This week, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio came to a conclusion. Bringing with it the final competition of a season for many athletes. In some cases, the final competition EVER, ending what is most likely a lifetime and career focused almost exclusively on their sport.Read More
As you may or may not know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US. It’s a blip in time where we can pause to think about a very big need that must be addressed in our culture today. And not only just within our culture at large, but within the specific subculture of athletics and college sports.
In the past week or so there have been a fair amount of studies and data released about student-athlete development and various needs of student-athletes. While I am still formulating my thoughts around the recent releases (and reading everything more in-depth), I thought at the very least I'd share a round up of the information.
All-in-all, it's good stuff and offers a lot of different views into the world of college athletics. Here's the scoop:Read More
I’ve talked about athletic identity in a number of my previous posts (also here and here), so I thought, now might be a good time to explore it in more detail. Athletic identity is something that is critical to discuss with all athletes early on in their careers and through retirement.
Athletic identity is “the degree to which an individual identifies with the athlete role” (Brewer, Van Raalte, & Linder, 1993). This is something that starts to develop from the first moment an athlete begins to play a sport. And how that develops ultimately shapes how an athlete, thinks, feels and acts – on and off the field. Experiences that shape this? Initial successes and wins, accolades, encouragement, attention from peers and media, and rewards for effort or competition.
Athletes spend so much time training and playing their particular sport, that it becomes a significant part of who they are. By understanding athletic identity, we can all have a better understanding of the degree in which an individual really identifies as an athlete (versus a person). For example, there is a difference between saying "I am a baseball player" and “I play baseball.” While it’s subtle, the language we use can make an impact on how we think, act and feel.
An athlete with a high degree of athletic identity is a super-star in the eyes of most coaches because it means that the athlete tends to prioritize their athletic demands above other responsibilities in life (Winning at the College Level, NiiLampti & Tyrance, 2014). However, there can also be a downside to a having a high degree of athletic identity. While not well researched, information suggests that those with high athletic identity may be more likely to use performance enhancing drugs, and that it may be associated with overtraining. In addition, this strong association may also influence how an athlete responds to or reacts to external factors like injuries (NiiLampti & Tyrance, 2014). And these are just a few of the considerations for current athletes.
Additionally, all of this impacts the athlete even more at the time of retirement. With such a limited worldview and experiences outside of athletics, there are undoubtedly concerns when it comes to removing that element from an athlete’s life. Without an understanding of who they are without their sport, it can lead to difficulties. Questions about who they are, what their purpose is, where to go from here, where they belong and what’s a fit for them… all leads toward a period of uncertainty – and often difficulty. This uncertainty can then potentially lead to issues like depression, substance abuse, isolation, loneliness, anxiety and frustration.
As coaches and athlete development professionals, we all play an important role in creating a new awareness around this topic for every athlete we work with. Adolescence and emerging adulthood are critical time periods for a person’s development. It's also a time where many athletes are obsessively and sometimes exclusively devoted to their athletics, making it all that much more important to teach the importance of balance.
Coaches, as well as parents, play a key role in supporting athletes to learn about balance, prioritization and perspective – all elements that if fully realized can better aid the athlete throughout their current athletic career and through the transition into retirement.
As I’m sure many of you have heard by now, Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from basketball last week. I loved everything about the way he did it. While it’s hard to say there is a “good example” to something so personal, this was a thoughtful and mature way to announce his retirement. Not only does he seem entirely at peace with his decision, he has completely balanced his emotions during a time that is undoubtedly one of the most emotional moments an athlete can experience.Read More
Recently, Sports Illustrated and SI.com published an article about Michael Phelps and his path to rehabilitation in an effort to win gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. It was a really thorough piece -- one that I couldn’t put down. It was intriguing not only because it's a comeback story about one of swimming’s greatest competitors, but because it looked into the more personal struggles that Phelps has endured over the last eight years.
Phelps should be acknowledged for his bravery in sharing his experiences during this time period. It couldn’t have been easy to publicly share this information and open himself to criticism or comments on social media.Read More
I spend a lot of time thinking about the transition that occurs when individuals end their athletic careers. Things like: What happens during the transition…what it means emotionally for the person...how it affects the individual’s lifestyle…what we can be doing more of to support people as they go through the process, etc. Despite the fact that I’ve personally experienced this transition (and currently work with individuals as they go through it) there is still much that I don’t know.
I would argue that biggest portion of this entire process deals with the concept of athletic identity and how a person manages the changes related to it. I’ve written briefly on this before and think it’s quite critical to paint a better picture of the emotions, thoughts and feelings a person experiences as they go through this change in their life.Read More
One of my previous blog posts addressed the need to provide additional support for professional athletes as they retire from athletics. This is something I believe at my core. The more I continue to think about it, the more I believe we can do a better job of developing athletes as individuals across all levels of athletics. Investing in the personal development of athletes needs to happen earlier in the athlete’s career and it is the responsibility of athletic organizations at every level to do this.Read More
Last week, renowned swim star Michael Phelps returned to competition after a six-months suspension from competition with USA Swimming. The New York Times published this great article on his initial jump back into the water. In the article, Phelps is quoted about his career and where he’s at now on his new path in life.
As a retired swimmer, I wonder what got him back in the water. Was it the love of the sport? Did he feel he had something more to prove or accomplish? Or was something just missing? Was swimming the only way to help fill that void?Read More