As athletes, it’s easy to think of ourselves as only athletes. We think back to the thousands of hours of practice we’ve dedicated. We remember the early mornings and the late nights trying to train. We reminisce about the journeys we’ve taken to get to our venues. We look at our trophies, remembering that great feeling of accomplishment when we stood up to accept them. However, we run the danger of thinking that our athletic ability and our sport is all we have in our life. Unsurprisingly, this happens to a lot of athletes and unfortunately we only start to realise that we think this way when our careers have reached a critical point. Retired athletes have been known to struggle since their world has been centered around being a performer. You can only imagine how difficult it is to realise that the thing that you’ve based yourself around is no longer there.
An example of this can be seen from my podcast with an endurance athlete (Dr Sarah Collard) who discovered she had epilepsy that was triggered by her running. The sport that she loved; the sport that got her a scholarship, the sport she devoted her life to, was the cause of her epilepsy. She experienced an internal conflict with herself. She began to question who she was. If all you’ve been known for is being an athlete, then what else are you if that has been taken away? For many athletes this can be their worst nightmare. But is it true? Is being an athlete all you are and all you will ever be? The short answer is no. When you look at the giant known as Eddie Hall, you see that he is a very strong man. Capable of dedicating his life to improving his strength performance. But if you were to ask Eddie “Who are you?”, his response may surprise you. He may tell you that he is a Husband, a father, a brother, as well as 2017s World’s Strongest Man. He is a good example to show that although he holds the accolade of being one of the strongest men in the world, that is not everything he is. Being an athlete isn’t the only thing that defines who Eddie hall is. Being an athlete isn’t the only thing that defines you.
Some of you reading this may be students. To claim that all you are is an athlete would be to completely disregard that you are also a student. You aren’t going to school/university for fun, you are getting an education; which makes you at that present moment a student. Some of you may have jobs, and may be proud of the job you’re in too. Some of you may be coaches, parents, siblings, cousins (the list could go on). Some of you may be the greatest chefs on your road. Who you are is more than just an athlete.
By understanding that we are more than just athletes protect us from the difficult experience of questioning who we are when met with career-challenging events or adversity. These events can be suffering from an injury, being dropped from a team, or retiring from the sport.
PSYCH-CHEK Mental Tips
Ask your people in your family and friendship circle how they’d describe you.
Draw a spider-diagram. Put your name in the centre of it and write what you do and who you are around it.
Engage in a hobby/activity that isn’t related to your sport.