More Than Just a Game

Lizzie Crouch

Every athlete shares the common struggle of overcoming mental challenges within their performance. Some might be minor, and other obstacles might determine the outcome of a season. Nevertheless, mental game has become a huge factor in competing in every kind of sport whether it’s against your biggest rivalry or just pushing yourself to the finish line. Mental game all comes down to the simple science of sports psychology, which is the study of the link between psychological and physical elements affecting performance in competitive sports and athletic activity.  Sports psychologists focus on ensuring optimal performance and the well-being of athletes, developing social aspects of sports participation, and fixing systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations.

There are a variety of challenges a player might go through when performing: lack of confidence, issues with trust, too high expectations, fear of failure, and searching for social approval are the most common. These weaknesses occur naturally, and you may have even experienced them for yourself, but when thrown into the equation of a competition, they can create a disaster of consequences. Likewise, when players perform without confidence in their skill, they take no risks and continue to stay in their comfort zone.  For example, in basketball, if you never have enough confidence to shoot the ball, you will never score points. You might have heard the famous quote by Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” This goes along with players’ confidence in their skill, and this famous hockey player knew exactly how to execute his confidence. 

In addition to this, athletes who set expectations too high often become frustrated with their results. These athletes who strictly focus on their results constantly judge what they are doing compared to what they expect to do, giving them even more stress and anxiety. The presence of spectators and supporters could also influence an athlete in a negative or positive way. When someone from whom an athlete seeks approval is watching him or her perform, it could possibly throw the game off because of the fear of failing. Brianna Noble, a three-sport athlete at FHS says, “Spectators make me even more nervous just because no matter what you do, you’re going to get negative feedback. I’m also worried about whether or not they’re enjoying whatever they are watching.”  Worrying too much about what others think can lead to overwhelming tension. Contrarily, players might thrive when someone of importance is watching: sometimes it creates more drive for the athlete to play to the best of their ability.

There are even more setbacks athletes face that might not seem to affect the game, but can add up and become destructive to their performance: The loss of focus, concentration, composure, excessive nervousness, and lack of preparation are some of the minor challenges. It’s important to keep all these faults controlled within every competition, but some sports require even more mental stability than others. Just like how every sport takes different skills, your mindset needs to be set differently for every type of game. Golf and tennis are known to require exponential focus and precision while soccer and basketball require more preparation and composure. There is a lot of value placed on knowing what kind of mental skills you need to become the best athlete you can be.

Knowing where your faults lie is the first step in the direction of overcoming the obstacles in the way of success. Athletes then should start practicing mental toughness and train themselves to develop the best mindset so they can play to their full potential.  There are significant benefits in understanding all the factors that go into a competition. Fixing the problems that challenge athletes could even change the outcome of a season.