that's basically giving yourself respect for what you're good at and really owning it. 
 
My understanding of motivation is basically ensuring you're having fun at doing what you're doing or knowing it'll make playing in the future more fun. Conditioning sucks in the depths of winter when it's hard to find light or a day without rain (at least in the UK...) but I know it'll make summer more fun when I'm playing in long points and enjoying "out-fitting" the opposition. 
 
I think you can only truly get motivated in the off season if you give yourself proper rest time, physically and mentally, and then have a proper plan of action to attack the season ahead. If you have vague ideas, it's harder to stick to. It doesn't have to be complicated! During my masters year, I just decided all I had time for was 1 hour of catching practice each week. So I spent 6 weeks getting really good at catching and playing stupid catching games with my friends at the park. It kept me motivated and then as my workload decreased I could add things to my training regime. 

Alex Davis

Vancouver Furious George

I wouldn't say that I struggle to become motivated; the motivation is always there;  I genuinely want to become better at something I've chosen to do.  But before this answer turns into a piece of unabashed self-puffery, I should state several very important caveats and considerations for reflection.

First, you have to want something.  Most people (and certainly most people reading this) already do, but they aren't always honest with themselves about what that is.  Set goals that you actually want to achieve -- not goals that you think someone in your position ought to achieve. This sounds simple, many people who stumble over the distinction. If you set a goal you do not genuinely want, you will probably fail to pursue it and thus fail to achieve it.  Why waste your time failing to do something you don't even want?
 
Second, whatever you are doing, if it is not something you already enjoy, you must be able to appreciate how it connects to the things you do want or enjoy.  I do all kinds of things in my daily life that I do not specifically enjoy or look forward to, but I like what they enable. Nobody likes to do busy work; nobody likes to waste time in severe discomfort.  You'll persevere because you believe that the discomfort is time well spent.
 
Third, you must possess the confidence to do it.  Even on relatively simple tasks, people tend to procrastinate and avoid activities they lack understanding and confidence in. This kind of confidence is not magical; it comes from exposure, familiarization and learned comfort. This is where you may need to seek help from someone comfortable in the activity.  I ask for help all the time.
 
Fourth and finally, it helps to learn to enjoy the act of exerting effort itself. This is called learned industriousness (look it up), and it's something that comes more easily to me given years of endurance sports.  It is the state of mind that separates from the goal and focuses on the present, and enjoys the pursuit of mastery in the present.  If you possess learned industriousness, then acts of effort simply feel more natural to your identity and it is easier to motivate yourself to pursue them.  But like all habits, it comes with practice and reinforcement, and to start, you may need external reinforcement—someone or something rewarding you for the effort (as opposed to the result).  If you can feel rewarded by the pursuit of mastery (on whatever it is your doing) instead of the mastery itself, then you will be less reliant on clear and immediate results to motivate you.

Raha Mozaffari

Philadelphia AMP

Off season motivation is certainly challenging. One of the things I do to stay motivated is to vary the types of workouts I do to keep it interesting. It can be particularly difficult after long days at work to think of something new to do or even get yourself to workout; in those instances, following a specific regimented workout program can be very motivational. 
 
One thing that AMP does really well is that we take a selfie after a workout and share it with the team. To see others putting in the work even in the off season, and doing some amusing things in photos, is the best motivation. 
 
Lastly, working out makes you feel good. No matter how you feel before, you know you will never regret breaking a sweat. Keeps your mind fresh and your body strong.
 
 

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Photos, from top to bottom, courtesy of Kristina Geddert for Ultiphotos, Austin Bartenstein, Hannah Brew, Alex Davis, and Raha Mozaffari.

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