As you may know, the 2018 soccer world cup is being held in Russia as we speak, and I have some thoughts I would like to share on sports and being “the best.”
I did sports as a child. In fact, I did gymnastics on a good level and was really determined and fired with it, until I got injured. The injury ended any hopes of pursuing gymnastics on a higher level. Even though I couldn’t continue with my sport, I am still fascinated when it comes to World Cups, or the Olympics or other big sports events - I love to watch and follow!
Also, with being a psychologist, mental trainer and coach who has worked with athletes, I have some insights.
The Extremes of Being a High-Level Athlete
Being an athlete and being visible or famous in the world of amateur or professional sports can be both a great kick and a burden. There are lots of exciting stories, but there are also stories that leave us sad and grieving.
We feel the magic and excitement watching these “super performers” or anyone who gives an outstanding performance in his or her field.
We know how it feels to triumph at something. We all know the tragedy in failing.
These are common experiences we all share. As unique people, we all have different things we are good at, and we’ve learned through experience how it feels to succeed or not succeed at something we care about and have worked hard to achieve.
The athletes we watch at extreme sporting events, and us as regular people both must train hard if we want to really achieve something awesome and outstanding. No matter what league you are in - you must go for your goals. You must be totally committed to your goals. And you must be determined about reaching them.
It takes discipline and doing it all over again and again and again. Athletes know that it’s a cycle of going through the pain and the delight of a sports life. And the sports life often means sacrificing other things because you are committed to giving it your all, no matter which league you play in or on which level you perform.
Is it Skill, or Talent, or . . . Something More?
The crucial thing about events like world championships where the best in the world compete is this: you may only get one chance in your life to make it, and you may have devoted most of your life toward going for this one goal.
You take it seriously, and you train as hard as you can to be right there at the right moment at the right place to fulfill and to kill it.
Sports is about winning and losing. There is always a chance and a risk. And the reward is only for those who win.
An athlete told me after winning a silver medal - which means he is the 2nd best in the world! - for him it felt like he lost. He wanted to be the best. Not the 2nd best. So in his eyes, he had failed.
After quite some time he could look at it and be proud and celebrate what he achieved.
But in the moment, if your focus is on winning and being the best, it’s all about delivery and execution. The “best” deliver a gold medal or a first-place performance, and if this isn’t achieved, it’s easy to feel disappointed when you know your execution wasn’t the “best.” You need time to get over it, like the silver medal athlete did, to have some distance to see your success and honor your performance. Yet it still leaves you with questions and has an impact on you.
In high level sports, there are a lot of athletes or players who are accomplished and have a high level of performance.
But what makes the best?
What leads to being the champion?
It is more than athletics and having the best skills and techniques. Skills and techniques are important, and you won’t come far without them. But to be the best, to become the champ, there’s something else that’s required.
It’s the right mindset – the winner mindset!
The Mindset of a Champion
For instance – Messi – he already stopped his career on the national team because he was so frustrated that they couldn’t make it to the World Championship. He couldn’t cope with it. He is a superstar - an exceptional player! But there is always a team in soccer or in other group sports.
Messi could not deliver at these places and it really is a mind thing. When the mind is not totally focused and programmed on success, a slight doubt or insecurity will lead to a complete disaster!
Ronaldo got this. He performed in an exceptional way. You could see it from the start that he was laser focused, determined, resilient and strong. All eyes are on you if you go for a penalty and you know you could make the wrong move. As a goalkeeper or player, there will only be one of you who is going to make it. He did - and he did it 3 times in one game! He is and was the greatest, everything worked out and in that state your accomplishments push you to a success mindset!
But if you doubt it – you are done.
Even if you are determined, there can be a lot happening and you cannot always deliver because there are other teammates involved, but the biggest and the best always seem determined to deliver despite what else is happening.
They have the winner attitude and, like it or not, a winning athlete needs the balls to stand up, stand tall, and cope with all the expectations and the burden placed on them. The only choice is to decide to win, and then do whatever needs to be done to accomplish and succeed.
Reaching the Top Means Reaching Out
But in truth, the whole story starts much earlier.
If you see a perfect body, that means there were hours spent in training. It took working hard, and then working harder each time - going through a lot of pain and always connecting with a compelling vision of being or becoming the best. That person made the decision to do so and to go the extra mile. Someone like Ronaldo is there for a reason - he lines up balls after the training session and is always looking for the perfect ball.
Like Tiger Woods in his prime - he was programmed as a child by his dad. He was totally determined and pushed hard to train and become skilled, so that he could handle any shot, any circumstance, any opponent that was in front of him.
But we all face moments in life that we have not trained for. And then it becomes difficult if you don’t have the resources you need. You are trying to even go harder, but end up doing what is not efficient, instead of reaching out for help.
Let’s be honest, it is difficult to reach out for help. There is this image of the “unshakable” out there in the world. People want to see your image connected to success.
Great Athletes and Great Experiences Bond Us Together
There are a lot of people out there who admire you in your good days. There are lots who may be counting on you to be successful to feel successful themselves!
As fans, we go with our team or our beloved athlete and we can show emotions in sports -you can cry, shout, sing, party in public and really live it! This is why sports are so fascinating - you just go out and feel and do. There are no limits in your head – we are not taking about hooligans or idiots who don’t respect the rules – we are talking about people who just celebrate and have something in common. This is a great experience that we want more of, because we can really share our true feelings.
This is often not honored in public, in general. But in sports, the excitement comes across! People are feeling connected and being in a guided space to enjoy.
Let’s get prepared and enjoy more of these exciting events and games. Let’s observe who is making it while the team is the strongest in everything – physically, technically, and in the will and determination to make it.
Because your strength and your power in your mind; your resilience, determination, and laser focus: all these things will lead you to the win: in sports and in life.
Coaching athletes is such a pleasure because they are determined, they have a goal, and they are mostly willing to do what is needed to succeed and win. You really must want it because otherwise, you are not going to get it.
Being the Best Takes Work and Support
Mental training and coaching is often needed if you cannot unlock your full potential. If there are blocks you cannot identify or overcome, or you must deal with struggles you cannot solve on your own. If you come back after an injury and need to move the goal posts a little further out while you recover.
I am thankful and grateful for having seen so many people who want to achieve and perform in sports. I have been able to support them, and I give all my respect for those who lose or do not make it and have coped with it gracefully and sportsman-like. It really does make you stronger and prepare you for the rest of your life.
And when you feel you cannot cope, know there are people out there who can help and support you. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help, because #youmatter🌟