How you define athletic success will affect how much you achieve.
Often, athletes allow other people (with good intentions) to define success for them.
For example, your parents may see success as earning a college scholarship, becoming a starter, or competing for a highly competitive team.
Likewise, your coach may see success as you achieving a national cut, having a top ranking, winning tournaments, or having league-leading statistics.
These success parameters may be positive, viable targets, but if you haven’t consciously chosen them as your goals, those targets will create distraction and anxiety.
When you compete to meet the success expectations of others, you will often create complications for yourself.
Trying to meet the high expectations of others creates immense, overwhelming pressure that can lead to burnout, injuries, underperformance, low confidence, and mental health issues.
Think for a moment about how much parental pressure affects an athlete’s performance and experience in sports.
Some parents want their children to earn an athletic scholarship to a D-I college. When the “DI” goal is repeatedly mentioned, you will feel increased pressure to perform.
To worsen matters, you will feel you must be perfect to achieve such a high standard. Every time you fall short, you will feel you are letting down your parents. The pressure starts to wear you down, and the once fun and exciting sport eventually seems like a chore.
Goals are only effective and motivating when the goal is yours.
If you want to see how excessive expectations affect an athlete both inside and outside of sport, look no further than the career of gymnast Simone Biles.
Seven-time Olympic medalist Simone Biles started competing on the U.S. National Team in her early teens. Biles is one of the most decorated gymnasts in the sport’s history.
Unfortunately, with success comes higher expectations and increased pressure to win. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Biles withdrew from many events because she felt the ‘weight of the world’ on her shoulders.
Soon afterward, Biles took a hiatus from the sport to prioritize her mental health.
In 2023, Biles announced she was returning to competition at the U.S. Classic. Since her return to gymnastics, Biles has a new personal definition of success.
BILES: “I think what success means to me is a little bit different than before because before, every one defined success for me, even if I had my own narrative that I wanted. So, now, it’s just showing up, being in a good head place, having fun out there, and whatever happens, happens.”
Success should be personal. Sometimes, it is challenging to disregard the expectations of others. However, you should prioritize your needs and mental health, and that starts with identifying your desires and goals.
Start by assessing why you compete. What do you enjoy about sports that keeps you coming back to practice every day?
Next, think about what success means to you. Summarize your success definition in 1-2 sentences.
Next, set 1-2 long-term goals aligning with your definition of success.
Throughout the athletic season, read your success definition to stay focused on your goals.
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- Your Expectation Affects Your Golf Game
- How Short-term Goals Helps You Focus
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