Have you ever been caught in a slump? At some point in their career, most athletes will experience a lull in their performance. They may be doing everything right physically, but they just cannot break through. It’s possible that they are even caught in a cycle of under-performing.
Imagine a batter who can’t seem to rediscover the timing of his swing or a basketball player that continues to barely miss the same shots that they once swooshed with ease. They are stuck in a funk.
Have you ever experienced an injury? Here is another situation that will mentally challenge an athlete. An injured athlete may toss and turn all night while imagining the consequences of missed practice time. Doubt may overpower the confidence they once held. The athlete may even experience a sense of worthlessness as they watch their team continue without them.
Both of these circumstances create a highly emotional period. The mental struggle may be the toughest battle that athlete has ever had to face. It’s hard to know how to deal with these situations. If unresolved, the doubt may become debilitating, and the emotions may become too overwhelming.
What is the best way to end the cycle? What can athletes do to manage those feelings? How can they avoid going down this dark road?
It seems too simple, but it is effective. Serving others may not directly heal your injury or break your slump, but it helps you get out of your way. It resets your mind. By giving you a greater perspective, it may clear some headspace and allow your natural ability to work its magic again. No, you don’t need to be injured or in a slump for serving to be effective.
Why Serving Helps
Humans have an innate desire to help others. Unfortunately, we often become so inwardly focused that we fail to make the time to do so. The culture of athletics tells us that we need to be selfish to accomplish our goals. If we get trapped in that way of thinking, we truly will be missing a piece of ourselves. We are called to serve others. Fulfilling this destiny will benefit us as well.
The first reason that serving is an essential part of wellbeing and performance has to do with perspective. When you put yourself in the position to be concerned about others, you realize the world is much bigger than your dreams alone.
We were created with a beautiful emotion called empathy. If you take advantage of opportunities to serve, empathy will help connect you to the person/people/animal you are serving. Your understanding of the world will broaden. Your own goals will remain important, but you will see that other people have incredible passions too. Upon reflection, you may see that the goals which controlled your life are not nearly as urgent as they seemed.
If you are thinking outwardly, you can be freed up from constantly thinking inwardly. Thus, you are freed from the pressure of needing to perform. In fact, you may even experience renewed joy for your particular dream.
Another benefit to serving is a phenomenon called Helper’s High. When you do good for others, you feel good about yourself. Serving has physiological benefits. Endorphins are released when you take the time to help out somebody else. When your mind is in a positive place, your performance improves too. Research has shown that people who volunteer score higher on happiness scales and live longer, healthier lives.
If you’ve reached a point in your career where you question the purpose of sports, then you will benefit from serving. At some stage, an athlete has to ask themselves, “why do I continue to do this sport?” If they find no greater purpose, then they will typically fizzle out.
Here’s the good news. Sports do have a greater purpose. For a Christian athlete, worshipping God through sport is important, and serving is a key aspect of that. For others, the sport still provides a platform to impact the world. It doesn’t matter what level athlete you are; sports present many opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. When you retire from athletics, will your statistics be what matters?
Serving fulfills that more significant purpose. Sports aren’t really about numbers. They are about relationships. Just like outward thinking, this realization about the purpose of sports will free you from the inhibiting need to perform perfectly.
Tensions will reside, and your joy of performing will be reestablished. Your worth will no longer be dependent on how well you perform. Sports will become less about you and more about the opportunity to connect with others.
Contributing to a greater purpose is the ultimate reason for sports. To experience a renewed motivation, consider using your platform to serve.
There is a similar theme when it comes to serving. Serving shifts the focus away from self and towards others. When you help others, you inevitably build relationships with them. This ultimately leads to the development of a community. Just like we were made to serve and feel empathy, we were created to live in community with others.
Having a community benefits you in numerous ways. For one, they become part of your support system. Secondly, they can help you out in return. If you take the time to serve somebody, there is a good chance they will return the favor whenever you are in need.
Ways For Athletes To Serve
It may be intimidating to pick out the way you would like to serve. It seems like there are so many options. My first piece of advice would be to find an area that excites you. Serving opportunities can come in many forms. You don’t have to find your niche right away, but you do have to start somewhere.
As an athlete, I discovered that my favorite way to serve is through coaching. If you’re lucky, it may even be a paid position. The benefit to serving by coaching is that fact that you will have similar struggles and shared experiences.
Often, as an older athlete, we have learned to overcome the problems that many younger athletes still battle. It is very rewarding to be able to guide someone else through an issue you once faced.
Younger athletes will tend to see their athletic coach as a role model. This is a platform in and of itself. Spending the time and energy to invest in the youth will impact them for a lifetime. If it leads them to help others, you have started a chain of good works. That is the true purpose of sport.
Finally, coaching has a technical component. It forces you to study the sport. Your technique will improve because of your enhanced understanding. It will also help you relate to your coach and respond better to cueing.
Mentoring may come in many shapes and sizes. You may find an opportunity to mentor a younger athlete or somebody with no sports experience at all. Sports have taught you many life lessons, and these are valuable to all kinds of people.
I found an opportunity to help lead a small group of young ladies at my church. Although sports were referenced, our gatherings had nothing to do with athletics. I still got to use my experiences to guide them through their struggles. Remember that you are more than an athlete and your service opportunity doesn’t have to revolve around sport.
Mentoring is a wonderful option because of the variety it provides. You may meet with somebody once a week over coffee, or you may chat with them over the phone monthly. The person you mentor may be a sibling, younger teammate, or just a random connection. There is no syllable for mentoring. The best way to mentor is to be available to provide support.
There are opportunities to serve others in our everyday lives. Hold the door for someone. Help pick up after practice. Go grocery shopping for your mom. Bring dinner to a sick friend. Open your eyes, and you will see opportunities all around!
Serving will help you get out of our way. It gives you greater perspective, which can relieve you from the intense pressure of performing. Serving is beneficial because it forces outward thinking, gives you a helper’s high, connects you with the greater purpose, and develops community. There are many ways to serve. Follow your heart and get started!