A couple of weeks ago, we started a new concept for our posts, Themes of the Week for all three mediums through which I come to you. The theme the last couple of weeks revolved around failure. This week I have been talking about a failure of another type, Being Stuck in a Rut.

At this time of year, it is easy to get stuck in a rut. We are in the “Dog Days of Winter.” We have just started February. Some of us feel like we have already failed at our New Year’s Resolutions. The goals that we set with such high hopes for this year are either not coming fast enough or have been abandoned altogether.

Daylight, while starting to stay around each day for a little longer, is still not sticking around long enough for us to enjoy an outdoor evening with natural light. And for those of us in northern climates, the cold and winter storms will continue for quite a bit longer.

Groundhog Day was yesterday. The 1993 movie with the same name as the holiday was about the ultimate “stuck in a rut” scenario. Phil Connors is a cynical television weatherman who is covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He hates having to be there and can’t wait to get out. However, he keeps waking up in the same place on the same morning hearing the exact same song on the radio.

While the movie is not a story about being in a rut, per se, it does involve a person who is in the ultimate rut one could be stuck in—living the same day over and over again. And while Phil tries to make the most of his situation by doing all kinds of selfish, sometimes terrible things, the power of the movie is in its eventual message of hope and redemption through doing good deeds for others (even though that was NOT Phil’s first inclination!).

But all of that required Phil to make some changes. The same holds true for all of us.

The Rut of a Season

For those of you in the high school winter sports world, depending on what state you live in, you, too, may be feeling like you’re in a rut that you can’t get out of.

Teachers and students have been going to school at dawn and getting home after dark. The season has been dragging on for a while, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. You and your team have been in close proximity, on an almost daily basis, for months now. Tensions can be running high, relationships can be hanging on an edge, and navigating team chemistry can be like walking a tightrope without a net to catch you when you fall.

And if you are in the midst of a difficult season or stretch of the season when it comes to scoreboard success, all of these feelings can be compounded exponentially.

One thing that can affect all of this is your schedule. How are you handling your practice, game, and meeting schedules with your team?

Are you doing the exact same things on the exact same days in the exact same order that you have been doing since the first weeks of the season? Or are you mixing things in and mixing things up in order to try to bring a freshness to these situations?

This is a great time to shorten your practices. Get your kids in, get your work done, and get them out. While it will help them keep their legs fresh for their contests, more importantly, it will help them keep their minds and their spirits fresh for dealing with each other and with the adversities that will inevitably show up.

How about giving them Mondays (or whatever day works best for your situation) off each week until your post-season tournament begins? Or at the very least, instead of practicing that day, you can do a film and/or scout session with some pizza and pop (or a healthier alternative), so you can combine work to help you succeed with a little positive, social interaction.

Whatever you do, seek to find ways to help get yourself, your kids, and your program from getting into a rut or getting out of a rut if they are already in one. Ask other coaches in other sports or mentor coaches in yours for advice on how they have handled this situation. Go online and search what others, especially those in the sports world and psychology world, say are ways they have found that work to deal with this.

Not Just in Winter

Oh, and by the way—this is not just a winter sports thing. Every season has its moments where people feel like they are in a rut.

For those of you who coach in the spring, summer, or fall, prepare yourself for those days when they arrive. While your seasons may not be as long and they may not include the cold and the darkness that the winter season does, the ruts you and your people can get into are just as real and can be just as crippling. Make sure you have ideas in mind for how not to get into a rut in the first place and how to get out of it if you find yourself in one.

No matter what time of year you deal with the ruts in your life, remember that you don’t have to stay in them. You can find ways to climb out of the ruts and get back onto a positive, upbeat, enjoyable path to wherever it is you are trying to go. You just need to recognize where you are, how you got there, how to get out of there, and then take some type of action to do just that.

There are better days ahead. Focus on doing what you need to do now to get to them.

What are some ways you have dealt with the ruts that you experience in your seasons or in other aspects of your life? What are some ideas that you may have heard of but not done yourself to help deal with these situations? Leave a comment below.