Blog article byAngelo A. Rossetti, USPTA Elite/PTR Professional, USTA HP & Mental Skills Certified & 2X Guinness World Records™ holder
Athletes at all levels need to learn how to understand and deal with fear rather than to try to avoid it. Fear in sports comes from two primary outcomes:
Fear of failure.
Fear of success.
Studies have shown that human beings strive to avoid pain rather than seek pleasure. In V. Nicol’s book Social Economies of Fear and Desire: Emotional Regulation, Emotion Management, and Embodied Autonomy, “…fear is the painfully felt urge to overcome danger in order to avoid pain, while desire is the pleasurably felt urge to implement security in order to pursue pleasure. Together fear and desire constitute the most basic forms of subjective motivation to act.”
Fear is the more powerful form of motivation.
Unless you are fearful of physical harm, fear in sports typically centers around undesirable outcomes. The fear of failure or losing could lead to disappointment by your parents, coaches and friends. You might not be as popular or authoritative in your sport in the eyes of others. Ultimately champions LOVE to win and HATE to lose but they are not AFRAID of losing. They embrace the opportunity for the chance at winning. They understand the risks. They are able to rationalize the fact that they cannot directly control the outcome so they might as well enjoy the process and see what happens.
Failures are the steps to success. The more times you fail the greater your chances of succeeding. I know this seems counterintuitive from a confidence standpoint but it’s true. It took Thomas Edison 10,000 attempts to refine the lightbulb. He sees each failure as simply a “step” towards the invention. He failed his way forward to success.
The fear of winning is a different animal in the same species. Winning could put you in the uncomfortable spotlight. It can put more pressure on you the next time around to succeed. It inflates everyone’s expectations of your performance going forward. You can no longer fly under the radar. Change is not good or bad it is just change. So if you have a fear of failure or a fear of winning, it’s ok as long as you are able to rationalize the fact that you cannot control the outcome, so enjoy the process and deal with the outcome, whether losing or winning, when it comes.
Compete like a wolf. Wolves rarely have or show fear. Understand and put fear in its rightful place. You do not need to protect yourself from what others think , what you will feel or what the outcome might be. Focus on controlling the controllables rather than worrying about the outcome and everything else will fall into place.
I believe in the motto of Special Olympics which I learned when volunteering at the 1995 Special Olympics World Games at Yale University: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.“
I always welcome feedback at angeloarossetti @ gmail .com.
You can learn more about a couple of tennis GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ that I have been a part of: