Why play sports anyway?
By Vital Leadership on July 11, 2014 in Athletic Leadership, Students, Success
Are you, your children or your players struggling to reach full athletic potential due to the pressures perceived on and off the court or field?
Do you/they build up barriers to performance and excuses for holding back from full effort?
Do you/they begin to question overall motivation for playing because it’s frustrating and “not fun” anymore?
Physically-gifted and disciplined young athletes often breed attention and, even adoration, at early ages and stages of competition, by peers, parents and society. This attention fuels an element of pride and satisfies a need in every individual to “belong” in society. It gives them an identity as a prodigy/star prospect/top competitor that they embrace, and it leaves them with a “wanting” for more. This “wanting” builds as the stakes grow and, soon, young athletes are a ball of nerves, trying to live up to “expectations”; expectations of their coaches, parents, and/or society and, more likely, expectations they hold for themselves. They expect themselves to have “success”, based on their effort and practice time, and they believe they “should” continue to succeed.
- The expectations build pressure as the athlete begins to feel they, as a person, are largely defined by their sport and they feel they are only as worthy as their next result, and, therefore, ONLY worthy with victories.
- They adopt a series of mental barriers that minimize the pain of actual loss but end up limiting performance, as well.
- They blame conditions, people, and pressures.
- They resist hard work in order to reserve their self-belief and choose to protect self-worth by believing in “what they ‘could’ have accomplished,” had they worked harder.
- The defense mechanisms help them keep their own, shaky self-worth intact, despite inevitable losses.
The tremendous pressures this creates begin to overcome the body — physically and mentally — when a competitor’s self-worth is always at risk. This creates a snowballing of diminishing performance.
Without a fully redefined purpose for playing, based on something other than extrinsic motivations such as rankings or scholarships or of maintaining a sense of self-worth through victories, the pressure will continue to mount and the unpleasantness of loss will eventually whittle away at the desire to compete at all.
Sports then begin to stand only for RISK with very little gain even perceived.
So, at this point, the inclination is, often, to just QUIT.
There is another option.
A redefinition of the purpose of playing the game is required as an intervention that can begin to remedy the situation.
Competition is, simply, a battle. In battle, worthy and necessary traits for success are those such as perseverance, focus, mental acuity, resilience to setback, grit, emotional control, tenacity, and problem solving ability, to name a few. Stress and worry emanate from the unknowns and the desire to control what one, inherently, cannot control – such as outcome, weather or any situational adversity.
A STRONG COMPETITOR IS ONE THAT FOCUSES ONLY ON WHAT THEY CAN CONTROL and they let all other factors just exist. He or she takes “response” “ability” for their own level of effort and finds ingenuity in the face of challenge. They take responsibility for their own mental and emotional and physical focus and, through their strong level of “fight”, they achieve “success” – win or lose.
Match or game results become just ONE factor in the equation and the term “SUCCESS” is redefined.
In order to achieve this perspective in athletic competition, the athlete must redefine his purpose for competing and shed the mental barriers to competition he has created amid the expectations he feels or perceives.
What is a healthy reason for competing? For playing sports? For putting in hours of practice time to learn new skills?
It’s to learn life and character skills that will be of benefit in any walk of life or life stage, personally and professionally. Any sports performance that includes exceptional fight, grit, tenacity, mental and emotional focus and any other personal intrinsically motivating character trait growth is, therefore, considered “successful”, win OR lose.
Personal growth and pride come from what happens WITHIN the fight; not who ends up winning at the end.
However, it’s quite likely that victories will be a large part of the “success,” also, though, because grit, fortitude, mental focus and a short memory for the adversities of competition, along with strong physical investments in practice and technique, are quite likely a winning combination.
ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP AND MENTAL TOUGHNESS
REDEFINES THE “WHY” OF COMPETITION AND SETS THE PATH FOR A NEW MINDSET FOR
GROWTH THROUGH COMPETITION AND THE MINIMIZATION OF BARRIERS THAT PROHIBIT
REACHING OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE IN COMPETITION.
Contact us for further information on how you or someone you know can redefine their own sports experience.