“The greatest benefit to your life will not be your accomplishments, but rather what happens inside you while you’re moving toward your goal.”
Sports are a big part of many children’s lives, and there are numerous benefits to having quality sporting experience. Work ethic, mental focus/toughness, cooperation, dealing with ups & downs, perseverance, following directions and sportsmanship are just some of the traits that can be developed through sports.
Unfortunately, many athletes get sucked into the high-pressure part of sports I call The Achieveatraon Machine.
The Achieveatron Machine is essentially an endless cycle of attempting to achieve the “next big thing” instead of focusing on the process. While the desire to constantly improve is an excellent trait for athletes to develop, the Achieveatron Machine is different.
An appropriate desire to improve is what gets young athletes to practice, focus, accept coaching and work hard. It’s a focus on the process, knowing that results will be seen with hard work.
The Achieveatron Machine, however. It crosses a line when athletes start to feel as though they are never enough. They can no longer enjoy sports or focus on the process because they feel like they have to always win, earn another scholarship or prove their worth through sports achievements. Young athletes begin to lose their identity and judge themselves strictly on their performance.
With the way youth sports has gone over the past 10-15 years, we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of athletes getting sucked into the Achieveatron Machine. This leads to anxiety, burnout, altered self-worth and a constant state of pressure to do more and more.
As coaches, we need to recognize when we see athletes getting sucked in and help pull them out of the Achieveatron Machine. Here are some tips and a video to help coaches, athletes, and parents avoid this trap:
Be honest with yourself.
Am I stuck in this machine? Have I conformed unknowingly?
2. CLARITY OF VALUES
What really matters the most to me?
Do I care most about the achievements and accomplishments? OR do I care more about who I become along the way? Are the habits I develop and lessons I learn more important than winning/losing?
3. RECOGNIZE and REWARD
Start recognizing and rewarding based on your values. If “hard work and effort” is a value, recognize and reward those behaviors.
If “overcoming fear and failure by not giving up and trying again” is a value of yours, recognize and reward your athlete when they do that.
Do you value “being a great teammate?” Recognize athletes when they high five and congratulate a teammate for shining bright, even if it meant they didn’t.
If I do not pull myself out of the Achievatron Machine, the consequences might be:
* Never feeling like I am enough
* Always needing more
* Loss of motivation at some point
* Roller coaster confidence – feeling good about myself WHEN I am achieving, feeling bad about myself when I am not
* Continual decrease in joy and passion for your sport.
Watch this short video of me talking about the Achieveatron Machine with more tips on how to help athletes avoid it.
Andrew Simpson is the founder of Players Fitness & Performance in Frederick, MD. He discovered he had a passion for Exercise Science, Nutrition, and Human Performance in 2010 and decided to blend this with his love for athletics by opening PFP. He and his team have been blessed with the responsibility to mentor and develop hundreds of middle and high school students in the Frederick area. Andrew’s mission is to inspire youth to live uncommon lives and to be bold enough to become extraordinary leaders.
Many coaches talk about mental toughness, but do you really know how to develop this important trait in athletes? It’s not about wall sits or pushing past limits. It’s about being able to focus and perform at a high level without letting distractions affect performance. There are simple strategies that coaches and parents can employ to develop this ability in young athletes. The IYCA Mental Toughness Course teaches you the skills and exercises needed to help young athletes. Developed by world-renowned sports psychologist Haley Perlus, this is an absolute MUST for any coach working with young athletes.