Do You Worry About What Coach and Parents Think?
Many athletes we work with on the mental game worry too much about what others think about them. These athletes have a desire for approval from others, such as teammates, coaches, parents, and friends.
If you (or your athletes) want to please others, you have a need to be admired, accepted, respected, or liked by other athletes, coaches, or teammates.
I have to admit that some this is just human nature, but when taken to an extreme, it can cause athletes to feel pressure and is a huge distraction.
Do you worry you’ll disappoint your teammates or coach if you miss the line drive that scores the winning run?
Here’s a classic scenario from one of our readers, a sports parent:
“If my son makes a simple mistake like missing a ball, striking out, missing a throw, and the shoulders slump. That’s it, days over, in a funk, and upset. His main concern is disappointing the coach, teammates, or parents and worried they will think less of him as an athlete (outcast for not making the play). Why is he so concerned with not letting down others?”
This type of thinking not only distracts you from performing in the moment, but it also becomes a source of pressure for many athletes.
We call this concept social approval in our work. Athletes who are preoccupied with what others think tend to engage in what I call “mind reading.”
Mind reading is when you make unfounded assumptions about what others might think about your performance, such as:
“Is coach disappointed with the errors I made today?”
“Will my parents be happy with my performance today if I lose?”
“If I mess up today, will others be happy with me?”
Social approval comes in many forms. Some athletes want to please or gain respect from others. Some athletes fear disappointing people.
The effect on you is still the same when you perform: pressure, tension, and distraction.
The key is to understand when you begin to read others’ minds:
- Do you mind read when others are watching you perform?
- Do you mind read after you make a mistake?
- Do you mind read when you see expressions of disapproval from others?
The next step is to understand why you are so concerned with what others think about your game:
- Do you want to avoid embarrassment?
- Do you want to gain others’ approval?
- Do you want to impress others with your skills?
- Do you use sport as a way to gain respect from others?
Once you can uncover when and why you mind read, you can learn to react better in these scenarios.
Here’s a simple mental game tip to help you… (1) Catch yourself the next time you begin to mind read. (2) Tell yourself that’s not important right now. (3) Refocus on the current play or shot. That’s it!
This simple strategy will at least help you be more aware when you worry about what others think.
Your Mental Game Coach,
Dr. Patrick Cohn
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