Running From the Pressure

Water soaks into my shoes as I stand on the moist, green grass. The white square that was drawn on the grass just a few hours before confines me. I can no longer move, not because I’m forced to stay in that drawn-on little square, but because my body fills with fear.
As I stand on that cross-country course, nausea begins to grow in my stomach. My mind fills with thoughts telling me just to give up. I feel I am no longer good enough to try anymore. As my heart begins to beat faster, I ask myself one simple question. Why do I feel so uneasy about running?
After a few moments, the answer comes to me. The pressure has finally gotten to me. I am no longer happy to participate in a sport I loved just a year ago, and I feel overwhelmed by the pressure to do my best. I am afraid the outcome will not make anyone proud.
As I am nearing the end of my second year at high school, I have realized that pressure has always surrounded me. Academically, I have always felt the pressure from myself to get good grades. Still, I only recently discovered the pressure on high school athletes.
The stress that comes with sports is already overwhelming. Many athletes wake up early in the morning to lift weights and arrive home late after a long practice. They spend numerous hours preparing for a sport, and while some hope to continue playing after high school, some play to have fun or meet new people.
With the numerous people who attend sporting events, there is already tremendous pressure to perform well. Some don’t want to disappoint team supporters, including parents, coaches, and even teammates.
Coaches and parents genuinely care about their athletes. They spend long hours forming bonds and helping athletes. As someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves to perform well, it doesn’t help me personally when someone reminds me of a mistake I have made when it comes to sports.
I feel sports are far more fun when I am able to learn new ideas, but sometimes they are more about winning and positioning athletes for the college level, which in turn leads to more pressure. Athletes scoring is sometimes seen as more important than their overall well-being. These ideas add to the pressure as some athletes now feel they need to be the best to win, please their parents, and work towards a goal that might not be achievable.
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, “nearly eight million students currently participate in high school athletics in the United States. More than 480,000 will compete as NCAA athletes, and a select few within each sport move on to compete at the professional level.”
This quote isn’t to say that athletes shouldn’t strive for greatness or high levels of achievement. Still, this must be tempered with an understanding that sports should be seen as a process that can translate into success in other areas of one’s life, many of which may not be related to sports.
So many of the lessons, skills, and character traits one can develop via athletics apply to both career and life success; unfortunately, there seems to be an increasing attitude that athletics is the only path one can take to find success beyond high school, while the statistics clearly contradict this.
We must always keep a perspective that sports are not everything and there are many more activities one can accomplish in the world. Yes, sports can assist and provide one with skills both during and after high school, but the mental toll too much pressure can have will only hurt you in the long run. Always remember to push yourself, but know both your physical and mental boundaries as an athlete.
After reading this, I hope you know that you are good enough. Do not let someone’s hopes and dreams limit you. Whether in a sport or not, strive to have fun, meet new people, set goals, and don’t let the pressure from yourself or others stop you from reaching your ultimate objective.