Identity – Why is it Important for Athletes?
Identity – the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others
The greatest athletes in every sport are original. They each have a very specific identity they bring to their sports.
Think about the current, dominant athletes – and how they bring something very different to their sports and do things differently from others. These athletes are so recognizable – we only need a few seconds to identify them … think about how different the current, dominant athletes are … Messi, Lebron James, Miguel Cabrera, Sidney Crosby, Rory McIlroy, Rafael Nadal, Peyton Manning and others who stand out in their sport. We know these athletes immediately by the way they move and play the game … in their own way.
Athletes struggle with identity – there is so much information around them and so many opinions about them that they can easily stray from their true north and not utilize their strengths and natural abilities – and become something from someone else’s vision of them.
For example, a client of mine, a Professional Hockey Player in the National Hockey League struggled with his identity as there was so much conflicting information about how he should shape his game to be effective in the league – that he got away from what made him successful at each level. He needed perspective and work on developing his identity to get back to where he could be confident and consistent … and the player he was … successfully filling a defined role on his team.
I also see this in individual sports where clients on the PGA Tour abandon the skills and habits that served them well at all levels – after listening to the endless opinions from others who have “advice” or a vision for them. Many get away from their natural abilities and what got them to the highest level. It can be a frustrating and confusing time for a player.
This is again why self-awareness is so critical in sport. The athlete must know themselves, understand their strengths and limitations, what works for them and what doesn’t. They must clearly understand themselves and what separates them from everyone else.
Athletes today have grown up in the “Be like Mike” generation – where young people are inundated with information suggesting that if they try to be like someone who has been successful – they will be successful too. This influence erodes originality and moves athletes away from their authentic self.
Athletes must be true to themselves and express their originality to separate themselves from other athletes – and maximize their own potential. The best athletes in history are different – they are easily definable by their individual characteristics and attitudes.
To help athletes stay true to their authentic self and bring something original to their sport, coaches and parents can contribute by applauding and supporting originality and creativity.
If you are an athlete or any kind of performer and want to stand out … be original!