SPORT – IDENTITY: WHO ARE YOU?

“Unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” – Rev. Peter Marshall

UNDERSTANDING YOUR WHO: You are unique.  There is no one like you.  What you bring to the world (to your family, friends, and career) no one else can bring.  Your job is to learn to be yourself rather than allow others or circumstances to dictate who you should become.  Unless you know who you are, you are vulnerable to becoming someone you are not.  Knowing who you are and what your why is (covered next week) will serve as the foundation for what decisions you make and how you go about your life and performance.

ATHLETE IDENTITY: Are athletics who you are…or what you do? Many athletes have a difficult time developing their identity because they often become more known for what they do rather than for who they are.  Getting caught up in this athlete identity can be a dangerous game.  As we all know sport is full of ups and downs.  For someone to base their entire identity on how they are performing is to have a constantly wavering sense of self (many hard working students face similar identity issues with their grades).   For example, an athlete on a hot streak might feel on top of the world.  Then after a poor performance feel unworthy.  Your identity is not meant to be fragile.  It is up to each individual to develop their own core identity and stand strong in it.   Who are you?  Are you only an athlete? Or a person who happens to engage in athletics? There is a huge difference.  Where you place your identity is where you place your value. Again, a dangerous game if not given some real thought especially when considering injuries or retirement.  Who will you be then?
CORE IDENTITY: Your goal is to be who you need to be when you need to be it, without budging on your core identity.  Your core identity lies in those principles that guide how you go about your life. For example, some of the greatest competitors on the field could care less about competing in the classroom.  This is due to a core identity issue that shows that they may be a competitor on the field but not necessarily in life.  Be resolved to: compete at your best when you are competing athletically.  Be the best son or daughter, boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, at home when you are at home.  Compete in the classroom when you are in the classroom.

The real art is in learning to hang up a hat (identity) and its associated characteristics when you are done with it and put on the next hat without carrying any baggage from one to the next. For example, an athlete who has to be loud and aggressive on the field should leave that on the field and return to a gentler person off the field and vice versa.  There are many athletes who take issues off the field right into their performance on the field and others who take their performance home with them.  Within a performance, some athletes take their defense into their offense and vice versa.  Learn to separate your different selves or identities so that you can be where you need to be when you need to be there, mentally and physically.  Keys to being who you need to be when you need to be it:

  • Becoming Superman: Develop pre-game routines to get into your competitor mentality and take time to put the things of life off the field in a mental filing cabinet to be opened later after the game.  Then put on your competitive self when you are putting on your uniform or have a physical line drawn somewhere that when you cross it you transform into your athlete self.
  • Becoming Clark Kent: Develop post-game routines that allow you to decompress and evaluate your performance from a non-emotional perspective (the good and bad). Then take time to visualize your next hat that you get to be next…and see yourself being it to the best of your ability regardless of what just happened on the field.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE AND CAREER: It’s all about gaining a greater sense of who you are.  When you are forced to sit down and write out your PERSONAL STAND, it becomes a living and true guiding force in your life.  When faced with difficult choices, your personal stand, your identity, your core values will always draw the line in the sand on which choice to make.  It then becomes as simple as, “Will the choice I am about to make line up with who I am and who I am striving to become?”
Keys to knowing your WHO:

  • What are the different identities (hats) I wear throughout a day?
  • Which one(s) do I identify with the most? Which one(s) do others most identify me with being?
  • What are my core values (examples: faith, honesty, integrity, caring, disciplined, loving, honest, genuine, giving, trustworthy, humble…)
  • My ethos (my guiding principles in life)?

(Examples: I strive to live in the present moment, learning from the past, and preparing for an ideal future; Nothing worth having in my life will come easy, I must work hard and smart to attain the life I want for myself; I give with no expectation of receiving anything in return).

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When you know who you are, your core values and the principles that will guide your life and decision making, it becomes much easier to draw the line in the sand when difficult choices come your way. Being an athlete on a mission starts with know who you are.