How to Handle the Social Stress of Being an Athlete
By Kathryn Mellon
Being a young adult or teenager is difficult for anyone but add the additional stress of being an athlete and suddenly you are trying to juggle school, homework, training, competition as well as having a social life and spending time with your friends & family. The older you get the more freedom and opportunity you receive and often a decision needs to be made between school, sport and social activities.
For team sports, there is often a readymade social circle. A family. You win together, you lose together, and you celebrate together. For individual sports, you most likely have a training group but you are competing individually and your social circle may come predominately from outside the training environment. With that comes difficulties choosing between social activities with your friends and training for your sport.
Here are my top tips for handling social pressures.
1. DECIDE WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU
One of the most important questions to ask yourself when participating in sport is – Why are you participating in your sport? There will be times when you are torn between a big social event and a sporting competition conflict (I missed my school semi-formal to go to nationals). This is where you need to ask yourself what is important to you? What are you more likely to have regrets over? Not going to that high school party on the weekend or the team win you missed out on or the competition event you could have won. Nobody but you can make that decision and ultimately as long as you are comfortable with the choice you make, that’s all that matters.
2. COMMUNICATION IS KEY
If your friends are pressuring you to drink or stay out late and you know you can’t, have a talk to them about it. If they are good friends to you then they will find other social activities to include you in that don’t involve staying out late before training or writing yourself off before game day.
3. PREPARE TO MAKE SACRIFICES
You can’t do everything or be in two places at once and that is something you will need to accept. Chances are at some point you will have an offseason or a few weeks off where you can catch up on the social activities. Or schedule consistent weekend catch-ups with friends when you are around.
Have some down time when you get the chance. When you’re not on a crazy training schedule: binge-watch Netflix, go to the shops, have dinner with friends. Make the most of the free time you have to spend with friends, rest or relax with family. Giving yourself some “ME time” is important in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
5. BE TIME SMART
Make an effort to not study in front of the TV or around other people if you know it is going to distract you. Focus on the task at hand, get it done and it will give you more time to enjoy some social time when you don’t have an assignment due the next day.