Competition in sport is universal and trademark because there is nothing like it. Putting your hard trained self against another individual who has a work ethic that rivals yours is what the mental framework of an athlete is built on. Athletes are told to work and work and to know that there is someone out there working harder than they are and they have to beat them even before meeting this so-called person. This pressure can create a build-up of anxiety and stress which should be addressed quickly to avoid performance issues.
Consistent strain and verbal direction, while intended to motivate the athlete, can actually hinder and damage the athlete’s confidence in themselves if they fail in practice or training. They begin to adopt the mindset that they will always be second and they are never going to be good enough.
A mental tool an athlete lacks most often is the mental coping strategies needed to cope with anxiety and the stressors of competition. On the highest end of competition, the athlete is able to perform at their highest level but on the lowest end, the athlete lacks self-confidence, develops performance anxiety, and becomes fearful of stepping onto the playing surface.
After training and competition, an athlete should work on de-escalating themselves and bringing their mind back to a state of rest. By doing this, the athlete is able to provide: self-care, self-regulation, maintain confidence, and improve performance. There are plenty of techniques to be tried and done that an athlete can follow.
Having the athlete speak with a mental health counselor and life coach is also a great way to deescalate themselves and bring their mindset to rest (See Inside the Mind of an Athlete blog for more information on this). The idea that an athlete needs to solely focused on sport, training, and competition has rendered athletes feeling lost, confused, and lacking self-confidence within themselves. The change needs to happen at the mental level so that the athlete can be proud of their achievements and continue on their own, personal path to athletic success.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.