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On Developing Your Athletic Identity: 5 Ways to Allow Your Sport to Work for You

Updated: Apr 19, 2022

Contrary to toxic belief, Sports can’t save you from yourself; It brings out more of who you already are. When you choose sports from a place of avoidance alone, you may miss out on all the benefits that sports can provide. There are multiple ways that you can allow sports to work for you. Utilizing these approaches consistently over time can evolve your relationship with your sport.

1. Use skills from sports to apply in other areas of your life

Sports provides skills that can transfer into other areas of your life. When those transferable skills are limited to being used only within your sports career, you could miss out on aligning other areas of your life, like relationships, spirituality, finances, etc. That doesn’t mean that every skill needs to apply in every area, but it can be transformed to fit other areas to the point that other areas become more elevated.

2. Show up as yourself

Whether you are more quiet, loud, or in-between, sports provides an environment for you to use your innate gifts as gifts. When you are playing within a healthy environment, your authenticity can be used to aid in healthy relationships within your sport and with your sport.

(You have a relationship with your sport. You spend time with it, you have a bond to it, and you invest energy into it.)

Within your relationship with your sport, the more you show up as yourself, the more you continue to grow in ways that are unique to your journey and the more you attract opportunities that value your authenticity. The other aspect of being authentic is the more authentic you are, the less you fall into comparison trap, which is another form of adversity that you can present within and outside of sports.

3. Identify your strengths and growth areas

When you are working, especially during the off-season, you can pick up on your strengths by working with coaches and trainers that will work specifically to help you hone in on the value you add. Additionally, it is helpful to condition yourself to validating your own strengths and growth areas by reflecting on what you did well and reflecting on what you can continue to work on after practices, conditioning, training, and games/competitions. Listening to your coaches and trainers point out your gifts is one thing, but you are your biggest motivator, so hearing it from yourself sounds different and can add significant value to you. Your growth areas are the places where you are challenged to grow and develop. That is not meant to advocate for perfectionism, but for progress.

4. Learn how to balance structure, discipline, and focus with play, fun, and spontaneity

The higher you get in your sports career, the more you accomplish within your sports career, the more susceptible you can become to forgetting that the core essence of sports is playing. The more you reach different levels within your sports career, the more you have to be intentional about remembering your power; often your power is within how you continue to have fun, continue playing, continue to find the flexibility, creativity, and spontaneity within play, as well as how you find elements that work for you within structure, discipline, and focus. If you are more prone to either side (the side of structure/disclipline/focus or the side of play/fun/spontaneity), look for ways to have both and to cultivate harmony with structure, discipline, focus, play, fun, and spontaneity.

5. Learn the value of boundaries

Physically, mentally, emotionally, creatively, relationally...we need breaks and rest. The breaks and rest help us to be able to enjoy even more what we value and what is significant to us in a way that helps us to look forward to it. When it comes to sports, overindulging in it, without having life outside of it or finding value outside of it, can cost you in being well-rounded or showing up authentic and whole. We aren't meant to or conditioned to over-indulge in any area of our lives in such a way that can't cost us. There is the offseason, breaks during the season, practice, film sessions, timeouts, etc. that all reinforce the value that pausing and regrouping can have on us.

What are additional ways that you are allowing sports to work for you?

Written by Kheri A. Corbin,

For the ones struggling to find and keep their power, voice, and value in the context of their sports career,

For those Black Athletes,

And the Ones who genuinely love them

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