Updated: Jan 19
Sports is a field that provides an identity, a ritual, a profession, a routine, a culture, a bonding, a hobby, a risk, a release; Sports allows us to break away from stress, to compete, to celebrate, to find meaning, to exercise our gifts, to cultivate play, to strengthen relationships, to learn, and more.* I am learning during this intermittent break, and yet recent, different start of sports during a pandemic.
Sports without fans or sports where the screams and yells of fans are second-guessed with physical masks... I am aligning with play in other ways at this time. I’m learning to find entertainment through other means. I am learning to be creative with my self-and relational-care. Yet I still fill the void.
The offseason was preparation for this extended absence, and I believe we tend to have the opportunity to prepare for and get ready (to some extent) for what we face. I am sitting with the discomfort that grief can birth and listening to grief as it shares with me information about practicing gratitude intentionally and consistently, about relinquishing control, and about how loss can birth creativity.
From a professional standpoint, I empathize with all athletes who are experiencing athletic identify concerns. When your identity is so heavily tied into what you do and what you are gifted to do, working is self-care. An extended vacation from a job you hate is much different than an unintended leave from a job that you love. There are multiple perspectives to this change, and all stories are valid and valuable and often need space to be processed and explored. Demonstrate kindness today through listening. What are you learning about yourself and the world around you during this break from sports "as normal"?
*Be mindful that often words are inspired by my many experiences as a professional and as a person, credit due is typically warranted but breaking down where inspiration comes from may be more difficult during the integration process.
Updated: Jan 19
Contrary to popular belief, what impacts our mental health is our emotions and our relationships. Athletes are heavily inundated with the complexities of relationships magnified by fame. Relationships with coaches, teammates, team staff, fans, and (similar relationships as the general population) with family of origin, family of choice, and other associates in and outside of their local communities. Athletes are imperfect humans that have to balance a sense of connection with imperfect people while coming from imperfect backgrounds.
Sports is protective in that it can aid athletes ability to cope, limit time in involvement in environments that maybe of negative influence, has structure in place that teach discipline, and the importance of managing emotions and relationships effectively to maintain team roles and involvement.
Sports increases the risk in that athletes have to consistently use their mental capacities to navigate playbooks, relationships, their athletic gifts/talents and skills, and often without much room for error. Athletes are at increased risk of being exploited and have increased pressure to perform within their playing arena and in life as their every action is placed under a magnifying glass and fault comes at a high cost. Athletes may come from trauma-filled backgrounds, yet are potentially burdened with the responsibility of bringing fame, money, and power to their family name and hometown.
Relational poverty, to me, means the lack or absence of healthy relational skills, which often involves mismanagement of emotions. The lack of exposure to healthy relational skills and healthy relationships in the environment or neighborhood we call home. We can have something in one environment or area of our life, yet have barriers that keep us or increase the difficulty in transferring those skills over to another area, environment, or relationship. Cultural and systemic barriers that have exacerbated the impact of intergenerational trauma (trauma passed down from generation to generation) like financial poverty, racism, systemic biases, discrimination, unequal pay and access to opportunity can distract us from seeing the value in transferring over healthy skills.
Although sports may serve in some areas, we have to be intentional about placing it in a position to serve, not harm us.
What are you playing for?