An open letter to the athlete who trains hard but doesn’t compete well

Dear Athlete,

You’re about to walk out onto the field, court, pool deck, or gym floor. You feel a little sick to your stomach because you know it’s not gonna go well.

You always fall apart when the pressure is on.

No matter how hard you train (and you train harder than anyone), in a few hours, you will feel embarrassed because you didn’t do what you’re capable of doing.

Your coach will roll their eyes. Or they’ll give you a “that’s too bad” smile.

Your parent will say “good job” even though you know they’re just being nice. Or they will point out every single mistake you made. Either way, they will only make it worse.

Then you will go back to practice, pour your heart and soul into training, and this happens:

 

WORK HARD ⇒ FALL SHORT ⇒ EMBARRASSMENT ⇒ DISAPPOINTMENT ⇒ REPEAT

 

Why do you keep doing it? A lot of the time you give up before you even start. You don’t think we notice, but we do.

What’s the point if you’ll just let yourself down anyway? You might as well set the bar low, right?

Alright kid, enough of that.

THIS IS NOT THE WAY IT HAS TO BE!

It’s time to stop saying “I knew this would happen.”

When things go wrong, it means there’s something to learn. That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean you suck. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get better. It doesn’t mean you’re wasting your parents’ time and money. It just means there’s a lesson you must learn before you can break the cycle.

How can you break the cycle?

First, figure out why you’re playing it safe, then change your thinking.

I’m guessing you’re more concerned with “not losing” than you are with “winning.” You’re setting the bar low because it’s safer. There’s less chance of embarrassment, of shame, of disappointment if you keep everyone from expecting much from you. There’s no pressure to be the best. No pressure to improve. No one expects you to do well. That’s your comfort zone.

But you wouldn’t train so hard if you didn’t care. I know you care.

Here’s the question… and I want you to really take this to heart:

What’s more important to you: staying safe or feeling like you gave it everything you have?

What’s the worst that could happen? People might be jealous? People might expect great things from you? Someone else might have to feel bad about themselves because you beat them?

Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen?  Take a second and think about it.

Is that worth giving up your goals, dreams, and hard work for?  The possibility that things might go wrong?

Or are you afraid that you’ll really try and still fail. So what? Nobody cares as much about your performance as you do. Seriously. Everyone else is mostly just thinking about themselves.

What’s worse: knowing you held back to avoid embarrassment, or feeling like you tried your hardest and fell short? Pay attention to how you answer that question. Be really honest with yourself.

It’s okay if your answer is that you want to play it safe, be conservative, stay mediocre. It really is. But be honest about it. Don’t play the “victim of circumstance” as an excuse to let your fear win.

You have what it takes to be really great. Yes, you do. Whether you believe it or not.

Hard work beats talent every day of the week. The most successful athletes I’ve ever worked with have proven that over and over again.

But what these successful athletes have in common is the right mindset. They don’t expect failure. They won’t stand for it. They prepare for the best, not for the worst.

They plan their thinking in advance. That way there is no room for negativity, complacency, or mediocrity.

They catch their negative thoughts and replace them with ones that will actually help them win. They see their success before they start. They stop thinking about the outcome, stop overthinking, and just go out there and trust that they have what it takes.

You can’t put that much time and effort into training without locking in the physical part. It’s in there. Now just GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY and let it happen.

Give yourself permission to succeed, to fail, and everything in between. Give yourself permission to be embarrassed, to fall short, then STOP EXPECTING IT TO HAPPEN.

You owe it to yourself (and to us) to stop playing it safe.

You only live once. Who cares if you mess up? Go big or go home.

 

Sincerely,

Your Future Fans

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