Who is she playing for?

“You have to know that you are good enough and worth it. Once you master belief in yourself no one can steal that love from you.”

Who is your athlete playing for? Is she playing for herself, or is she playing for you, her parent, coach, or mentor? It is all too often that our athletes talk to us in lessons and in mental training about playing for someone other than themselves. They are playing because their parents want them to or their coach tells them quitting on their team is wrong and disrespectful because they are counted on. They are pressured by their surrounding peers who probably and usually want what is best for them, but happen to make their athlete feel like they don’t have a choice to make for themselves, or they feel like they have to play to benefit everyone else around them. It’s sad when we see and hear that our athletes are not playing for themselves first, and not having fun with the sport. They are terrified of disappointing their parents, coaches, and even their team. They feel like they will be letting others down, losing friendships, and even hurting their relationship with their parents if they make mistakes or don’t play up to their expectations. Our athletes start to lose the love for the game, and start to feel forced into playing the sport they no longer want to be a part of because their parents or coaches have made it about them, and not their athlete.

We can’t be living through our athletes, putting pressure on them, and making them feel like the sport isn’t about them. Of course the sport is a team effort, but in order for your athlete to have fun, love the game, and to perform their best, they have to believe in themselves while playing with the passion they have for the game; they have to know their own worth and know that they are good enough within themselves and not based on what they hear and think their parents and coaches say and believe. It is an amazing thing to have everyone around you believe in you, love that you are their athlete, and be excited about your future in the sport, but it takes more than that. It takes your athlete believing in herself and believing in what she is capable of instead of being told. She has to know and feel it from within, not just hear it from outsiders, because when your athlete is constantly being told it doesn’t feel like support, but pressure.

I’m not saying that pressure isn’t good, that your athletes don’t need to be told they are good enough, or that they don’t need consistent support. THEY DO! But they also need room, perspective, and time to find it within themselves to believe in themselves and to believe in the sport they are playing-not because of the fear of disappointment or what others want, but playing for what they want and what they believe in.

Sports aren’t just physically tiring, they are mentally draining, and we can’t be the ones that add to the pressure of the mental game. We have to be the ones that help them believe in themselves, because without self-worth and the love for the game, they won’t be playing for the right reasons and they won’t be reaching their potential. They will be slowing down their athletic growth and eventually resenting the sport and possibly even their parents and coaches because they will feel like the game they loved and were great at was taken away from them. Don’t be the one that takes it away, be the one that helps them see WHY they play; for the love of the game.

Written by Nikoli Sharp

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