Stinks to Be Human…

From prospects to professionals, all have one thing in common… they’re human.  When sitting down with athletes, I find myself often reflecting out loud to them, “Stinks to be human huh?”

Most athletes and coaches see what gets in their way to consistency and great performances, yet still find these obstacles before them regularly.  A few things simply make sense, but are easier said than done:

Positivity trumps negativity when performance is on the line. This being said, when faced with adversity it is easy to see the bad.  Furthermore, one can even argue that it is cathartic to embrace the negativity and get emotional… unfortunately it rarely (if ever) helps performance.  It’s simply human to see the negative and enjoy a good outburst now and again.

Focusing on the play in front of you is far more valuable than focusing on the win, loss, or ranking that may follow. This being said, the scoreboard, statistics, and thirst for victory are easy to wrap one’s mind around… they are tangible and universally praised.  One would be a fool to not care about hoisting the trophy or savoring a hard fought victory, but having this fill one’s head when the game is on can lead to great neglect of the “hard fighting” part.  Focus and motivation that is on target, neglects the outcome and focuses on “this” play.  It’s simply human to want the most positive outcome possible, victory, and to allow one’s mind to drift there regularly.

Trusting one’s self rather than focusing on the too often fickle praise of coaches, scouts, and spectators leads to resilient and consistent confidence. This being said, most people care about what others think of them.  Caring is not bad, but committing mental effort to swaying the perspectives of others is often misguided and poorly executed.  It can be tough enough to manage our own thoughts, feelings, and efforts in a competitive setting – seems foolish to add those of another person (or many people) into the mix.  One must take care of his own practices and performances and trust himself first – the trust of teammates and the praise of others will follow in due time.  It’s simply human to want to be well-liked by family, friends, teammates, coaches, and society as a whole.

Being human is a wonderful thing.  The reasons are simply too many to list, I hope you can come up with a few on your own.  The art of athletics to sometimes subvert a bit of our humanness in the arena.  In essence take some times to set aside those human qualities that protect and feed out egos (i.e. thirst for praise from others and socially acceptable outcomes).  Sports challenges us to struggle in a public forum, to experience failure regularly, and to risk not achieving victory even though significant effort was given.  So how might one step beyond the human condition for a while when the ball is in play?

  1. Accept being human. Even the best have doubts, stresses, and struggles.  Beating one’s self up over humanness is a was of time and effort.
  2. Laugh at being human. It is pretty funny that even though you know your crazy uncle Jimmy knows nothing about hockey you care when he tells you that you stunk.  Your caring makes no sense, but is very human.  Laugh and move on.
  3. Commit to skills and attitudes that lead to high performance in the arena. This is easier said than done, but focus and emotional management on the playing field is a choice (not an easy one, but one an athlete can choose nonetheless).
  4. Reflect on humanness and recommit to productive perspectives. Full engagement in an endeavor filled with competition will lead even the best athlete’s mind to drift now and again.  Confront it and refocus it.

Few athletes or spectators look forward to the day robots take over the sporting landscape.  The glory of victory and agony of defeat will certainly be muted.  With this in mind, our human foibles are what make sports so entertaining, so compelling, and so great.  A little respect for the human condition can lead to more consistent athletic performances.

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