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Sports Takes: Validation, Perseverance, and Back Pain pt2

Just a bit of a quick summary, basically part one was about values I learned through sports such as emotional compartmentalization and essentially a thicker skin.

Another thing I wanted to talk about was a more realistic and physical aspect that student-athletes are likely to face in any sport: injuries come in varying shapes and sizes and degrees of intensity and impact. I know I myself have suffered many, including many sprained ankles and fingers, floor burns and bruises, and a hairline fracture on my arm. Of course, injuries are terrible for physical reasons, but they also can really discourage athletes mentally. I haven't suffered any career-ending injuries, but I know of people who have. Severe injuries such as broken bones or ligaments, or the seemingly most common extreme injury, the torn ACL, can end the career of athletes at most or can keep them off the court or field at the least. With injuries, most of you know that it is necessary to take time off the court. With this time off, it's easy to see regression in your own skill, and progress and your peers or teammates. Even socially, it's tough seeing all your friends be able to practice and play the sport that they love while you must take a back seat. That social FOMO can be really discouraging and upsetting. That's totally valid. I can't say that I've really experienced this on a large scale in regard to being scared of falling behind my teammates, and that is not because I was better than all of them; I just really never got that severely injured, to be honest. However, I've had a notable number of friends and teammates who were deeply dedicated to their extracurriculars express to me that it was tough having to sit out games and practices. Now this phenomenon is tough to solve from my perspective because I can't say I've had great first-hand experience with it. However, I do have experience with both FOMO and sports, so my best advice to you (another disclaimer: this will not work for everybody. This is just my opinion. Thanks.) would be to take the necessary time to recover, and during that time, focus on either something else entirely, or still attend what you can such as watching practices and games while focusing on the nonphysical aspects of your extracurricular. For example, for volleyball, this would look like watching college games or reading up on the different defensive formations. For basketball, this might mean reviewing the playbook or again watching it on a professional level. A small sidenote, watching sports on a professional level is always a pretty solid way to learn more about it and what you can do to get better. But that's not really the point here. Personally, I was not that dedicated to volleyball to the point where I would watch college films in lieu of practicing if I was ever hurt. I was more along the lines of “use this time for schoolwork and piano” instead. But once again, to each their own.

Another huge topic I wanted to broach was validation. I've played volleyball for long enough to see my teammates strive to play at a higher level and work their hardest to achieve that. They often look to coaches, other teammates, and their parents for a nod indicating that they're going in the right direction. This is totally fine until it's not. Validation in itself is honestly kind of dangerous depending on the source. Especially if that source is your sport. Here's the rule of the universe: everybody has good days, and everybody has bad days. This applies to literally everything, and sports is not an exclusion. No matter how hard you practice, you aren't going to be perfect, and that shouldn’t be news to anybody. It is OK and it is natural to have a rough tournament or a rough game or a rough practice or even just a rough play. Obviously, you probably shouldn't try to purposefully achieve those days, but when they happen, they happen. It is so easy for someone else to look at you and judge you end criticize you for one poor performance. However, it is also true that it is not accurate to judge an athlete based on one bad performance. It is good to be invested in your performance in a sport, but it shouldn't get as far as your self-esteem or physical health. Sports like dance, cheer, and gymnastics I think our pretty big examples of sports validation gone wrong, causing ailments such as severe injuries or serious eating disorders. It is extremely important to learn how to remove your performance and sports to your own self-efficacy as a human being. If you're seeking sports validation, then it makes sense to take compliments and comments from your coach to heart. However, sports validation should not be equivalent to general self-validation. It's hard to talk about the healthiest and most correct way to receive validation, so I won't tell you that there's a “most effective way.” Personally, validation came a lot from academics, but eventually, it came from my self-esteem and confidence that I am a solid and relatively well-functioning and compassionate person. If you base your validation on something fickle like sports or grades, you are most likely going to be in a constant mood-swinging state. Try and find security in your life that gives you pride that you can rely on for real validation. Again, there's no perfect source, but trying to find a better source will help in the long run.

Lastly, I wanted to mention perseverance. Out of all the things I've talked about is the most important quality to have one facing challenges in life or in sports. Being able to face challenges such as any quality, injuries, and drama is part of being an athlete. Building perseverance through sports not only helps athletes face challenges on the court but also off the court. Whether this means angering less when things don’t go your way or not giving up after a first, second, or third failed attempt, or finding the willpower to finish one more project or assignment, perseverance is one of the most valuable virtues I learned through playing intensive sports. While perseverance is deeply important, knowing when to quit is also important, especially for matters of physical and mental health. A theme I like to pursue on this blog is being in touch with yourself because it makes coping and dealing with problems that much easier. So definitely know when to keep going and when to stop. Ok, that’s all I have for today- thanks for reading!

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