A troubling trend is emerging and gaining momentum quickly. This destructive trend is the outsourcing of our opinions, perspectives, thoughts, interests, and evaluations to coaches, parents, friends, teachers. Day after day I talk to athletes that are giving away their sense of personal power to a parent, a coach, as well as, friends. It would be one thing if they had already arrived at their OWN thought or opinion and were seeking new thoughts, affirmation or challenge to refine and strengthen their own opinions. Unfortunately, many have simply abdicated and allowed others to dictate and define their lives and thoughts for them. Now I know this isn’t without outside reinforcement. There are certainly many parents, coaches, friends, along with others that like to share, might I say, force their opinions on those around them believing they are helping. This is dangerous and destructive and needs to be confronted, challenged and changed. You might ask yourself, “what is the harm?” Quite frankly, the harm is significant and long standing.
The price tag of abdicating one’s opinion, perspective, and sense of possibility is significant!
- Loss of inner confidence
- Increased anxiety
- Decreased engagement and motivation
- Decreased self awareness
- Inconsistent performance
- Delayed learning
- Delayed maturation
- Decision-making skills underdeveloped
- Unrealistic expectations
- Increased confusion and despair
These are just a few of the unintended consequences.
When athletes play and learn in environments where their opinions are rarely asked the likelihood of outsourcing one’s opinions, perspectives and personal power is high. I believe we need to challenge, encourage and affirm our young athletes to retain to their personal power by asking, affirming and acknowledging their opinions and perspectives along with refraining from offering OUR thoughts. This is not to say that every opinion and perspective one generates is helpful. However, if we rarely ask or acknowledge then how does one ever cultivate a useful, productive and personalized perspective for themselves? This is often referred to in other circles as “growing your voice.”
Over the last 15 years of coaching athletes at every level I have found that those that have learned to believe in themselves starts with having an opinion that often leads to an inner confidence, strong work ethic and faster learning than those that simply wait for someone else’s approval or perspective on their performance.
If you are an athlete that has been prone to giving away your power then I offer these tips to gain back your sense of power:
- Start with admitting that you have given your power away. What you are most likely doing is trading your power for the assurance that you will play or please. At some level you believe that if you try to fit your game to the satisfaction of someone else it will insure you will get playing time. Hey, the truth is playing time goes to those that are clear about their role, have the skills to perform and confidently and courageously engage themselves doing the best they can.
- Determine your strengths. GET REALLY CLEAR about them. Most athletes hand over their power because they are not clear about their strengths. To compensate for their lack of clarity they simply allow someone else to tell them what to do. KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS!
- Have an opinion before you ask someone else for theirs. It is to easy to shape what you think after you have heard someones opinion, especially if you respect them or they have power to determine your playing time or role. No matter what it is IMPORTANT to arrive at your own conclusion. You may need others to help affirm or challenge your opinion but HAVE ONE TO START!
- Commit yourself to fully expressing yourself to the best of your ability. We are all at our best when we live boldly, confidently, intentionally, and without regret. You can do this by designing your life and play with clarity, support and the commitment to learning along the way.
Lets take the time to ask before we tell, acknowledge before we assume, and empower our young people to retain and refine their opinions and perspectives. In doing so we will be growing independent thinkers that can confidently withstand the objections, critical feedback and disappointment that often accompanies the competitive environment they will undoubtedly experience now and in the future.