Recently, a Bloom blog titled 'Sports: Benefiting Military Teens' discussed the incredible benefits that sports can have on military teens. However, something that I feel is often overlooked is the stress that can also come along with pursuing a sport, especially when moves and the military lifestyle impact performance and results.
Last year was my first official year pursuing competitive swimming. I would never consider myself a super elite swimmer, but I found value in my team and in myself. I learned new skills, and not only did I find myself improving, but I found myself loving the journey. I learned to appreciate my body and my mind and all the things that I could accomplish.
And then I moved.
Whether I wanted to admit it or not, moving had a significant impact on my performance, confidence in my skills, and mental stability. Moving resulted in a bumpy road back to training and difficult encounters with new teammates and coaches. I found myself not competing at the same level I had before, and I was constantly comparing my times and results to what I used to do and where I used to be. It was a painful experience because not only had I lost my progress, but I lost my confidence in an area that had grown so valuable in my life. Studies by Trine University have shown that people who compete in individual sports, like swimming, often place greater pressure on themselves and experience more anxiety than people who compete in team sports. The feeling of your success being placed solely on you adds an extreme amount of pressure and can cause burnout and a loss of passion for the sport. That’s what happened to me. I felt as if I had failed myself by not being able to swim as fast or be as strong. I was hard on myself to the point where I felt like I had no value if I didn’t perform as well in swimming.
But slowly, I started to break through that mindset. At one of my most recent competitions, I realized that I could no longer compare my present reality to my past. I was no longer at the same level I was before, and that was perfectly fine. Times had changed, my circumstances had changed, and I had changed. I wasn’t a failure. The only thing that would result in true failure was if I gave up. Instead of looking to my side in comparison, or looking back at where I used to be, I had to look forward. I had to choose to stay in my own lane, fixing my eyes on my new goals. So today, choose to keep fighting. Choose to keep practicing and pushing harder. Choose to stay in your own lane and finish strong.