How to stay involved in your sport while you’re injured

What can you do as the season goes by?

It can be challenging to stay involved with your team/sport and even harder to stay away from it. With 6 years of national-level competitive rock climbing experience and many injuries under my belt, I want to share my experience and advice with you on how to remain involved and keep a healthy relationship with your sport while you’re healing (see my original article on climbing & injuries)

1.) Don’t be afraid to take some space

At first, it can be really painful to visit your club or watch a game when you’re injured. Whatever the reason, don’t beat yourself up over it. For me, I was so frustrated with my chronic injuries and had some bad blood to clear with climbing. I needed some space from the whole environment.

It’s also natural to feel some jealousy while watching others take part in activities you cannot. So take some time for yourself-your sport and team will still be waiting for you when you’re ready to get involved-then, you can make a graceful re-entry.

2.) Expand your expertise-learn something new

A great way to keep a healthy love of your sport and avoid the bitter despondency that occasionally creeps in is to actively improve your knowledge of the sport.

Take a course! Enroll in something exploring a new discipline or aspect of your sport. For example, I took a course to learn the new IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) standard of competition-style belaying. Unlike my experience with recreational belaying, this style requires one to override most good belaying instincts in favour of letting the rope slide quickly through your device, slowing-not stopping!-the climber’s fall. It was an enlightening new insight into competition climbing.

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Image from IFSC World Cup Mokpo 2014

3.) Develop your credentials-start coaching!

I don’t mean to say that you need to become a certified, official coach that leads a youth team to Olympic success. However, sharing your knowledge is a great way to improve your sporting community and see the impact you can still have. Sharing tips with your peers or encouraging new participants can feel great–and turn out to be a fun afternoon! I find coaching youth especially rewarding because of the trust and skills you can build together. Working with others is a great way to rekindle your own love and passion!

Last month, I got my level one Climbing Gym Instructor certification from the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides which will allow me to expand my coaching and employment opportunities. I’m so glad I took this chance to broaden my future in climbing.

4.) Watch your sport

This may be a painful piece of advice.

However don’t focus on watching what you cannot do. Take the outsider’s perspective-pay attention to details on how the sport is run that you may not have noticed before. Watch how the judges operate and watch how the competitors prepare & respond during competition. This detached, critical perspective can help you improve when you’re back in the game.

5.) Volunteer

Whether it’s at the registration desk, on the floor or as an assistant coach, make it out to some of your sporting events to support your team and watch how the season is playing out. Volunteering allows you to uphold your connections with competitors and the general community, meet new people, and improve the event in ways you have wanted it to be improved. Who knows the experience better than you!

On the flip side, it is a humbling experience to work behind the scenes and understand the challenges and hard work that goes into administration.

6.) Don’t be a stranger!

When you love and participate in something, you become a part of it. Don’t underestimate how much your sporting community misses you. Maybe it’s your Sunday night session buds, your teammates or even the lady behind the equipment desk. Or maybe it’s that little girl you didn’t know has been watching you with quiet admiration. They all want to see you there.

It can be hard to adjust to your new place within your sport. It will not be the same to watch, rather than participate. However, things will shift and, in some ways, this will be an opportunity to discover a new depth to your sport.

Hang in there!

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