Raising Resilient Athletes


What If...?

Andrea_henkel_burke_What If...?

If .... then... ! What athlete, coach, or parent has not made this statement before?

If the conditions had been just a little bit different, then …

If the venue would not be so far, then …

If we had had this opportunity a couple of years ago, then ... 

If ...., then ...

We often use this statement when we are angry about something, feel we missed an opportunity or chance, or don't see a way to generate a wanted output.

Let me use some of my own examples:

  • If I had been better on cross-country skis in the downhills, I would have two more World Cup wins and a bunch of other better places. 
  • I can find many races where one more hit on the Biathlon target would have led to completely different results. 
  • If I had not been sick at my last Olympics, I might have won another medal.

I assume that everything else would have been the same in all of those examples. But if I were allowed to play the “If …, then …” game, everyone would be as well. Everyone could have had a better skill set, hit one more target, and stayed healthy all life long.

But the sport is as interesting as it is because of all those unknown and unpredictable circumstances. We truly don´t want to take them away, it would kill all of the excitement! 

But I get it. It is very frustrating when athletes train all life long, not just in the year of an event like the Olympics, and then get injured, conditions are unfair, equipment fails, and all the things which are not in the hands of an athlete. 

Let´s face it. No matter how prepared athletes are, they get to a point when they are dealing with something like that. Only the ones who can move on and overcome it will be successful. This doesn´t mean to get over it the next moment, this still can take a couple of weeks. Just at one point, it has to be possible again to put the main focus on the future. Athletes don´t necessarily need to go through this on their own. Meanwhile, the awareness of mental health for athletes is on the rise. Tough situations are part of the game.

The goal can not be avoiding any overwhelming or disappointing situation, as this would lead to anxiety. The goal is to take it seriously when an athlete is struggling, support them to get through it and be stronger for the next disappointment. It´s like a muscle that needs to be trained.

As talent is not equally distributed to athletes, we also see athletes who have a tougher time overcoming struggles than others. As athletes might be physically trained a little bit differently, athletes also need a different approach to the mental aspect.

But this is not only the case in sports. We can be disappointed in many aspects of life, like in School, jobs, and relationships. That´s why I stick with my opinion and say that being in sport as a growing person is the best after-school activity. It not just can lead to an exciting career, but it also teaches a lot in a very dense timeframe. That sets young athletes up for the future in any field of expertise. 

We also don´t need to see “If… then…” only in a negative way:

Let me use some positive examples:

  • If I hadn't come to Biathlon by chance, to begin with, I would never have had this amazing athlete's life.
  • If I hadn't almost dropped out of the team two years after winning the Olympics, I'm almost certain I would have had a less successful career. (this makes the most sense when also reading this blog article)
  • If my sister hadn't gone to cross-country skiing training, I might not have done that either.

Let's play the "If …, then …  game" from both ends. It is important to see the bright side too. What kind of a luxury problem is it to be at the Olympics complaining about not winning another medal, not having two more world cup wins, or not having hit a few more targets for better results?

Of course, we want to achieve to best possible, and that´s why athletes compete. But when the best possible is not happening, we must get over it to move on. It is totally okay, maybe necessary to get help with that - but we need to move on. Because the worst would be wondering later in life:

What would have happened if I had looked at the possibilities instead of the obstacles?

Do you have a Dream? Keep going towards it :)

Related Articles: 

One Reason Why Being Stuck Struggling

Why You Don't Want to Swear Being in a Competition



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