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Sport Mental and Physical Challenges

An athlete is not just a muscular individual who just cares about his fitness. He is also a champion, or aspires to be, and must have a good mind to take up the challenge. A good mental preparation allows the athlete to remain positive, to face his fears and to clearly affirm his ambitions. This involves enthusiasm, self-confidence, the constant desire to win and especially the pleasure of the game. Indeed, no athlete can claim to succeed if he does not enjoy playing, or if he ‘bored. Sport must be for him a moment of escape and release to enable him to give himself thoroughly.

The athlete with an “iron mind” is the one who knows how to manage his emotions, who does not get angry during the game, who does not give up in case of domination and who supports the pain (fatigue, injury). In addition, a good mind at the athlete allows him to have specific goals, visualize in his head in a positive way and work to achieve them. On the other hand, a good mind must result in good concentration. This is an attitude that aims to be totally in the “game” and avoid mistakes that can be fatal.

Mental Challenges Faced in Sports

Some athletes have high stress, close to panic during competitions when they consider the decisive issues for their career. A series of repeated failures can also make them doubt their ability to perform and put them into a vicious circle of doubt and underperformance.

The deep investment of top athletes can also lead to an inability to bear failure. A frustration can thus settle down causing impulsive, even aggressive reactions.

Another deleterious effect of high-level sport is the risk of eating disorders. The high level athlete has a complicated relationship with his body. He does not admit his failures. This sometimes leads to addictive behaviors such as excessive intake of protein supplements to increase muscle mass, taking stimulant or doping products … Another behavior associated with difficulties in managing the image of his body is anorexia nervosa. It can for example occur in young gymnasts anxious to keep a body “air”.

Overtraining is due to training that is too frequent, too intense, too long, which can be associated with excessive pressure during competitions, frequent trips, poorly supported jet lag …). It can also have serious consequences on the minds of athletes. Symptoms of overtraining vary from person to person: irritability, fatigue, eating and sleeping disorders, infectiousness, and low self-esteem. Fatigue, stress and mismanagement of energy reserves lead to lower performance. Muscle micro lesions due to excessive exercise are a source of chronic inflammation of the muscle. This condition, coupled with lower concentration and lower motivation, increases the risk of injury. Injuries that immobilize the athlete are, in turn, a source of anxiety and stress and accentuate the physical and psychological fragility of the athlete. It is therefore important to reduce the training, or even to take a break of a few months to allow recovery … and to find a healthy lifestyle (sleep, nutrition …)

Beyond overtraining syndrome, top athletes are also at risk of burnout. This condition, linked, among other things, to a refusal to recognize their physical limits, provokes the same signs as the burnout syndrome encountered in the world of work. Athletes suffering from burnout have great fatigue, a fall in performance and motivation, they do not support external pressures, and they live very poorly their failure and disengage. Psychotherapeutic care is necessary and the stopping of the sporting practice in competition is essential, often signifying the end of the sports career.

Among the dangers of high-level sport, there is also exaggerated risk taking, which is particularly common among teenagers. Their extreme need for performance and success, sometimes exacerbated by the pressure of parents and their entourage, can lead them to jeopardize their health, even their lives. At the same time, they have a lower perception of danger at this age. The role of the coaches is fundamental to help them know the limits not to be exceeded.

Finally, the occurrence of injuries or the inevitable decline in performance leading to the end of the sports career can lead to serious psychological disorders, which can lead to suicide among young people whose identity was based solely on their sporting status. Indeed, high-level sport requires a huge emotional and physical investment.

Physical Challenges Faced in Sports

  • Developing athletes participate in too many competitions and do not train enough
  • Adult training and competition programs are imposed on developing athletes
  • Training methods and competition programs designed for male athletes are imposed on female athletes
  • The preparation is focused on short-term victory and not on the long-term development process
  • Training and competition are based on chronological age rather than stage of development
  • Most coaches do not take advantage of critical periods of physical development, during which athletes have the best chance of getting the most out of skill, speed, endurance, strength and flexibility
  • Determinants of the motor condition and basic sport skills are not taught adequately
  • The most knowledgeable coaches work in high performance sport and volunteers work with developing athletes, while quality coaching is essential at this level
  • Parents are not educated in the principles of development
  • The specific training needs of athletes with a disability are not well understood
  • In most sports, the competition system hinders the development of the athlete
  • Often, there is no talent identification system
  • There is no cohesion between physical education programs, community recreation programs and high level competition programs
  • Sports advocate too early a specialization to attract and retain participants

Consequences

  • Optimal performance is rarely achieved in international competitions
  • Deficient movement skills
  • Inadequate physical fitness
  • Incomplete skill development
  • Bad habits arise because of excessive participation in victory-based competitions
  • Under-training results in poorly used and unrefined motor skills
  • Inadequate programs prevent women from reaching their full potential
  • Children do not have fun when they participate in programs designed for adults
  • There is no systematic preparation of the next generation of international athletes
  • The lack of harmonization of school programs, clubs, and provincial teams results in over-solicited athletes
  • Provincial and national team coaches must implement programs to address the shortcomings related to athlete development
  • National performance fluctuates due to lack of talent screening and development model
  • Athletes do not achieve their genetic potential and optimal level of performance

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