In my practice as a sport psychologist, I often see a typical type of issue. The athletes who come to me can play very well at times, even brilliantly, but they perform inconsistently. They have what they believe are downturns or mind blocks that get in the way of performing well.
Early in my first session with an athlete, I always pose the same question: Why do you play your sport? With only a handful of exceptions, hundreds of athletes have shared a variation of the same beautiful response: Because I love it.
As implied in the question, their answer, the love, is the purpose or reason for why they play the sport. Purpose matters. Love matters. The heart matters in the choices we make and activities we pursue.
As I question further and discuss their frustrations, the conversation shifts. Only then do the athletes start talking about coaches, parents, scores, trophies, unrealized goals, and other situations, outcomes, and comparisons.
Deep down the athletes know that love is the reason they play, but somewhere along the way they become convinced that the other stuff is more important than the love they felt when they first started playing. As they engage in a futile search for outside fixes to their problem (such as wins, trophies, techniques, new coaches, new teams, etc.), the proper fix for what ails them lies within them. The fix seems, and is, so easy. The simplest answer is the best. Get back to loving the game.
This isn’t just true for athletes. I’ve used this approach successful with athletes, business professionals, students, and other people from all walks of life. It works with personal performance and interpersonal leadership and communication as well. It will work for you too. You will perform at our best and be most confident when you play from the heart with the understanding that nothing outside you can affect that love.
2 thoughts on “For Love of the Game”
The worst baseball season of my career translates 1-to-1 with the the greatest distance I’ve had between my love for the game and the reason I was playing. I managed to recapture the love before my final season and it was an obvious change not only in performance but personal satisfaction. This is a great message, Jared, and quite apropos given the unnecessary stresses placed upon young athletes today.