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Why you - and everyone you know - can benefit from Sport Psychology
By Katarina - August 28, 2018
My days of being a competitive athlete are far behind me. It’s been years since I found my toes lined up at the starting line of a race waiting for the gun to send me off. It’s been years since I woke up at 5 in the morning to beat the summer heat so I could complete my training runs. And it’s been years since I pulled on a uniform and proudly represented a team. My days of being a competitive athlete are far behind me. But my days of utilizing an athlete’s mindset will never be behind me. To suggest that Sport & Performance Psychology is only relevant for competitive athletes is to undermine and ignore the valuable experiences of people every day, in every domain.
Yes, athletes face unique challenges. You know who else faces unique challenges? Every single person in every single lifetime. The point is not to minimize the differences in our experiences and the different challenges we all must face. The point is to highlight our similarities; the similarities of being imperfect human beings with ambitions. I’ve heard applied sport & performance psychology commonly defined as something like this:
utilizing scientifically-supported psychological principles to allow individuals to more consistently perform at the top range of their capabilities and to have a more fulfilled performance experience.
There is no part of that definition that is only applicable to athletics. If you are a living, breathing human being with goals for your future I would bet a lot of money that the principles of confidence building, stress management, focus, and goal-setting apply to you too. Sure, it’s important for an athlete to maintain their stress levels to shoot a free-throw. But is it not also important for a firefighter to maintain his or her stress in order to save lives? Sure, it’s important for an athlete to have the confidence to face a bigger, faster opponent. But is it not also important for a young entrepreneur to have the confidence to pitch their passion project to investors? The point is this; drop the “sport” from sport & performance psychology and you’ve suddenly appealed to the entire world.
Traditional psychology, at least in the way most people understand it, requires you to have a serious “problem” to be in need of services. Seeking out a mental health professional is reserved for the most traumatic of experiences or for when we’ve finally exhausted all of our other resources and we’re ready to make that hail-mary pass for fulfillment. But performance psychology asks you to take a different perspective, and I challenge you to do the same. You do not have to have a “problem” to benefit from centuries of research in psychology. Performance psychology asks for you to be a success-chaser, not a failure-avoider.
This is what I like to call “everyday resilience”- the recognition that even life’s most seemingly mundane tasks can require us to tap into our inner athlete or our inner performer. You do not need to have a competitive outlet to discover the power of confidence, focus, stress management, and motivation. If you’ve ever laid awake in bed unable to stop thinking about your job, you can benefit from performance psychology. If you’ve ever found yourself distracted and unable to complete your work efficiently, you can benefit from performance psychology. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to follow through on your goals and dreams, you can also benefit from performance psychology.
My days of being a competitive athlete are far behind me. But I have the fortune, and you could too, of living the life of a competitive athlete through a demonstration of everyday resilience. I challenge readers of this article to reflect on the level of athleticism in their lives; not physically, but in the way in which you prioritize personal growth and success-chasing. Make your career, or your family, or simply your happiness the competition of your life; and by cultivating the mental skills used by performers to win competition, you just may also find yourself with a win.