Talk It Out 

 August 10, 2021

By  Leah

Every athlete looks for that competitive edge to excel far above their competitors. But what about those who have all the means necessary, along with that gifted talent, yet still seem to remain in a limbo state. That although they are excelling as individual athletes, the competition is moving quicker than they are.

We all know you cannot control the uncontrollable – so the big question is how do you determine what is the missing piece to your puzzle?

This part or realization takes a lot of self-reflection, so get ready to do just that. It’s going to require you to look back on your experiences, reaffirm what is your end goal, acknowledge and accept where you currently stand and truly be honest with yourself and the efforts you are putting in to get there. This is a step of the process where you will need to look within.

The Realization

For the longest time, I viewed speaking out concerning my struggles in sport as a sign of weakness or that I am incapable of doing it on my own. It was something I was never comfortable acknowledging or accepting.

But that has changed over the years.

It took nine years of competing in Powerlifting, nine years of dedicating myself towards a goal and feeling so close, yet still having a piece missing to finally accept that I needed to talk it out.

I knew that I was working hard, and I knew that I was committing myself to doing everything necessary for performance and recovery. What I didn’t understand was just how important the mental really is and how important it is to talk about your experiences to move past them.

You can read all the books you want on motivation – but it is about developing real strategies based on your past experiences and putting new habits into practice at the right moments.

Athletes are viewed as individuals composed of discipline, commitment, strength, competence, pride, and self-driven qualities but one thing I have learnt, is that it is okay as an athlete, to not have all the answers yourself. It is not a sign of weakness to openly discuss your thoughts but rather taking action towards becoming a better athlete.

The Observation

This was when I started to open my eyes and look around me. I would observe other athletes (both professional/amateur), I would observe patterns, levels of focus and read about all the experiences and stories I can find.

Although every athlete is unique, there is always something that can be learnt and taken from those whom have reached high levels of accomplishment within their respective sport. You are not the first to experience the struggles you are going through.

The mind can control everything. It is one thing to know it/say it verbally, and another to act/accept that that is an area you need to work on.

I realized that getting help with my mental was possibly the missing piece of my puzzle. I knew I had the physical down packed and I continued to excel year in and year out but like in any sport, it all comes down to everything coming together on the day that it matters most.

At any sporting event, the probability of every single detail going as planned is highly unlikely. So, what if your body is fully ready but then something throws your mind off guard? How do you adapt, or can you adapt?

Speaking to a sport psychologist provides you with the tools necessary in dealing with those unpredictable moments but more importantly, helps you with coping strategies to re-ground yourself, stay calm and direct your focus on you and what you came to do.

The Acceptance

I have been told many times throughout my career to talk it out, rather then bottle it up but I simply was not ready, until the day my perspective changed. And I must admit, it felt nice to be heard.

What this has taught me is that there are possibly many athletes out there who have the potential to be exceptional but that maybe could not accept or express their struggles to get past that hurdle.  Rather than the experience propelling them forward, it places a damper on their performance.  

For me personally, the true essence of athletic accomplishment resides in being able to say that I am proud of my performance. And I now know there are many factors to address.

Speaking as an athlete that use to keep everything inside; talking with a sport psychologist has enabled me to put my experiences into learning contexts, where patterns can be observed, and scenarios can be re-enacted and guided through.

Take a second and think about all the physical training you do to compete in your sport. Then ask yourself, is the ratio of effort close, if not equal to, your mental training? I know my ratio was way off.

I have learnt and seen that the mind can propel you past your expectations and in the same breath, trump all physical efforts – therefore like any aspect of sport, it needs attention and needs to be trained.

Leah


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