Last Thursday to Saturday, the biggest sport psychology conference "asp Tagung" in the German speaking area took place in Bern – with the goal of exchanging ideas, visions and newest research results. It was my first sport psychology conference ever and to be honest – even if I'd say that I'm normally a rather outgoing person who likes to get to know new people – I was very nervous in advance. Who will be there? How will the atmosphere be like – rather formal or "informal" like in any other sport context? Will I get to know new people?
My main focus at the conference was youth development and parasports, fields in which I also work at home. We attended workshops and supervisions, presentations and research symposiums.
I'd like to give you one example of a supervision I enjoyed most. (To everyone living in and around Berlin in need of a sport psychologist: I can only recommend to see Monika Liesenfeld – great sport psychologist!). In a supervision, several experts come together and discuss a sport psychological case they are confronted with and need some expertise and input from other sport psychologists. Such a case can be e.g. "I'm working with a team which now has a new coach who is very controlling and neither gives the athletes nor his co-workers (e.g. sport psychologist, co-trainer, etc.) any space and autonomy in their work. What would you do in my situation?"
However, I'd like to discuss another example as I've been confronted with similar situations in my work context and thought it would be really interesting. 15 year-old Liz doing athletics has become the hunted one due to her competition results in the past year. She's expected to perform well in the upcoming competitions. However, what the others might not know that she had an injury during the winter season and therefore isn't in her best shape at the moment. While the trainer believes that she can already do as well again as last season, she still feels like she is lacking something. How can you support her?
Have you ever been in a situation like this? Have you always trained to be as good as the best ones in your category and all of a sudden, once you achieved this goal and become the best one, you get under pressure because you feel like everyone is hunting you now? How did you deal with this situation and what was your experience?
I'm sure that most of us know cases like this – maybe you experienced it yourself, or you're training someone like this or you know other athletes who have to deal with such situations. Either way, such situations can be really stressful and pressuring.
How can we deal with them?
I'd like you to answer the following questions (based on Liz' example I've talked about before – please adapt the questions to yourself e.g. if you weren't injured). Reflecting our behaviour and better understanding why something happens and why we do certain things, is a first important step in order to change our behaviour. And to be honest, how often do we actively reflect our own behaviour?
- How serious is the injury?
- What is objectively the current status of your performance level?
- How do you subjectively feel about your current status?
- How is it different to your coach's expectations?
- How would your best friend/ best training buddy/ parents describe the current situation?
By asking these questions, you can split your problem up into parts – is it you who causes the pressure or is it externally? What is the situation like objectively vs. subjectively? How do other people see the situation, particularly people who like and support you a lot? Maybe they already have a completely different point of view and by taking these perspectives your own way of thinking about the situation changes.
When we are pressured a lot we often forget our resources and lack to be self-confident. We tend to forget what we could already to in the past and what we actively contributed to our performance and results. Therefore one main goal is to get rid of these self-doubts and get back to the old self-confident "me".
- What do you need to get back to your old self-confidence?
- What do you need to feel fit again?
- What are you lack at the moment?
It's always important to find out what do I actually understand under "being fit"? What criteria have to be fulfilled? What is realistic in the current situation, after having been injured? What is in your possible reach? The more you think about what you actively need to do to come back to your old fitness and self-confidence the more you also think about possible solutions for this problem.
- Where does this feeling come from that you aren't fit?
- What external things would need to change to feel better about yourself?
- What can you actively do, to maintain the problem?
Another change of perspective is to think about what you need to actively do so the problem doesn't go away. We often show negative behaviour or thoughts that hinder us in getting forward and improving the situation. Have you had such negative, hindering thoughts before?
- How important is it to openly communicate your problem with the outside world?
Girls generally have the tendency of finding it more important to communicate problems like this with the outside world, such as on social media channels or in personal conversations.
I know these are a lot of questions (and trust me, there could be many many more asked but obviously I don't want to spam this post). They are a start to better understand the problem and maybe the solutions that are already hidden in your story and thoughts. Most important of such reflections is to figure out what the individual needs of an athlete are. What do you need and why?
Have you had troubles with such situations yourself? Have you been the hunted one and struggled with such situations? Don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions on this topic. 😊