How important is self-awareness in athlete performance? John Haime cites examples from both golf & football, discussing the potentially hazardous ‘blind spots’ in an athletes development, how to look out for them and how coaches can support athletes in navigating around these challenging issues.
I was inspired to write this article by a quote I come across from a friend of mine, Melinda Harrison, a former Olympic swimmer who specialises in helping athletes transition from the world of sport to their next great venture.
“If you do not see the wave coming, it can smack you down and pull you under leaving you feeling tossed around, upside down, gasping for breath and picking out sand from areas you never knew existed,” she wrote.
I knew this feeling well in my professional sports career. I was tossed around often. In fact, these waves were blind spots that eventually derailed a professional sports career that had promise. I found myself metaphorically picking sand from areas I never knew existed (far too many times), and I didn’t understand how it was happening.
What are the blind spots in your game? Those waves you don’t see coming that leave you tossed around and falling short of your capabilities.
Right now is a great time of the year to roll up your sleeves and reflect on what happened during 2016 — and what you might do in 2017 to get more enjoyment and make some positive strides in your game. How was your football year? Happy with it? Wanting more?
In a reflection exercise, I highly recommend you consider your own blind spots, and what might be unconsciously holding you back from moving forward and getting more out of your game.
Blind spots damage performance
Working with world-class performers every day, I can assure you that understanding blind spots is important in performance. Almost every performer I have worked with has them, and I expect you do, too. Part of my job is to help these world-class performers identify their blind spots, making sure they have a clear view of what’s beneath their awareness and might therefore be holding them back.
Let’s highlight the idea of blind spots by using my own professional sports career (professional golf) as an example. This may help you start thinking about your own blind spots and get the wheels turning. I had a few tendencies that were constantly beneath my awareness that kept me on the treadmill and not striding forward on a steady, consistent career path.
A few examples:
- Focusing too much time on the long game in golf, obsessing about it and not allocating more effort to the game from 100 yards and in from the green. I neglected to keep the object of the game in mind (shooting the lowest score possible!).
- Failing to develop my self-awareness. I had limited awareness how my emotions were knocking me around and creating a blurry focus, especially under the pressures of professional golf.
- Not fully understanding the critical impact of others’ expectations on my day-to-day performance.
- No clear path forward. I did not have a well-defined vision or detailed steps in place to guide day-to-day progress and development.
You can imagine how these blind spots could make sustainable progress in my career difficult. Each of the areas above needed attention in order for me to have a better opportunity to reach new levels.
What are your football blind spots?
What is holding you back that may be beneath your awareness? In the next short while, I encourage you to think about your own blind spots, and also consider some feedback from others who may know your game. Chances are an honest assessment of your blind spots, and some outside feedback, will shed some light on the factors that are limiting you.
To help you further, here are a few, common football blind spots that I have seen in players I work with at a variety of levels. Could any of these apply to you?
- Always having to be coached and not putting time in on your own to develop your skills – individual training and skill development is key to excellence
- Getting far too caught up in the technical aspect of the game and neglecting the creative component
- Not having the discipline to work on weaknesses – working on strengths is fine but weaknesses need to be developed so they don’t limit you (i.e. left foot)
- Effort in training is nowhere near effort in matches – when effort in training should be higher than matches
- Having trouble taking your game from the training ground to the match pitch and not understanding why
- Losing focus over small mistakes and not being able to get it back on track the rest of the match
- It’s either perfect or nothing – you insist on perfection and are never happy with your performance
- Not enjoying the game as much as you should and not knowing why
These ideas should help you get started on your own assessment. Take some time to think about it in the the next while. Reflection is an important characteristic in high performers and a key to improvement. Identifying your blind spots is a great first step in understanding what may be holding you back in your game on the pitch.