Controlling the uncontrollable

Former Olympian shares advice for local sports community during idle period

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More devastating news trickled down to the area Monday when North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that all public schools statewide would now be closed until May 15 because of threats associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a recent interview with the The Daily Record, former Olympic swimmer and professional executive coach Melinda Harrison shared her expert advice to assist the local sports ecosystem as middle schools, high schools and colleges look to overcome the loss of athletic competition.

“I think everybody knew the virus was coming...I don’t think anybody ever thought sports would be shut down,” she said. “With that loss of control, it’s really important for the athlete to find something they can control.”

Midway High School golf coach Glen Patrick is one the more recognizable local sports names affected by the decision and he spoke to how the uncertainty is impacting what he calls a “special group.”

“You can sit around and mope and pout about it, but it’s really out of our control. Our hands our tied,” Patrick said. “The only thing that really bothers me is that we’ve probably got one of the best teams that’s ever going to be at Midway High School. It’s kind of sad because... these are the guys I’ve been with since they were in middle school and now they’re seniors and you want to see their careers end up on a good note.”

Under Patrick’s leadership, the Raiders have won three consecutive titles in both their conference and region. They’ve also added a state championship and a state runner-up finish the past two years while Patrick’s son, Logan, is the back-to-back 2A individual state champion. This year, Midway was able to squeeze in three matches, securing first-place finishes in all three, before the sports suspension earlier this month.

Harrison says that for those in Patrick’s shoes who are suffering because of the untimely disruption, the importance of maintaining a routine is key to mental and physical health. She recommends waking up the same time every day, scheduling meals and strength training and even keeping a daily “win journal” that tracks the accomplishment of goals.

Patrick agreed with Harrison’s principles and says his group is still “swinging the clubs,” noting the weekly text message updates he receives from his players.

“That’s the way we practice, we compete against each other. So when these guys go out there and play right now, I don’t have to be with them. They’re trying to beat each other out there,” Patrick said.

With the remainder of the spring sports season hanging by a thread for Patrick and other schools in the area, Harrison shared additional insights from her upcoming book “Personal Next” that she thinks can help.

Q. The protective bubble bursts: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ATHLETES NO LONGER HAVE ACCESS TO COACHES, TRAINERS, ETC. — PEOPLE TO HELP MAKE THEM BETTER AT THEIR SPORT?

A: Athletes grow up in a very narrow vertical learning deep expertise. Because they get involved in sports from a very young age...Everybody who’s been involved in their athletic career has protected from other things. When that protective bubble bursts, all of a sudden they have this immense amount of freedom that many are not prepared for.

Q. What makes this crisis different than normal pressures and anxiety you’ve helped athletes overcome in the past?

A: The system that they’ve grown up in has been taken away from them. The anxiety of not living in this structured world can get the better of you, so we have to be very careful to look at the athletes and say, ‘How can I help them right now?’

Q. Do you have any other words of advice for those affective by the loss of sports?

A: We need to move them towards acknowledging where they’re at. They’ll get back on their feet. It is scary, but we can create positive energy from this.

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