After working with athletes for many years, I have noticed that there are many different types of losses that athletes need to be prepared to face. Certainly, the most noticeable are those that are represented on the scoreboard. However, there’s a loss that some are dealing with that cannot be measured on the scoreboard.
The type of loss I am speaking of is that of identity. What I mean is that some young athletes are told from a young age that they are “special”, meaning they are very gifted, having great talent, and can’t miss to have a great future in sports. These young athletes are often given significant attention, different opportunities, special privileges, and essentially, they build their identity around their performance. As a result, they often build an over inflated view of themselves that leads them to believe that they are invincible. The problem with this arises when they are not able to continue to perform the way they once did. Injuries, change in body structure, emotional changes, and other unforeseeable dynamics converge and leave that young person feeling lost without a stable interior to support these changes. When this happens the athlete truly experiences a deep loss. This loss can be compared to that of a best friend and comes with the deep sadness, anger, and sense of hopelessness of a death. Helping athletes understand this and rebuild their sense of identity around their character and internal attributes will help them work through this very real loss.
I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and experiences around this! Please comment below!