Often we’re swamped with paperwork, scheduling and practice plans. It’s common to be so determined to get those completed we lose track of what’s most important, our players. Remember what it was like when you played? Sure the game may have changed, but two distractions never will, doubt and anxiety. I know you have a sense when you see it in what your players say and do before a big game. Are you ready to help them through it?
Players face many challenges throughout their career, non greater than the questions that race through their minds creating doubt and anxiety. How can they deal with it all? Should they avoid them, push them back, only to face them another day?
Often the questions listed below can keep a player from achieving their dream and realizing how good they can become. There will always be questions along the way. Some remind players to get back on track, while others place doubt in their mind over their dedication, ability, determination or lack of it.
Let’s take a look at some questions players face:
WHY DO I PLAY? After a tough practice, preseason conditioning, injury or a heart breaking loss it’s natural to ask this question. Why subject yourself to such punishment and despair? Is it worth it? Take a moment and visit those special memories you created with teammates and the positive moments shared along the way. It only takes a few to let you know why you play.
DO I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES? As you progress from high school to college you find out quickly that your skill is matched or below your teammates and opponents. Are you as good as you can be? Have you honestly pushed yourself? Probably not yet, so just be determined to improve every day. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. You know the answer, but are you really willing?
IF NOT TODAY WHEN? It’s easy to put things off until tomorrow. Champions refuse to do that. They understand that today is a gift for learning and improving. Tomorrow will have its own set of challenges to face. Don’t let yourself off the hook today by putting something off that should be worked on today. Look it in the eye, accomplish it and move on, you’ll be glad you did.
HAVE EXCUSES BECOME PART OF MY DAY? Have you ever caught yourself telling a teammate or coach you just didn’t feel good when in actuality there was nothing wrong? How about with an activity or skill that you didn’t feel comfortable with? Putting yourself in game situations on the practice field which are new and make you uncomfortable allows you to grow. Did you make an excuse to avoid it? Once you get started on an excuse path it gets easier and easier. Stay disciplined, avoid excuses and embrace tough situations.
CAN I LOOK IN THE MIRROR? At the end of the day can you stand in front of the mirror and be proud of your efforts? It has nothing to do with winning and losing. It has everything to do with you giving an honest effort for yourself and your teammates. Only you can give a true assessment of your dedication and determination. One person we can never fool is ourselves.
WHAT IF I MAKE A MISTAKE? Mistakes are part of any game. By dwelling on this question and worrying about who’s watching, you highlight it and make it bigger than it is. If it’s the only thing you see during a game, guess what? Mistakes will come your way. Great players make mistakes, but what they see is the reward and what can be accomplished past the mistakes. Focus on what you can control, your effort, not mistakes.
WHO CAN I TURN TO? Without someone to share your thoughts and feelings, they suddenly consume every thought you have. Find a teammate or friend who will take the time to listen. They may not have any answers, and that’s okay. Just by sharing them you’ll be able to release some of the added pressure you were feeling. Great friends never quickly judge and understand you may not be seeking solutions.
WHO AM I HURTING? Mainly yourself. By always carrying around negative thoughts and questions you inhibit your ability to play your best and be a good teammate. You also impact your team, and is that fair to those who work just as hard and deserve your best? Change your mindset and tackle every situation and challenge with passion and enthusiasm. It’s how you grow.
HOW CAN I AVOID DOUBT/FEAR/ANXIETY? Not sure you can totally, but you can certainly reduce it. See yourself in shining moments where you make the perfect pass, big save, game winning goal, etc. Draw from all the past successes in your career. When your image and mindset focuses more on what you’ve accomplished and who and what you can become, doubt, fear and anxiety become smaller and smaller. Eventually those thoughts and questions will fade away.
HOW DO I GET BACK THE PASSION I HAD AS A LITTLE KID? No reason you can’t, but understand you’ve grown into a new person and player. Everyone thinks back to those days when we ran around the field freely with a love for the game. It brought us to where we are today. Keep those memories close and remember you have new responsibilities for yourself and your teammates. Go ahead and embrace the game the way you did back then. It’s up to you.
Questions allow your players to grow. It’s their conscious asking, “Are you where you want to be, doing what you love, giving all you have, and being the person and player you are capable of?” The challenge is to not dwell on the questions, but to answer them and move on. Players will always be the only one who knows if they answered them truthfully. When they do it frees them up to play again with the passion they did as a kid.
I wish you the best in reminding them how strong they really are!