Motivated college student-athletes must overcome performance pressure in sport and build a bright professional future. By training mental skills, college student-athletes will realize their academics, athletic, and professional aspirations.
Intercollegiate athletes are driven to pursue peak performance in and out of sport. Mastering academic, athletic, professional, and social demands of the student-athlete lifestyle is the biggest hurdle.
One may ask: Why must a college student-athlete perform at a high level in all these areas?
This chart demonstrates the funnel between high school and professional sport. Consider that not every draftee sign a contract, makes it to the top professional level, and play at a high enough level for long enough to make six or seven figures from competing in sport. Subsequently consider how many will play long enough for their career earnings to cover decades of retirement.
One should interpret these statistics in three different ways:
1) The mere act of competing in a college sport is a big honor that many student-athletes desire to take seriously.
2) For almost all of the 460,000 college student-athletes across the Division I, II, and III levels, college is the highest level that he or she will have the opportunity to compete in organized sport.
3) Almost every student athlete must thrive academically and set the foundation to decades of professional success is crucial while performing the best that he or she can at the sport.
The undergraduate years for student-athletes demands that they ace their exams, find the big internship or graduate school opportunity, and pursue championship trophies. SOMEHOW friends, family, sleep, and personal skill development needs to fall into the equation.
Shouldn’t we have a sure-fire way to train student-athletes to cope with constant demands from five different directions?
As a cross-country and track athlete at Lake Forest College north of Chicago, I experienced how pressure to perform and meet demands can lead to periods of chronic stress, drained motivation, and feeling like life was an unfulfilling and meaningless trance over. I have always yearned for solutions to these struggles and notice that other student-athletes feel the same way. Hollistic physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth led to breakthroughs.
When I found sport psychology after freshman year of college, I felt intrigued by the idea of improving performance by deliberately training the mind. I built the focus and resiliency to overcome the challenges in my own life after adding visualization and mindfulness into my daily routine.
At the 2017 AASP Annual Conference, I learned how developing a student-athlete’s mental skill set is a great way to help them live the meaningful life full of breakthrough performances in every domain that sets a foundation to decades of success after athletics and graduation.
I must continue to grow and progress to make a positive impact on college student-athletes as a mental skills coach and consultant in a college athletic department for years to come. In this work, I must conceptualize the athlete as a human being before a performer and use the latest research in the field to inform my practice. A PhD and/or Master’s program where I can build my counseling skills, performance psychology expertise, and research competency will be instrumental towards developing as a scientist-practitioner.
I am seeking the opportunity to observe and work with youth athletes in summer 2018 to understand the developmental factors that often factor into how some college athletes struggle with handling failure and adversity. I learned through my own experience and talking to others that traumas and shortcomings from the early years still affect many people into their adult years.
Student-athletes must learn how to overcome the mountains of demands in their everyday life so that they their motivation translates into true breakthroughs. Through mental skill development and mastery, college athletes will receive their undergraduate diploma, look back on a fulfilling student-athlete experience, and prime themselves for decades of professional success.
Here’s to a future where every student-athlete uses mental skills training to effectively face challenges, overcome distraction, and perform at his or her best in all domains.