One of the things I love most in this world is watching little kids play sports. I mean really little kids. In the late summer, the park by my house starts filling up with soccer practice. Portable goals get set up while five-year-old girls and boys run around with teeny, tiny, little shin guards and jerseys hanging down to their knees. The athletes' joy on the field, the crisp fall air, the excitement of competing, the fun of running and jumping and playing. Ahhhh, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s also a really useful thing to remember for those of us that have made sports into something serious, like a job or a vehicle to ‘success’.
When an athlete is struggling, one of the first things I'll do to help them is take them back to their joyful, childhood memories of playing their sport. It sounds almost too good to be true, but conjuring up memories of WHY we play, HOW much we love our sport, and WHAT is possible when we really truly focus on the JOY of competition can be life-changing. I don’t say that lightly. Many athletes come to me because they are stuck, overwhelmed, frustrated, or because they’ve plateaued or disappointed themselves. Oftentimes, athletes feel the heaviness of expectations and can’t quite see how to get out from under them, or don’t want to because those impossible expectations have started to feel normal. Remembering their joy as a kid playing their sport can cause the shift in perspective needed to get them ‘unstuck.’
Since I’m giving all my competition secrets away this week, I wanted to share this super simple way to get your athletes back to JOY. I’ve put together a 3 step workshop that you can take your athletes through. It’s so simple that you’ll feel like you're cheating. Trust me, it works.
Step 1: Have your athletes journal about their earliest memories of playing their sport. Set a timer for 10 minutes. And ask prompts like:
Step 2: Have your athletes close their eyes and mentally go back to that day. Tell them to explore those memories. Ask them:
Step 3: Discuss these memories as a team. Don’t be surprised if athletes get emotional. Remind them that getting emotional is okay. Give them space to let go of any regret of wasted time.
This is the Part 2 of a 3 Part blog series on competition. If you missed Part 1: The Time I Bounced The Ball Off My Foot, click the link to read.
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