I was a young girl once. I was a young athlete once. At a young age I played softball just because it was the thing young, athletic girls in upstate New York did at the time. I liked it. I was good at it, but it was never my whole focus. I played other sports with the boys in my neighborhood, mainly football.
Before I turned 12, playing sports was fun. I didn’t take it very seriously. It was an opportunity to hang out with friends. That doesn’t mean there weren’t challenging moments, but they didn’t impact me much. I figured out how to deal with them, and they didn’t knock my confidence down.
Things Changed in High School
It wasn’t until high school that I got deeper into sports. I am not sure how. My parents didn’t play sports, and they weren’t active. Friends may have been playing. It may have been easily accessible. I can’t remember.
What I do remember is that I played four sports in high school: cross-country, basketball, volleyball and track. I had never had the sense I was good at anything until I started playing sports. I was an excellent basketball player. I was so good I was brought up to varsity as a freshman. I was also an excellent cross-country runner. I was always in the top five to seven girls on the team.
I didn’t love volleyball or track, but because I wasn’t striving to be good in those sports I didn’t necessarily care. Not caring gave me the opportunity to work on becoming mentally stronger. I LOVED basketball and carried that love with me through every practice and every game. I worked hard. I practiced by myself outside of school. My love for basketball helped me flourish. I learned and grew as a basketball player and person.
I also LOVED cross-country, but it seemed to be a different kind of love. Cross-country was much harder for me. I wasn’t as naturally gifted at cross-country as I was at basketball. It took a lot more effort, and because of that it meant more to me. I wanted to get better, but struggled to make sense of how to improve. I wanted to run faster times, but negative thoughts were continuously present before and during meets. I’d cry afterwards. I didn’t understand what was happening. I loved running. I trained hard. Why did I fall apart at meets? Every meet felt like love and hate. Coaches would say, “Just go out and run.” I didn’t know how.
Is This Your Experience Too?
Today it’s even harder to be a female athlete. You may be dealing with that pressure by trying to be perfect like I did.
If this is your experience playing the sport you love, you’re not alone. I understand where you are at right now! I’ve been there! It’s scary. It’s confusing. It’s hard. You put a lot of time and energy into your sport – what happens during competition?
Right now, you may not have developed the mental skills to handle these feelings. But eventually I mastered the mental side of sports, and you will too. You will learn to gain control over your thinking so it aligns with your physical ability and training. This will give you the opportunity to do what you do best – play the sport you LOVE!