Mental Health

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Published: 2022-04-01
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Fear is an F word because sport teaches us not to talk about it.

But every time we step on the court, the field, the rink, the track, the snow, or the pool, fear is right there.

We are afraid of losing, we are afraid of making mistakes, we are afraid of missing shots, we are afraid of messing up, we are afraid of trying new things.  The list goes on and on.

But fear isn’t what you think.  Losing, mistakes, missing shots, and messing up are things.  You’re not afraid of things.  If that’s true, then what’s going on?  If you’re not afraid of things, what is it? 

Fear is a feeling, and you are afraid of your feelings.  You’re afraid of how you will feel after the thing happens. 

And sport teaches us to put our feelings into two buckets.  There’s a Happy bucket and there’s a Crappy bucket.  One bucket is “good”, the other is “bad.”  When we see a bucket as “bad” we avoid it.  That’s why you are afraid of your feelings.

Hold on a moment, you’re not afraid of all your feelings, just the Crappy ones.  Last time I checked most of us like the Happy ones.  But the truth is, sport will make you feel Happy sometimes and Crappy other times.  Happy and Crappy.  You must learn to handle both.

How should you do that?  Ready for another F Word?  You FACE them.  Whether you like or not, it’s time to face your feelings, ALL of them.  Even the Crappy ones.

When we face our feelings, we get clarity, we see what’s really going on.  Instead of avoiding our Crappy feelings, we examine them.  Your heart can’t talk to you with words, so it uses feelings to get your attention.  When your heart speaks, you better listen!

What are you supposed to listen to?  What are you supposed to pay attention to?  Let’s look at some examples:

  • Nervous: a. What is that feeling telling me? What tools do I have to handle it?
    1. It’s telling me I’m focusing on something that’s out of my control. When I focus on those things, my heart responds with a feeling of nervousness.
    2. I can shift my focus to the process, to things that are in my control.
  • Lack of confidence: a. What is that feeling telling me? What tools do I have to handle it?
    1. It’s telling me I’m focusing on things I’m not good at. I shouldn’t expect myself to feel confident when I’m not good at something.
    2. I can shift my focus to things that make me feel more confident, things I’ve practiced, things I can count on, things I’m good at.
  • Upset: What is that feeling telling me?  b. What tools do I have to handle it?
    1. It’s telling me I didn’t get what I wanted. I wanted to win, and instead, we lost.  I wanted my coach’s approval and instead, they yelled at me.  I wanted the game winning kill and instead, I hit it out.  I wanted refs to make the right call and instead, they gave me a foul.
    2. Most things in sport are out of my control. I can’t control the outcome, but I can give everything I’ve got, regardless of the outcome.  I can’t control what other people say, but I can focus on what I say to myself.  I can’t control mistakes, but I can make sure my mistakes are aggressive rather than timid.  I can’t control refs, but I can decide how I will respond to their imperfections.

When we face our feelings, our emotional intelligence increases, and our self-awareness goes up.  Now we are solving the right problem.

Don’t you think emotional intelligence and self-awareness would help you kick butt when it matters most?  Beats the heck out of trying to avoid Crappy feelings. 

Crappy feelings are coming whether you want them to or not.  You manage Fear and Feelings by Facing them.  When you handle them, F words aren’t as Crappy as you think.