How I Coped With Doubt And Pressure In Sports Training

Jennie Sarama

Jennie offers a personal account of her experiences playing basketball and how skills learned in training helped her develop both on and off the court.

Growing up, being involved in sport was really important to me. After struggling to find a group of friends that I really gelled with during school, I turned to basketball as a way of boosting my confidence and finding something I was good at. I had been conscious of my height for some time, but in secondary school I especially struggled with the reality of being a head taller than most of my peers.

It took me some time to become comfortable within myself and accept that I couldn’t change how tall I was, and through basketball I came to realise how something I had considered a disadvantage for so many years was actually a major asset – one which helped me from playing as a beginner in year 7 to representing England just a few years later.

[…] Winning – although important as part of a team’s vision – is not always the best personal goal to have

During my basketball journey I had a lot of highs and lows. I loved playing for my national league team and would anticipate every training, but when it came to regionals and later England trials and games, I would find my anxiety getting the better of me.

Whilst at the time I was not always aware of how much my mentality or confidence would affect my game, it was only when I played in my later years that I realised the importance of having faith in my own abilities. When I began to understand how my self-doubt would impact my performance on court, I took some time adapting my mentality, and coming to terms with what was holding me back.

This was when I started to develop not just in my sport, but also in my studies and on a possibly deeper level, as a person as well.

My first acknowledgement during my periods of reflection was that winning – although important as part of a team’s vision – is not always the best personal goal to have. Whilst this was hard for me to accept given my competitive nature, by focusing instead on my growth as a player and the specific weaknesses of my game, I came to understand that more individually focused goals had a lot more value.

They helped me to compartmentalise areas I needed to develop in, areas where I was strongest, and also lessened the pressure of the games themselves as I became less focused on the outcome and more rooted in the ways my team could develop through utilising every player’s strengths.

Whilst mindfulness and manifesting does not always have the power to win games, it does have the power to change the way you deal with situations

Another key lesson I learnt was the importance of not letting setbacks get me down. There’d been times when coaches had shouted at me in front of the team or when I’d worked really hard and not performed in the way I’d wanted to, but despite momentary upset, I came to realise that the less time I spent dwelling on them, the more time I spent working and improving.

By staying positive and not focusing on past failures, I began to enjoy the game more and found a new level of determination in me that I had never had before.

Mindfulness and manifestation may be something which you may be familiar with, or something you would never think of trying. During my training and development as a player, I found this to be one of the most crucial and fundamental parts of my daily regime.

By positive self-talk and going into a game with a collected headspace I performed better, both as a player and leader. Whilst mindfulness and manifesting does not always have the power to win games, it does have the power to change the way you deal with situations and interact with others on and off the court.

Whether you play a team sport or train independently, I hope these steps can help you to understand the importance of mentality when it comes to performance.

Nowadays, there is a lot of pressure on young athletes which often goes unnoticed, and I like to think that despite struggling for some time in my sporting career, through a bit of reflection I was able to overcome it, with the experiences in many ways shaping who I am today.

Jennie Sarama 

Featured image used courtesy of Chilli Head via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image use licence here.

In article images courtesy of Jennie Sarama. No changes were made to these images. 

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