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Athletes and Balance

This past week I listened to Tiger Woods deliver his apology to the media regarding his behavior and the effect it has had on him and his family. Obviously, many have commented on his speech, whether he meant what he said and whether he actually wrote it or had it written for him. From the speech, we have learned that he has been in therapy for his behaviors, he has been working on trying to keep his marriage and family intact, he acknowledged that he needs to clean up his behavior on the golf course when he returns and most importantly that Tiger Woods himself, has realized that he is human.

Since he was a toddler, he has been treated as a golf prodigy. With appearances on national television with his father, Tiger showed how good he was at swinging a golf club. He was projected to be a great golfer someday. Well, that prediction became reality and with it came problems. Those problems in my opinion as a sport psychologist looking in from the outside related to one of my favorite topics that I discuss with athletes I work with. That word is BALANCE. I have never met Tiger Woods, but have watched his development from afar. I have often wondered how he handled the pressures and expectations that came with so much fame, success and money. Now we know in part how he dealt with it. I don’t care who you are, what sport you play, how successful you become. No matter what, you are just as human as everyone else. During my 30 years working in this profession, I have met many extremely successful athletes and coaches who have become champions from the Olympics all the way down to youth sports. I have also met many who never became as successful as they had hoped. No matter what successes or failures they have faced in athletics, athletes and coaches still have to deal with the same issues as everyone else. That is why I think it is imperative that parents share and discuss with their kids the importance of being a human being. What I mean by this is no matter how good your child is at their respective sport and no matter what dreams you may have for them as a parent in terms of their athletic future, what are you teaching them about being a teammate, a classmate, a sibling or a grandson or granddaughter? BALANCE does not mean everything is equal, it means everything has a place. Too many young athletes are pushed by their parents, because they are good at their sport. If it is kept in check, that is great. But, if that is the only thing that matters, there is a good chance that young person will have problems later. Tiger Woods stated, “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I thought I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.” Whenever I work with an athlete or team, I always discuss what I call the nonmaterialistic keys to success. These are issues related to commitment, attitude, honesty, being humble and showing respect, confidence, communication, preparation and focus. It has always been my belief that you will have a greater chance for success in and out of sports if you focus on these issues as a coach or parent. Talent and ability, two words I still don’t know how to define, only take you so far in sports, and then you have to deal with life…….

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