Becoming Our Own Best Teammate | Center for Sport Psychology and Athlete Mental Health
April 17, 2020

Becoming Our Own Best Teammate

For some, the idea of self-compassion can seem a little odd…like a shoe that does not quite fit. But, when we work with athletes, we frame this idea from the perspective of becoming your own best teammate, which seems to fit perfectly.

Even if you have never played sports, you have likely been part of a work group, family, etc…someplace where you were interacting with others around a common goal or performance. Now, imagine a basketball game where a player makes a costly mistake, such as throwing the ball out of bounds when their team is down by 3 with only seconds remaining. With this situation in mind, answer the following questions:

  1. What if YOU were that player…what would you be saying to yourself immediately after making that mistake? Be honest with yourself!
  2. What if one of your TEAMMATES was that player…what would you be saying to them immediately after making that mistake?

Notice any differences in your responses? If you did, you are not alone. When we talk with athletes about a scenario like this one, we almost always hear the following: they would be really negative toward themselves and really positive (and uplifting) toward their teammate. Somehow we have learned that, when we make a mistake, we are supposed to get down on ourselves…almost like it's expected!

So, we always ask, if being NEGATIVE is so helpful, then why not treat your teammate that way? In most cases, athletes tell us that being negative to a teammate would only bring them down more, it would not help them get past the error, and likely would contribute to them playing worse. Ah ha! So, how can we learn to be our own best teammate…we seem to know what's best for them, but we somehow have a hard time treating ourselves in a similarly kind, compassionate, and helpful way.

The next time you find yourself beating yourself up over something…a mistake you've made, something you've forgotten, not being patient…ask yourself what you would say to a teammate (or friend) if they had done the same thing. THEN…say that to yourself J. Learning to be your own best teammate may take practice and time to develop, but you, and your performances, are worth it.

Take care and be #PhysicallyDistantSociallyClose.