As a young athlete, it’s natural to feel like there are many things in your life that are outside of your control. But often, we underestimate just how much control we do have over interactions with other people, including coaches, parents, officials, physicians, dietitians, and even our peers and teammates.
Here, TrueSport Expert Amanda Stanec, PhD, the founder and owner of MOVE + LIVE + LEARN, is sharing a few tips for creating better connections within your sport circle by showing those around you how they can support you, and how you can support them.
Remember that in every interaction, you’re a human first
“An athlete is a person who happens to play a sport,” Stanec says. “The athlete is a human first, one who hopefully has a wide variety of hobbies and interests. So, I think the first thing to remember as you interact with others is that you matter as a human, not just as an athlete. Keep that in your head as you help others understand your needs, and keep that in mind when interacting with peers.”
You have the right to set boundaries
“I think athletes should have boundaries and be able to communicate these boundaries in a way that is respectful,” Stanec says. “For example, if a coach is rude, it’s not mentally tough for an athlete just to receive that and not react. If the coach is rude, ideally an athlete can say, ‘Respectfully, I don’t understand what you want me to do. Can you please help me understand?'” Remember that even adults struggle to take criticism gracefully, so you may find that the conversation isn’t immediately productive.
Check your own behavior
While you absolutely should have the agency and ability to tell a coach or other adult how you want to be treated, it’s also important to check yourself regularly. If you feel like a coach has been criticizing you unfairly, it’s a great idea to have that conversation. But it’s also important to ask yourself honestly if there is any validity to their critiques. Can you learn from them, even if the delivery wasn’t ideal?
Teammates are people, too
At any age, it’s easy (and often healthy!) to put ourselves in the role of the ‘main character’ of our lives. This can be a great thing, since it helps us focus on reaching our goals and standing up for ourselves. But it can also occasionally cause us to not see that other people are main characters in their own right. For example: During a competition, you perceive a teammate as hogging the ball or not passing to you. The ‘main character’ version of this story is that the teammate is angry at you and purposely didn’t pass you the ball. But Stanec points out that perhaps the other player didn’t see you, or maybe was having a bad day because of a bad test score. Always remember that your teammates are humans too, and assume the best when it comes to their intentions. That said—don’t be afraid to have a conversation after the game, since perhaps this is a chance to work on passing skills for next time!