In sports, there’s always pressure to perform and the higher up the proverbial ladder one goes the steeper climb. Along that climb will be numerous impediments, or life hurdles which will attempt to knock you down, trip you up, and keep you from reaching your destination. And as you get further in your journey the road narrows leaving less room for others to join you making it a bit scary, lonely, and vulnerable to our “negative inner voices” which seem to get louder when the challenges get greater.
The road to the top was never meant to be easy and there’s a reason why it’s referred to as the road less traveled. But for those who dare to make that journey, there are more rewards along the way than are road side bombs so long as you remember to feed your mind’s engine with the necessary fuel that it requires and deserves. Like a beautiful sports car, if you feed it 87 grade fuel it will never stay in peak performance mode eventually creating more issues down the road. Our mind and body is no different requiring positive feedback, self talk, and reminders along the way of what we’ve done well to get us this far. It’s not to deny the failure, mistakes, or setbacks but it also isn’t about focusing on only those things either. How can anyone expect to grow and learn in a totally critical environment particularly one that you are in control of?
Remember the old saying of sticks and stones…? It’s still holds true today so don’t allow others to be critical of you and then hold onto how the message was presented. When coaches get on you, it’s about the message and not for you to take things personal as if they didn’t like you. It’s about getting better, end of story and coaches only have so many motivational bullets in their gun to try and get you to push yourself.
Some of us are stuck in the “old school mentality” which if you ask just about anyone doesn’t work particularly in today’s environment. So like our environment, we as athletes, coaches, trainers, and parents need to evolve too.
I tell athletes to be honest but good to yourself so that you can believe in the possibilities of your success however you choose to define it. The honesty comes in the form of having realistic expectations, assessing your progress from time to time, and then adjusting if and when necessary. The constant fuel which moves you forward has to be your inner dialogue which should always be feeding your confidence. “I’ve got this”, “Today, I’m going to work harder than anyone else”, or I’m going to be free of judgment today and work on just getting better at this new skill” are ways to free your mind and body to challenge yourself in practice or during a match and not allow your mind to drift and focus on what your aren’t doing in that moment.
This might be tough because outsiders are judging you without knowing your inner game plan and my answer to you and them is, “screw you!” It’s not about them, it’s about you and the journey of getting better. So feed your mind with good books, surround yourself with people who are willing to be honest and risk your relationship if necessary to keep you on track, be willing to say no to others and yes to yourself, and lastly, don’t allow anyone to rob you of your confidence. It was never their’s to begin with. Greatness isn’t an easy path at times but it’s always worth the journey.