I’ve thought long and hard about how I can best describe my approach to working with athletes. One theme emerged repeatedly: I’m passionate about helping athletes be the best version of themselves. I’m even more passionate about helping athletes find that success in sport AND in life. So many times we want to think about them as separate entities. But the reality is your sport and your life impact each other; it’s inevitable! There was an article recently written about NFL Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. The central tenet was that he focuses on helping his athletes be the best people they can be and the “football part will follow.” I couldn’t agree with that more.
What’s really cool about success is YOU get to define what it means for you. It may mean winning a national championship or making the podium at the Olympics. It's possibly nailing a specific time in a race or hitting a percentage of your shots. Maybe it’s defined as the number of wins your team has, how far you go in the playoffs, or having great relationships with your athletes. Or maybe it’s doing something you love and enjoying it the best you can. I encourage you to not only to define success for yourself but understand WHY do you measure success in that manner? What really drives you?
When I was younger, success was about winning and performing to my potential during every competition. As I’ve progressed through life, I’ve realized there are so many complexities to performance and success. Now, I view success as performing the best I am able to on that specific day given the circumstances of my life at that moment. Sure, there’s several qualifiers in that statement, but the reality is if I’ve been sick with the stomach flu for several days (that happened this summer), our business moves locations (that also happened this summer), and there is an unexpected death in the family (yep, this summer, too), I’m personally NOT going to be functioning in the same manner as if everything in my life was going as planned! Yet, I guarantee you I nailed my goals for my next race and performed better than expected.
I also encourage you to think about your success beyond your sport. How do you know your life is good? What about your relationships? Your job or academic performance? Why do you define it in that manner? If we work on improvement more comprehensively that will absolutely make us more successful athletes and people. The more you can embrace the complexities of your life, the more we can make sure those are all in balance the best they can be (or work to bring them to a better balance). If you have a healthier life away from sport, that only frees up more resources for you to perform at your max potential IN your sport!
Sport gives us so many opportunities to understand more about ourselves. Much like emotion, you may want to avoid this because you’re concerned about what you’ll learn. Yet, once you learn something you have 2 choices: keep it the same or work on it. Some stuff you’ll keep; some stuff you’ll get rid of. That’s the beauty: it’s your life, so you get to decide. Or maybe you’re not sure, so we’ll work on it to understand it better. There’s not a one-size-fits all approach; in fact, there can’t be because we’re all so different. Nevertheless, the process of learning this and growing with this can be SO powerful (and fun)!
Dr. Erin Haugen is a licensed clinical psychologist and sport/performance psychologist located in Grand Forks, ND. She specializes in helping college student-athletes excel in sports and in life. She is a former basketball player, current triathlete, and LOVES dogs.
Disclaimer: You should consult an appropriate professional for specific advice tailored to your situation. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.