Understanding how this sports experience will fit into the rest of your life is vitally important. Many athletes and their parents lose track of the fact that the time spent pursuing sport can and should set you up for everything else in your life.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Steve Jobs – Creator of Apple
You’ve probably been doing this “sports” thing for a while now. Whether you specialize in one sport or you still do a couple of sports, and you’re getting serious, you probably have been doing things a certain way up until now. You’re looking to take things to the next level. You have talent and a passion for your sport, and you’d like to be better and maybe even get to play in college or go to the Olympics someday. You may even want to play professionally.
Whatever your sport, and whatever your goals, I want to help you with a new approach to how you…well…approach things. Many athletes bumble along from training session to training session, from competitive event to competitive event. They wolf down some fast food on the way to another practice session in the hopes of getting better because that’s what everyone else around them is doing. We will help you with an athlete-specific approach and that is designed for you in mind.
“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”
– Maya Angelou from I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
How You Want It To Go
If you’ve been playing sports for any length of time, you probably realize that it’s not a straight uphill path like the graphic to the right. But while you may read this and think, “Yeah, totally, I know it’s not a straight path.” In your heart and your head, you wish it was.
Not only that, your parents and your coaches wish it were too. But the truth is that your athletic path will look something like the following graphic: How It’s Going To Go.
How It’s Going To Go
The reality is your path to athletic success is going to be riddled with ups and downs, plateaus and troughs. It’s going to be a wild ride…if you let it become wild. The truth is that while it will be filled with ups and downs like a roller coaster, it doesn’t have to feel like a roller coaster.
Riding The Roller Coaster
Have you ever been on a roller coaster? (For those of you who haven’t been on one, think of riding in a car on a twisty road where you are the passenger). Like riding along with your grandmother, who grew up in the country and had terrible eyesight. She’s all over the road, and you have no control!) Do you remember what it was like? It was probably pretty scary if the ride had some speed to it. Now, after you rode the coaster, did you do it again? Some people would say, “No way! I’m not going on that thing again.” But others jump back on the ride and find that it wasn’t nearly as scary as it was the first time around.
Why is that?
It isn’t as scary as it was the first time because now you have an idea of what’s going to happen. You know where the curves are, and you know what’s up ahead. When you see what’s up ahead, you are more prepared, and when that coaster goes way up high, you know that eventually, it’s going to settle back down. When the track gets twisty, you know that it has to straighten out eventually.
Each time you get on that coaster, the excitement is there, but the feeling of being out of control goes away. Eventually, you’d have no tension riding that roller coaster because you would know exactly what was coming. You’d probably get bored and find something else to do because that roller coaster didn’t excite you at all.
Sports is just like a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs, its twisty parts, and its straight parts. It goes fast at times, and it slows down at other times. Many people start the ride but will get so freaked out about the ups and downs and the twists and turns that many will quit. They say things like, “Get me off this thing! I didn’t know it was going to be like this! This is not what was advertised!”
Parents watching start to scream, “They shouldn’t put my kid through this! They should ban roller coasters! They should be flatter and less twisty! There shouldn’t be as many roller coasters!” While others get excited that their kids made it to the end safely and asked, “Can my kid do it again, this time a little faster?”
I want to help you understand the roller coaster you’re about to ride on, and I’ll give you one of the biggest lessons I will provide you within this book. Are you ready? Here it is:
“No one is riding the same roller coaster.”
While I can tell you about the ups and downs and the twists and turns, you’re going to find out that everyone has a different ride. You may have a twin brother or sister competing alongside you, and I can guarantee you that they won’t have the same experience that you will have. While it looks like the same ride, It’s all different.
But what I’m going to help you with is how to navigate this journey. How to prepare for the ups and inevitable downs. How to win and how to lose. We’ll cover topics like how to watch your mindset and what to eat. How to sleep better, and how to find your next best coach. We will cover a lot in this book, and your homework is to read it all. But before you start, just know this…
You Can’t Lose (Really)
In the world of sports, we win or lose every day. Sports are designed to have people who succeed and people who do not. It’s actually why we practice and why we compete. We go out every day to challenge ourselves. My favorite quote that I’ve created to explain this is:
“An athlete puts themselves in a position to be embarrassed every day and promises to themselves to never let it happen again.”
Jonathan Edwards – Olympian, Speaker, Author Creator of Mental Performance School
You are designed to seek challenges. As human beings, we are so advanced mentally that we put ourselves in challenging situations to see what happens. We climb mountains and jump out of hot air balloons. We say things like, “Well, jumping out of a perfectly good plane with a parachute is getting boring. How about we create some wings and fly a bit?” That’s how wingsuits were born, and those are pretty cool.
We have looked at gravity and said, “Pfft. Whatever. How high can I jump?” At some point, I bet two cavemen said, “The first one to that rock wins.” (What their prize was, I’m not sure.) Challenge and competition are in our blood. It’s who we are, and it stimulates growth in us that makes us better. The challenge is what makes it fun. Without challenge, we are bored out of our minds!
Along this journey, you will grow as a person. When and if you transition out of your athletic journey, whenever that may be, you will be physically, mentally, and emotionally more robust than you would have been had you not taken this challenge. You are embarking on a journey where you can’t see the end when you start. Like climbing a mountain, you know it’s a big mountain, and you can’t see the top, but you know the top is up there somewhere, so you keep finding a way to move upwards and know that eventually, you’ll get there. And whether you reach the top or not, the views along the way will be fantastic. While it may sound a little cheesy, the path to the top of the mountain is ultimately what changes you. It’s not the view from the top but who you had to become along the way. That’s what lasts with you forever.
You will win, and you will lose, and you will grow. When you miss a question on a math test, no one ever says, “Well, that’s horrible. I guess I shouldn’t have bothered.” No, you buckle down and refocus. You figure out what you missed and then come back and try it again. “A new question, please,” you say. And you move on.
(This post is an excerpt from my book An Athlete’s Guide To Winning In Sports and Life that hit #2 in Sport Psychology on Amazon. You can grab your copy here.)
Here are two more articles you are going to love:
Olympian Jonathan Edwards
Founder - The Athlete Breakthrough Blueprint
Olympian Jonathan Edwards is the Creator of "The Athlete Breakthrough Blueprint": The world's only mental performance training program for aspiring athletes with big dreams. Over nineteen years he has worked with athletes who have gone on to or competed in NCAA D1, D2, D3, MCLA D1 and D2, the Olympics, NHL, MLL, NLL, NFL, and others. Feel free to link to this article from your blog and share it with an athlete, parent, or coach who would benefit from these concepts.