In this article, I’m going to teach how to connect your religion or faith to help you perform better in sports.
The story of Julie
Julie was 16 when she came to me devastated that she did not make the varsity soccer team. The varsity coach had seen her play the year before and even complimented her on her excellent defense at the end of a game as she came off the field. She had worked on her game over the summer and thought she was a shoo-in this year.
But it didn’t happen and she felt her confidence completely drain away as she looked at the posting on the bulletin board of the current team lineups. To make things worse, three of her good friends did make the varsity team and she felt left behind. Working with her in my office, as I do with all my athletes,
I asked her if she has any spiritual or religious beliefs. She says,
“Oh yes, I’m a Christian.”
I ask her on a scale of 1 to 10 how strong her beliefs are about her religion and she says
This is music to my ears because I knew we were going to be able to take that strong belief and build up her confidence with it rather easily compared to some folks who have no religious beliefs. Having learned a few things from some christian sports coaches I am friends with, I continued the questioning with,
“So, what do you think is God’s main purpose for you being here on this planet?”
“To spread God’s word and follow Jesus’ teaching.”
I typically get a little lightheartedly sarcastic at this point in sessions in order to tear apart the conflicting beliefs that are causing the problem and so I said,
“You mean you’re not here on the planet to be the greatest female soccer player that ever lived?”
As I flashed her a big grin so she knew I was totally kidding. (By the way, are you noticing how this conversation would be almost the same no matter what religion or sport we are coaching?) After a few more jokes about this, we got to the point I want to make when I asked her,
“How can you not making the varsity team be a great thing that contributes to God’s purpose for you? In other words, how is this going to be a good thing overall for you?”
She was a bit stunned as those two ideas had not been connected in her mind until now and she said,
“I don’t know.”
Then I asked,
“Well, what do you think you can learn and gain from this experience?
Imagine it’s a year from now and you are looking back on today, how can you be wiser, tougher, more resilient and confident than you are today BECAUSE of it? This is where the conversation gets fun for me as her wheels began to turn in her head.
“Well, I could vow to myself to work harder on my game than I ever have and finish the season getting the best defense award.”
“That would build my confidence.”
“Yes, and what else?”
I urged her on.
“I could just think of soccer as something that’s fun and focus more on my school and my Christian leadership activities.”
“Excellent!” I said. “And how could either of those possible scenarios help you to live God’s purpose for you?”
“Well, if I come back strong in soccer, maybe I could learn what it takes to overcome difficult stuff in our lives through God’s power and teach it to others now and in my future. And if I go the other way, well, that’s obvious since I will be spending more time and energy directly in my Christian program.”
“What if it could turn out that you not making varsity was a huge turning point in your life that brought you here to learn mental toughness skills so you become a ton more confident, not only in your sport, but in your life?
Is it easy being a Christian?
“No!” she replied emphatically.
“I’m always being teased about being a goody two shoes or a Jesus freak and sometimes I feel bad about that.”
“Would having a confidence mindset help you withstand that kind of teasing so that you can continue God’s purpose for you?”
“Well then, let’s get to work. Thank God you didn’t make the varsity team!”
And she started herself on a powerful journey right there in my office as you could see the shift in her body posture. I’ve had plenty more similar stories of religion and sports and how they can compliment each other. My good friend and Christian basketball coach, Wayne Mendezona, said they definitely go together,
“Athletes can tap into that Biblical strength and energy that God has provided for you us as a Christian.”
(By the way, we are coming out with a “Christian Mental Toughness” program with Coach Mendo. It’s already filmed. Make sure you are on our email list to get notification when it comes out.)
The key is, to RELATE what is happening to the athlete in their sports to a higher purpose. Many Christian coaches (and other faiths too) get another level of performance from their athletes this way. Let’s do this!
I’m Craig Sigl,
Your Mental Toughness Trainer