The rewards are going to come, but my happiness is just loving the sport and having fun performing.
- Jackie Joyner Kersee
The phrase “Just go out there and have fun” is a common phrase that athletes will hear from coaches, peers, and parents. Take a moment to think about what makes sports fun for you.
Some of the top reasons why athletes find sports fun include: learning new skills, friendships, receiving compliments and earning the respect of coaches and peers, learning from mistakes, working together, applying learned skills, and supporting others (Visek et.al., 2015).
Tip’s for creating more fun in your sport starts by having the right mindset.
Take some time to inventory the following:
a. Thoughts: the words and images in your head.
What are the thoughts that go through your head when you are either practicing or competing in your sport?
b. Attitude: this is your outlook on things, be it the glass is half empty or glass is half full.
Does your attitude change in certain situations? Or, are you always approaching your sport with one type of attitude?
c. Beliefs: these are your personal values and expectations.
What are your beliefs as they relate to you, others (i.e., coaches, teammates, friends, and family), your future, and even how you view your town, city, or the world?
d. Feelings: represent your emotions and the intensity of emotional reactions.
Are you an emotional athlete?
Do you need to get excited to feel confident?
Or, when you make mistakes, do your emotions get the best of you?
e. Body: this includes the physical feelings and sensations of how your body responds in certain situations. this includes your five senses.
Think about your last game and last practice. Now, focus in on your five senses.
What sticks out to you in those moments, as it relates to your five senses?
Are they the same or different?
Does one experience feel better or worse than the other?
f. Actions are how you act, react, things you avoid doing, and if moments in practice and competition seem to either speed up or slow down, or seem bigger or smaller in the moment as well.
Taking inventory of your mindset will help you to understand what your thoughts and actions are as they relate to your performance. This will allow you to see what helps you to perform your best and what causes you to perform poorly. It should also help you to identify when you are having fun, what having fun means to you, and how your mind and body act and react in those situations.
Ingredients for having fun in sports and life include feelings of achievement, pride, satisfaction, growth, and progress.
Tips to integrate fun into sports and other areas of your life as well.
1. Reward yourself with fun non-sports related activities after trainings, practices, and competitions. Create ways to reward yourself for accomplishing your goals and for a job well done. It’s important to own your successes and to celebrate them as well.
2. Understand the difference between competition and preparation.
Preparation is where you put in the hard work. It’s the blood, sweat, and tears you put in to improve and prepare for competition. Competition is the time to execute your game plan and to just go out there and play/perform.
3. Identify the small moments where you can laugh, mess-around, and be light-hearted in practice.
For example, arrive early to practice, to hangout with teammates and to just mess around; go all out in your favorite drills; and head to the trainers room after practice for an ice bath and to just hangout with teammates and other athletes.
4. Create a special pre-game activity, be it the night before or day of that is fun, relaxing, or something special before competitions.
It can be as little as setting aside time to play video games, hangout with friends, or just have a favorite meal before a game.
5. Spend quality time with teammates outside of practice and competition.
Team dinners are a great way to just hangout and bond with teammates before games. It a great way to take the edge off thinking about the game.
6. Break things down into smaller chunks, like creating goals and expectations for the off-season, preseason, 1st half of the regular season, 2nd half of the regular season, and the postseason. It’s easier to see progress and improvement, and to celebrate your dedication and passion.
7. Balance sports with the rest of your life.
Make sure to put in the quality time with other things in your life that are important as well. This will allow your mind and body to relax and recover because you are not just focused on one thing.
While it may seem uncomfortable, it's better to feel uncomfortable and to challenge yourself than it is to feel like it's unbearable and impossible!
Visek, A. J., Achrati, S. M., Mannix, H., McDonnell, K., Harris, B. S., & DiPietro, L. (2015, March). The fun integration theory: Toward sustaining children and adolescents sport participation. Retrieved December, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201634/