Psychological Pressure Athletes Face

athlete mental health

“I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything.” Michael Phelps 

Sports is not just a word, it’s an emotion for athletes. They breathe and live sports each day of their lives. In an athlete’s journey, there are struggles not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. 

As quoted by the famous swimmer of all time, the mind controls everything. It is the mind and psyche of the player that can make or break things. Many times these psychological issues and aspects take a back seat or are ignored. This could be due to the lack of awareness of how these psychological aspects can impact an athletes performance and also due to lack of resources to tackle such pressures. 

Most of the athletes are so involved in their technical and skill training along with the fitness training that they attribute their success or failures to these aspects only. But, there are a lot of psychological pressures that can contribute to a player’s win or lose. 

These could range from maintaining a position or rank, pressure or fear of failure and losing, losing against a junior ranked player, playing in front of hundreds and thousands of audience, handling the everyday stress and pressure of training sessions, family involvement and expectations, career security, financial struggles and many more. 

-If we dig deep into a scenario where a ranked player of a senior category has to play against a player of a junior category , there are a lot of things going on in their minds but are very different from each other psychologically. Let’s talk about how a junior’s mind can work in such a situation. 

One one hand, the junior player can be intimidated by the senior and may freeze with fear, the junior may feel that he or she will not be able to win and lack self confidence. They in immense fear will then not have the courage and belief to showcase their fullest potential and play with a mentally free mind. The junior may also feel incapable and inexperienced as compared to the senior. All these thoughts and cognitions in the player’s MIND are capable of negatively impacting his or her performance, being preoccupied with all these thoughts and self judgments will create a lot of pressure psychologically. 

Let’s take a sneak peak into the player’s thoughts and mind:

“I will not be able to win” 

“He is such a good player, i am nothing in front of him” 

“She has such good equipments i will not be able to match her” 

“Why am i even playing there is no use” 

“Have you seen her rank, she is at the top, i can’t even stand in front of her” “I am so scared” 

On the other hand, the junior player may be very confident and take this opportunity as an experience of playing and learning from the senior. He or she can also play very freely thinking that there is nothing to lose and only to gain. This will lead to him or her playing confidently and trying all that he or she has learned as a professional player. 

Now let’s hear what this player has to say to himself or herself: 

“Wow, this is such a great chance for me to showcase what all i have” 

“I have nothing to lose so i will play freely” 

“I will play to win” 

“I am equal and have the full potential” 

“All i have to do is give my best and not think about the rest” 

“If i win this will be such a great boost for my confidence and career” 

Now, if we delve deep into the senior player’s psyche in this situation, the pressures that he or she can face being a senior ranked player are the fear of losing from a junior player, pressure of maintaining his or her image, and also the apprehension and stress of what would happen if he or she loses, as well as the pressure of maintaining his or her rank. 

Thoughts that can run through his or her mind are: 

“What if i lose the match, he is very junior to me” 

“I have to win or else everyone will make fun of me” 

“I can’t lose to such a junior player what will my contemporaries think of me” 

The same situation can be interpreted in a completely opposite way also, where the player may feel that there is nothing to worry or take pressure about considering the amount of experience he or she has, having faith on his or calibre the player may see this match as an easy win. The thoughts that facilitate this situation and turn it in a positive way are: 

“I have nothing to worry about she is so junior to me” 

“I have way more experience that him so i will play confidently”

“I will use my experience and skills in making good strategies rather that being fearful” “I am a top ranked player and in a very comfortable position” 

The above mentioned situation conveys how an athlete’s mind attracts pressure before performing and how it can negatively influence the play. But on the other hand we can also see how the pressure can be converted into positivity and confidence which can only be done by sowing the seeds of cheerfulness and hopefulness. 

A sports psychologist contributes in giving that positive frame of mind which allows an athlete to convert pressure, anxiety and stress into confidence and self belief. A single situation can have many interpretations but as a player what direction you choose to go in is determined by how in control your mind is. 

Pressures and sports go hand in hand but understanding the pressures and mental challenges of athletes and acting as a facilitator in their journey to success is what sports psychology aims towards. 

This field is blooming with time passing by and will continue to flourish in the near future looking at the number of professional players in the field of sports.

Blog by an Intern, Ms. Mahika Dixit

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      1 (s) I found it hard to wind down.

       

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      8 (s) I felt that I was using a lot of nervous energy.

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      9 (a) I was worried about situations in which I might panic and make a fool
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      10 (d) I felt that I had nothing to look forward to.

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      14 (s) I was intolerant of anything that kept me from getting on with what I
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      15 (a) I felt I was close to panic.

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      16 (d) I was unable to become enthusiastic about anything.

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      17 (d) I felt I wasn’t worth much as a person.

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