Tools: The Athlete Emotional Backpack

Athletes are regarded by many as strong, resilient, tough, capable individuals. This is true, but you are a human being with emotions just like everybody else. Athletes often feel that they cannot show their true emotions or feelings because it might have consequences for them. You might feel that it affects your selection, interaction with coaches and team mates or it might affect your public image or the image you want to portray to your opponents.

As a result, many athletes keep their real human emotions, issues and fears hidden from everyone. The trouble is that these issues do not disappear. They are merely hidden.

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Rather than dealing with them at first and helping them to disappear, many people keep them hidden from everybody except themselves. Human beings are great at compartmentalisation and not so good at talking head on!

These issues weigh you down and gnaw at your subconscious until they are dealt with at a later date.

Think of it like an imaginary backpack. Every time you ignore an issue that you should be dealing with (but can’t because you feel it will impact your performance), you are putting that issue in a backpack on your back. It is hidden from the world but it is still with you and weighing you down and subconsciously taking energy from you that you need to be a strong athlete.

For many people the back pack grows and grows until the athlete is struggling to move let alone perform at the highest level. It is an element in the attainment of high performance that is completely overlooked. Millions of dollars are spent each year on getting athletes primed physiologically, but how heavy are their backpacks? How are they as human beings? How much of their energy is being wasted on a human issue they they are struggling to deal with but don’t feel they can talk about it with anyone?

“If you have successfully kept your issues hidden for your entire career it is not like the backpack will just disappear when you retire”

The back pack will need to be unpacked all at once and that can be an immensely painful experience. A flood of issues and emotions that were allowed to grow over time but were always neglected. And all that to contend with while you are trying to discover the “new you” in the world away from being an athlete.

Do yourself a favour. Keep you back pack light. Deal with your issues on the spot. Seek help. You can do this anonymously or if you really need to you can open up with your team but get the right support before doing so.

A lighter backpack will help you be a stronger athlete and will also reduce the pain of unpacking it all when the time comes to retire.

Be strong – tackle your issues as they happen. Keep your backpack light and fast!