Today provided he sports world with several dramatic stories that involve tremendous amounts of mental focus and career re-focusing. Each of these events involved sports that are completely different from each other and yet are so similar because of the stress and anxiety they bestow upon their professionals. No matter the sport, their are commonalities amongst everyone. Many of these similarities involve extreme levels of stress, anxiety, combined with the need to perform consistently and win. (No pressure …)
During the Wimbelton Tennis tournament, three of the worlds top players have been eliminated in the first two rounds of play. Ousted already are Raphael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Maria Sharapova. It would have been easier to win the lottery two times in a row, before ever being able to make a prediction that these three athletes would be eliminated from play so early in the tournament. Common, amongst each of these athletes is their referral to having to relax and re-focus.
Probably, the most difficult situation of today rests in the early release of Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The release of Bryzgalov, brings with it much speculation and attention as it occurred as a result of buy-out of his contract. Making it the largest contract buy-out in NHL history. Underlying this situation rests many questions as to whether or not enough investigation was conducted on Bryzgalov with regards to his personality, temperment, team mentality, and work ethic. In his exit statement, Bryzgalov’s agent (Rich Winter) provided a statement which stated “I will take this experience with me, to my next team” … But probably the most shocking elements within this great athlete’s unraveling story rest within his numerous “calls for help” as he stated countless times “I have no confidence” or his endless public self-deprecation of his abilities.
The stress and anxiety experienced by Ilya was immense in Philadelphia, his constant attempts to over-come his situation of lacking self-confidence and constant seeking of support still did not not stop him from setting a Flyers’ record for the most consecutive games/minutes without allowing a goal. Regardless, Ilya was not able to fight back his urge from sharing his feelings of frustration with local media, which ultimately lead to his demise.
Each of these situations not only bring to the public light, athlete’s open discussion of their mental toughness situations, the need to improve their mental toughness, but also an inner confidence to discuss issues involving feelings, confidence, stress, and anxiety. More and more, athletes are sharing their inner feelings and needs – just as sports psychology aims to assist athletes with (all of which are performance enhancement issues). The question is, are teams, coaches, and society truly hearing the words their professional athletes are sharing and stating, or are they simply getting caught-up in the moment and not realizing the plea for help or are they simply looking at their professional athletes as invinceable?