An Open Letter To The Athlete With An Attitude Problem

To The Athlete With An Attitude Problem

An open letter to every player who struggles with the mental game.

To The Athlete With An Attitude Problem

Dear Athlete,

I'm not going to bark at you or call you a punk, so just hear me out.

The fact is, I understand you, because I was you.

My shoulders would drop the moment I missed a shot. My head would hang after a turnover. My confidence would plummet at the first sign of criticism.

It's OK to have high expectations for yourself. It's OK to strive for perfection. It's OK to want to perform well every time you suit up, but it's not OK to allow these things to affect your effort. It's not OK to have a negative attitude because you aren't performing your best. It's not OK to sacrifice team success due to a lack of individual success. Don't allow one mistake to turn into many more the way that it did for me.

A theory that I have found to be true is this: Success is inevitable for a resilient perfectionist.

I was terrified of looking bad. I felt that if I didn't perform perfectly every time I stepped into the arena, I was failing. The truth is, I was failing, but not in the way that I originally thought. To fail is to be unsuccessful in achieving one's goal. You cannot be a perfectionist and be mentally weak at the same time. I always viewed failure as a bad thing, not realizing that every failed attempt would bring me closer to where I wanted to be. If your goals are unattainable, you have to learn to embrace failure.

Thinking back on my high school career, I can't remember a single game where I tried my hardest and still didn't play well. My best games were a result of making a decision within myself to strive for maximum effort, not minimal errors.

Don't be afraid to show emotion. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable. Don't be afraid to try too hard because you're worried about "looking cool."

Because you know what?

Being the loudest cheerleader on the bench is cool. Diving for loose balls is cool. Messing up because you're pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is cool.

It took me 18 years to realize these things, but it takes way more guts to show that you care than it does to have an "I-don't-give-a-f***" attitude.

When the final buzzer sounded and my high school career was over, I promise you this: I did not think about all the shots that I missed. A reel of turnovers that I had committed over the years did not run through my head. In fact, I didn't remember a single skill-related error that I made. The only thing that raced through my mind was, "I wish that I could go back to freshman year and try harder."

Not try harder to score more points or minimize turnovers.

Try harder to be the best teammate from the start. Try harder in practice. Try harder to build confidence. Try harder to compete. Try harder to make those around me better.

I learned the hard way. I eventually embraced what it means to be a great teammate. Find it within yourself to change your outlook now, not later. Trust me when I say that you will be so glad you did. You never get those early years back.


An Athlete With A Former Attitude Problem

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