IT TAKES A VILLAGE - LEVERAGING SOCIAL SUPPORT TO BALANCE THE DEMANDS OF ELITE PERFORMANCE.
Why do you need a village to be an athlete? After all, many of you have become the athletes you are from using sports as an outlet and coping with difficult environments. Lebron James often describes his AAU teammates as family and has continued to remain close to them to this day, including partnering in business deals. To be in it to win it, in the long run, means having people to go to during off days or to hang out with during down time. Besides, who doesn't want to look up to the stands, when being tested on the field or court, to see someone exuding pure unconditional love?
In my case, I was always the kind of teenager that would awaken to the sound of the bouncing ball in my driveway and had friends playing basketball outside. Basketball was the way we communicated and the main way we spent time together when it was dry outside. Using the local recreation center on weekends or holidays was a way to pass time and keep safe. Talent or skill was not required as much as the desire to hang out and have friends. I miss those days! Now when I play recreation league sports with adults after work, it evokes a feeling, and I remember why I play to began with and what I love about sports in general — the chance to hang out and forget about everything else.
Enjoy the Process
Serious athletes need to enjoy spending multiple hours a week practicing and participating in games. Juggling priorities and school can be a challenge for most young athletes. Even for those looking to play college ball or beyond, the grind of practice and games and year-round schedules can be taxing. It is important to keep balance when pursuing your dreams, and a healthy village will help remind you to take care of yourself during this process. Looking for mentors and coaches who care and programs that look to develop you as an individual are important for many athletes. The quality of your circle and who you choose to include are important to feeling supported and connected as an athlete.
What Does My Village Look Like?
What kind of village is my team? There are a few key factors to look at when asking what the energy is of the community or team. It is important as an individual, an athlete, and as a family to look at the energy of an organization from an emotional, academic, and mental health perspective. “Fam” or family is a sense that many athletes from all levels of sport aspire to be a part of. Components of this type of environment include a sense of fun and enjoyment, an ability to build meaningful and lasting relationships, a sense of challenge, and an ability to develop as an athlete and as an individual.
So what now?
Identify what defines your village. Where do you find support?