Fear of failure is a very paralyzing state of mind – it will peak its head after every little mistake, it will disrupt the decision making process, and eliminate the necessary level of risk needed to compete. Most athletes rationally can identify this fear and know that it is okay to make mistakes, yet they do not know how to overcome them and can’t seem to stop worrying about them.
My heart started pounding and I felt a rush of blood pulse through my body. With a blink of an eye my breathing became difficult, my stomach hollowed, and my thoughts turned into rapid fireworks. I was consumed by a mix of fear, anger, anxiety, and disappointment.
How Athletes Can Harness the Energy of a Stress Response
In my personal experience of emotional reactivity, I can clearly identify when the internal state of my body is jolted to change. Many young athletes will express the same awareness, however they are not quite sure what to do about it. In the following blog I aim to summarize my mental coaching method by outlining what you need to know about the mind/body connection and what you need to do to harness your internal state – no matter what you face in the environment.
For some people sports are a hobby. Yet, for me, I began my soccer career at 3 years old and immediately fell in love. At the start of my journey I was unclear of what connected me to the game, but as the years progressed I learned that not many things in my life could stimulate a sensation of satisfaction like playing soccer. The game grew to be my life, my love, and my passion – captivating my core desires for physical challenge, competition, and most importantly creativity, which I consider to be the soul of the game.
My love for soccer propelled me in my journey to play for teams at the Premier Youth, ODP, Region I, NCAA Division I, and Semi-Professional levels. Within these environments I competed in 5 National Championships, received several individual honors, and made lifelong friends. Yet, in all of my experiences of success, the most emotionally memorable and impactful moment was when I was diagnosed with a torn ACL and sentenced to a minimum of 6 months separated from the thing I love most in life.
Like many of my clients I want outcomes – I want evidence that tells me that what I am doing and what I am working for is worth it. Although a natural way of thinking, when we pay too much attention to outcomes - or do the work for the intention of getting an outcome – we can freeze up in the process.
As discussed in my previous post, decision-making skills can – and must – be developed to compete at a higher level. In order to do so, athletes must be aware of both internal and external distractions and learn strategies to gain information, stay in the moment, and make assertive choices. In this post I will present a very common and critical internal distraction that young athletes experience and provide some ideas on how to develop into a confident decision maker.
Players who can think and make assertive decisions at a quicker pace will be more capable of playing at a higher competitive level!
About 98% of my clientele - including NCAA Division I and nationally identified youth athletes - have uncovered a fundamental fear of not being good or good enough at their sport. With such a high level of success already achieved, many people wonder how this is possible.
One of the most common red flags that I see as a mental skills consultant is when I ask an athlete “what do you truly want” and they respond with “I don’t want…"
Currently, we live in a culture entranced by social media and technology. As a result, we are seeing athletes thwarted in emotional development, specifically in their ability to cooperate, empathize, and resolve conflicts.
When working with soccer coaches, both at the youth and collegiate level, I hear of similar complaints: I have no real leaders, players think everything is unfair, and they need a prize or praise for motivation. After much thought and research in trying to find a common denominator, I strongly believe that at the core of these three observations, we are faced with more and more athletes emotionally impacted by social media and technology use.