For injured athletes


Thrice in my career I had to use these tools 3 different times after knee surgeries…

You can do anything you set your mind to… 

My first day of training, during the inaugural year of the freestyle resident athlete program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in 1997, I blew out my knee or tore my ACL. That sucked. Because of that learning experience, former USOTC sport psychologist Kirsten Peterson Ph.D suggested I look down a different avenue to get motivated, get better at my sport, and to change my bad attitude. Below is what I did.

Let’s be real. It is no fun being injured and this paper attempts to supply strategies for injured athletes. A quick message…plan/practice these strategies before you get injured in order to immediately begin your ‘Plan B’ when you become injured. If you are already injured, what a great read this may be for you (if you are motivated) to get your mind and body back on track now.

Before we dive into your future success procedures, I would like to quote Olympic Greco-Roman Champion and Olympic Greco-Roman Coach Steve Fraser and Olympic Boxing Coach and U.S. Olympic Education Center Boxing Coach Al Mitchell regarding athletes’ approach to preparation and training:

Steve Fraser “You have to be a little fanatical to be the best on the planet.”

Al Mitchell “Olympic Champions are a little bit different…almost on the border of crazy.”

Plan B is a term that will describe alternate performance enhancement training that you can do if you are unable to wrestle and participate in everyday practice. The below ‘Plan B’ describes a protocol that will help you now if you are fanatical about improvement, you have a good work ethic, and you use it:

  1. Reflect
  2. Analyze
  3. Organize
  4. Plan
  5. Act


There are many areas you can master when you are injured and when you reflect on how many options you have, you will be amazed. Some mental skills you may master include self-talk, imagery, and reading; there are several volumes of books like the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology Mental Training Manual and Anthony Robbins’ Unlimited Power to help you learn the important skills of talking productively to yourself (when you are sad, stressed-out, anxious, nervous, afraid, or overexcited) and mentally rehearsing your ideal sport skills (when you cannot practice due to your injury or you are unable to believe in your abilities due to doubt, fear or other real or imagined emotions). When you learn how to harness and use the power of your mind effectively, you will enhance your sport and life (if done positively, productively, and consistently).

You may also want to reflect on how you became injured. Perhaps you reviewed your  training log or video log and noticed you were: getting 1-5 hours of sleep a night, overtrained, over indulging in food and drink, executing incorrect technique, training too soon after being injured (or competing too soon after injury), competing in too many tournaments, or in an avoidable accident. In all cases, now is the time to identify what happened and learn from it.


After your reflection, you may notice some things are more important than others like your diet, sleep, rest and recovery, and listening to your coaches and trainers. When you analyze the most important areas of your training as an injured athlete, you may begin to prioritize areas you can strengthen.

Taking the ‘first things first’ approach to enhancing your performance may concentrate your mind to delete unnecessary components of your training life like watching 20-30 hours of television per week (or a similar amount of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.), researching and writing a 10 page term paper in one night, and socializing every Friday and Saturday night till 1-3 am. There are many things you can control in your training life and if you analyze areas of your life while you are injured, you may notice you can change them.

Coaches and trainers generally can help you analyze your quest for optimal training/rehabilitation prescriptions (goals) and you can help yourself by identifying your strengths and weaknesses, listening, asking questions, and following through with recommendations from coaches and trainers.


Coaches and trainers can also help you organize your goals so that you can get the proper amount of food, work, rest, and recovery per training load in a systematic fashion.

Goals are generally organized to prevent injuries and promote health and performance. That written, this organization of goals, sometimes referred to as periodization, can also be used in other areas of your life for optimal performance.


Periodization, sometimes called an annual plan, is a type of organization that breaks training up into blocks of periods of specific training goals designed for optimal performance for major events, tests, etc. Some say a plan (good or bad) is better than no plan at all.

Once a plan is designed, it is time to act on the plan.


Action is required for you to reach your full potential in any endeavor. Once you have done all of the other areas listed above, and if you follow through with your plans consistently, you will be well on your way to achieving excellence.

The idea is to continue with the above Plan B persistently and to ask for help when you need it. In other words, you may notice your performance is increasing/decreasing in specific areas and you are now motivated to take on more responsibility to increase it further…yet you may have hit a performance plateau.

If this happens (performance plateau), you may consult with a coach or trainer to review your Plan B and start the process over again (set new goals) to enhance your process which may enhance your results.


If you are injured, you may be motivated and have a lot of unused energy because you are unable to train, practice, or compete like a healthy wrestler. This unused energy can be used in an effective, productive, and healthy manner by employing some or all of the ideas above. Training (at the right time and with the right prescription) is a critical part of success. There are many types of training (listed above) you can do if you are serious about success, committed to excellence, and honest with yourself, coaches, and trainers; the patience to learn, master, and then follow through with your Plan B is the mark of a champion.

Are you motivated to become a champion?

Copyright © by Coach Shannyn, All rights reserved

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