Athletes at all levels experience the pressures of competition. Such pressure may come from parents, coaches, teammates, or from the athletes own expectations regarding their performance. While these pressures are quite common they are sure to limit an individuals level of competitive intensity. Rather than focusing on the task at hand many athletes report thinking about the “dire” consequences of a sub par performance. This type of negative thinking takes away from the positive energy needed to generate a powerful performance, and in reality supports a disappointing one.
Yet the youth in our country are encouraged and at times taught to think in negative terms. Television, magazines, the media, and peers seem to place constant focus on what goes wrong in the world, or on what we, in our human condition, do incorrectly. This necessarily forces comparisons with others, and takes our focus away from all that we do well. Kids begin to think that in every situation they are either “ one up” or “one down” in relationship to others. It is no wonder then that athletes of all ages tend to look for things that can go wrong with their performance rather than focusing on what they must do in order to be successful. As adults our challenge is to teach and encourage young Americans to remain positive, focused and confident in each of their pursuits. The first step in the lifelong process is helping them to set a goal of overall self acceptance.
We must teach them that regardless of the competitive outcome they remain worthy, worthwhile people deserving of love, support, and friendship. In addition, athletes themselves must ask; : if my desired goal is not met this year to what extent will I still be able to accept myself as worthy?” We must also endeavor to help kids accept that in any given situation there will always be people more and less talented, and that what is most important is for them to give their best available effort.
In challenging them to think in these terms we are really saying to them “you are not how you perform.” Instead we encourage children and adolescents to be the very best they can be on any given day, and in so doing, they make themselves champions. Just as importantly, these positive thoughts will reduce anxiety and make for a happier, healthier athlete who will ultimately be more satisfied with their performance.
Focus on What You Can Control
- Positive attitude
- Commitment to excellence
- Value as a teammate
- Training intensity