In my many years of running/jumping/throwing I have found that there are an immense amount of mental variables that can interfere with performance. As I further pinpoint the issue, I have been able to boil it down to one major interference: fear.
Guest Writer: Elizabeth Wilson
Minnesota, 3-time High School All State Honors
NCAA, Division 1 Heptathlon Athlete
BYU Track & Field Women’s Team Captain
When racing it is vital to stay in the moment, or in the present. This is where you are able to eliminate a few elements of fear. Think about it, if you aren’t living in the present moment of your race you’re either thinking about the future or the past. Perhaps you fear that you might repeat a bad race, you might fear that you can’t perform as well as you did last week (thoughts of the past), or maybe you’re worried about qualifying for the next big meet such as state or nationals (thoughts in the future). Step number one is to stay in the present! Just focus on the race right now; not what happened last week or what you hope will happen next week. Sometimes even if you’re living in the present you still have plenty of fear. Fear of the pain you’re about to feel during the race, fear about the competitor you’re racing against that has a faster personal best than you do, or fear that something could go wrong during your race.
As the season progresses you might continue to have fear. Fear that you won’t perform as well as your coach, parents, or you expect to. Fear that a teammate might surpass you and become the “number 1 runner”. Fear that you didn’t do enough in the off season to be ready for your moment now. Or maybe you even have a fear of success. Believe it or not, some people actually fear being good! Their mind subconsciously freaks out anytime they get near the limits of being the best. Perhaps they fear that once they get to the top…they have nowhere further to go. They wonder if they can handle the pressure and be able to continually perform at that high of a level. On the other hand, maybe you’re not the best but you’re afraid of not being good enough. You fear embarrassment, rejection, and failure.
Let me tell you something…we’ve all had it. We’ve all thought it. You’re not the only one with fear.
But here’s the secret. If you’re able to channel that fear, control it, store it away, stop it before it can creep up on you, then you will be able to enjoy running and when you enjoy what it is that you do, you’ll perform better! We’re all going to have days where we aren’t the best. Hey, most of us will even have a whole season where we aren’t near our best! Does that mean that we let the fear take over and force us to throw in the towel? No!
It will be tough, it’s going to hurt, teammates will have better days (be happy for them!), competitors will have better days (be happy for them too!), and you might not reach every milestone exactly when you plan to. But that’s ok. We as athletes cannot let fear take over our minds. We must have a “CAN DO” attitude. Never focus on what is out of your control. All you can control is your attitude, your training, and your mind (aka…shutting out fear).
Every now and then I understand that fearful thoughts will still creep into your mind. That is ok, because you must recognize that without fear there is no courage! But promise me that from here forward you will let your courage be bigger than your fear. I’m not saying that you have to be fearless…but I am telling you that in order to be successful, you must fear less.
*All photos by: BYU Photo