Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Pairing one’s performance on the field with how they feel about themselves will lead to a ride better than any modern rollercoaster. If an athlete plays long enough and at a high level, that athlete will experience every level of performance (if they’re lucky) - from winning championships and being named MVP to finishing last or getting released from a team. Every athlete will have days where their performance cannot be better and also have days where they can do nothing correct on the field. If an athlete relies on HOW they perform to understand WHAT they are feeling about themselves as a person, their emotional well-being will be pretty bumpy.
Graham Betchart (sport psychologist for NBA players) says that it is very important for athletes to identify themselves as people before trying to tie it to the sport they play. It is dangerous for people to identify themselves by the performance they give on the playing field. It puts pressure on athletes to not fail because they believe that it reflects poorly on who they are. Athletes need to understand that failure is an important part of life. He says, " If you don't allow yourself to fall, how are you going to learn how to walk?" Failure is part of learning to master something. Failure, particularly in sports, does not say anything about who an athlete is as a person.
Logan Pause (director of LA Galaxy academy) describes how athletes often tie their identity to their performance, whether it’s in the classroom or on the field. He warns of the dangers in such association, which might lead to an emotional roller-coaster as athletes have good and bad days on the field.
To avoid these exhausting emotional ups-and downs, we suggest surrounding yourself with people that care about your development and who you are as a person regardless of the way you perform. We suggest this will be better for consistent performance and personal development. We also suggest that each athlete write objective facts about their preparation and performance each day (after practice or games) in controllable, growth-centered phrases to distinguish between actions DURING competition (performance) and actions BEFORE and AFTER (preparation). Just because an athlete is prepared and ready to compete doesn’t mean their performance will be stellar. And just because one’s performance was terrific, doesn’t mean that their preparation was perfect.
Do the best you can off the field. Do the best you can on the field. That’s all you can do. If you do that consistently, you will be a “winner” and will have only positive feelings about yourself.
Awareness, Acceptance, Action