Today’s female athletes are under enormous amounts of pressure to perform and be better than their competition, especially if they play at elite levels. This pressure, if not coached, can turn into defeat, mental health struggles, and a lack of peace and trust in the process of growth, development, and time.
I traveled the EYBL Nike basketball circuit with my daughter this summer, well only half of it because the first half she was recovering from a broken leg. Even still, her first tournament back was a rollercoaster of highs and lows followed by her first college coach reaching out to have a conversation with her, letting her know that she impressed them and they will continue to watch her progress. As an 8th grader going into her first year of high school, that is such an honor AND the beginning of some added pressure. You know they are watching, you want to impress and do your best, yet you’re still only 14 and mistakes happen more often than they don’t.
The last tournament of the year for her AAU team was at the USA Open Women’s Championships. They play up an age group AND this tournament contained the best AAU teams in the country – needless to say, it was tough competition. There were games that were such a battle because my daughter didn’t play as well as she wanted to, there were also games where she showed up and played hard – once in front of about 30+ college coaches.
As female athletes, we think differently. We tend to get hung up on all the bad and quickly forget the good and/or the learning that took place. After one of the roughest games for her team, we went to a life skill talk that the NCAA was running and it was about work and mindset. That the best athletes expect mistakes and look at them as ways to grow and improve. They move on quickly from bad plays, bad games, and bad days and they get to work after to improve their weak areas. This is something that is vital for all our athletes to know, understand, believe and live out!
We so often look outwardly for someone to tell us that we are enough, that we are seen and to give us ‘permission’ to be the best we can be. What if we teach our daughters, and by living it out ourselves that we believe in ourselves, bet on ourselves, and be the best we can be without fear of how our best will make someone else feel.
What if we give ourselves permission to do the work, endure and sometimes disregard the pressure, and find complete peace in the journey we are on? Good days, bad days, indifferent days…. We know we are 100% ok in each of them.
What if we bet on ourselves, believed in ourselves, and knew that we gave our all – not worried about if others saw it or not – but truly lived to be proud of the struggles and the victories in our own lives?
My daughter and I talked a lot about betting on ourselves and not putting our worth on the approval of others but instead on the work set before us to do. To not be mad when we can’t do something we think we should, but instead see this as an opportunity to grow. We all need to do a better job of praising in our struggles. NOTHING good comes without them.
Today culture seems to tell us that we are battling alone. We think we have no one in our corner, no one betting on us. That’s the furthest from the truth. All of these athletes have so many people battling with them and for them. I know for a fact when my daughter is on the court my heart is too, when her team is playing my heart is cheering for everyone one of those girls to do their best. So, when we realize that we’re not alone and we don’t need approval or permission to be as great as we are and do the work to become greater – it takes the pressure off. We can realize that the weight of the world isn’t on our shoulders, but that together as team and community we are all carrying the weight – so it’s not so heavy.
It is when we don’t believe in ourselves that we think there is no room for imperfection and that the weight of everything is on us, alone. That is when pressure wins. Doubt wins. Fear wins. and we lose. Let’s change that, huh?! How about we win and fear, doubt, and pressure doesn’t get to rule in our lives or in our minds!
Removing the Pressure & Still Striving
Belief, trust, and work – that’s the mindset that is required for anyone that wants to be successful in life or in sports. We have to believe in ourselves, our talents, our abilities, and our journey. Knowing that it will all work out as it’s supposed to. This belief will reduce the performance anxiety so that you can show up as you are – good, bad, mediocre… – no matter your performance in a give day you believe that it is all for your good! You believe that those who are for you will be for you no matter how you perform because they know you’re getting better. Often times the people around you believe in you more than you do and they are praying you see you the way they do.
Trust the process. Especially if you are young, you have so much time, and no single event, game, or performance will determine your future. The work, the desire to grow, the positive mindset, and the belief in yourself – that sets your future! Anywhere worth going and anything worth having is a process and not a straight one. You will have highs and lows and at times – as I tell my daughter, your love for your sport will break your heart more than any boyfriend will (as long as she chooses her boyfriends wisely that is 🙂 ). This is part of the game, it is part of life. The more we believe and trust this, the better we will be in all areas of life. Nothing in life is a straight line – there will always be hills and valleys.
Lastly, do the work! Nothing will be handed to you in life. Everything takes work, sweat, tears, and hustle – speaking mostly of sports here ;). You didn’t like your performance? Get to work! Don’t pout, don’t tell yourself you’re not good enough, or any of the other negative comment that pops in. Look that challenge square in the eye and say “Hello weakness, I see you and I will make you strong”. I am sure that sounds a little cheesy, but it does take a verbal declaration over your weakness to conquer them!
Your words are powerful make sure they are used to build yourself up and others up. There is no room for negativity in the successful female athlete!