Lost Your Passion? 5 Tips to Regain the Love for Your Sport
There is something special about the first day of practice. Excitement is in the air while optimistic views abound regarding the upcoming season. No matter the age, it can bring back memories of when you first started playing. Do you remember how much joy you had playing as a kid? Stats and accolades didn’t matter as much as simply going out and playing a game you loved.
What happens when that passion fades? The first days of practice no longer are accompanied by joy and excitement, but rather generate feelings of anxiety and dread. Have you gotten to the point where you question how you ever loved playing your sport in the first place?
Is there any hope left once your love of the game diminishes? That decision will have to be up to you. But if you really want to reignite the lost desire for your sport, there are five tips that will help you get there.
The Pain of Losing Passion
Facing a loss of passion in your sport can be a frustrating experience. This becomes even more true the higher you go up in levels. It’s much easier to decide you’ve fallen out of love with a sport at the age of fourteen than when you are a freshman in college.
By that point, countless hours of hard work and sacrifice have gone into getting you to your level. The further you go, the more people have invested time in you, and the harder it can be to come face to face with the harsh reality of no longer having the passion to play.
But in all honesty, it doesn’t matter your age, or how long you’ve been playing the sport. If you feel invested in it, and the sport matters to you, losing passion can be heartbreaking.
When faced with this kind of truth, you may feel like you’ve lost your identity. You may experience feelings of shame or like you are a fraud.
Loss of Identity
For many athletes and performers, their sport is their identity. That’s how it was for me at least. I was Eli, the baseball player. You may be Sam, the football player, Sara, the soccer player, or John the ballet dancer.
As athletes, we tend to make the mistake of identifying ourselves with our sport. When I worked with John Ellsworth, my mental performance coach, this was one of the major ideas he tried to get across to me. Once we begin to tie our self-image up in our performance, we lose the ability to look objectively at failure.
Instead of using it as a learning experience, the mistakes and setbacks become hits to our self-worth.
Knowing how much we as athletes do identify ourselves with the sports we play, it becomes evident why losing passion is so painful. You are falling out of love with a piece of who you are.
The more intensely you identify yourself with your sport, the more painful it will feel when you lose the drive. It can feel as if you’ve completely lost your identity. Even if you choose to keep playing, you know you are no longer the same passionate player.
Accompanying a loss of identity can be an intense feeling of shame.
This shame comes from the guilt we feel as a result of our loss of passion. When you begin to identify yourself with your sport, it’s easy to think others do as well. Now, not only does your own worth stem from your athletic performances, but you believe the worth others place on you is also dependent on your play.
Feeling a loss of love for your sport can seem wrong. It can be as if you’ve cheated on a loved one. There is this sport which you are supposed to love, and others believe you are in love with. Yet deep down, you know the truth.
You can remember the love you used to feel, but there is no denying the loss of passion. What this internal conflict leads to are feelings of shame towards yourself. You feel shameful due to your deceitfulness towards yourself and towards others.
Shame and guilt are immensely painful emotions. If allowed to thrive long enough, they drive low self-confidence, negative thinking, and lowered self-worth.
Feeling Like a Fraud
If you have in the past or are currently dealing with a loss of passion for your sport, then you know how painful it can be when you hear one of these phrases:
- “Don’t you just love to play?”
- “You’ve gotta want it.”
- “Play with passion.”
- “The field/court is my sanctuary. I feel so at peace here.”
The reasons these statements are so irritating are the feelings they fuel within you. All of these are geared towards the idea of loving the game and competing. But here’s the problem, right now you don’t love to play, you’re not sure if you really want it, the passion has left the building, and being on the field/court actually causes you anxiety, not peace.
Enter feeling like a fraud.
I’m not sure any athlete is going to look their teammates or coaches in their faces and say, “You know, I don’t really love playing.” What usually happens instead is you make it appear as if you are passionate on the outside, but then in your mind, you are thinking differently.
Now, not only have you lost your identity and are shameful, but you feel like a fraud to top it all off. This drives more shame and guilt because you believe you are living a lie.
Five Tips to Regain Your Passion
There are many other types of thinking and emotions that stem from a loss of passion in your sport. But I think the loss of identity, shame, and fraud highlight the major impact that losing the love for your sport can have.
So, what can you do?
Well, the decision will have to be up to you. You either have to be honest with yourself that you’ve lost your passion for good and step away from the game or work to build back your love.
Either way, there is no reason for anyone to allow the pain described above to stick around for long. If you choose to work on regaining your passion, there are five tips that can greatly help you on your journey.
Check for Other Factors
If you’ve fallen out of love for your sport, is it due to a genuine loss of interest, or are there other factors driving your feelings?
This is an important question to think about. If you honestly just do not enjoy training, practicing, and playing, then great, you can accept this truth and move on. However, I would argue that the majority of people are experiencing a loss of passion due to an underlying factor.
Something occured that has sucked the joy out of your sport. There are multiple ways this can happen, and it’s important to identify the cause. Once you determine what factor is to blame, you will have a clear plan as to what needs to be overcome in order for you to regain the passion to play.
It’s not the coach’s job to make sure you find enjoyment during each practice or game. Their job is to put the team in the best position to win. But that doesn’t mean their attitude and coaching style doesn’t impact you.
I believe that finding a coach you align with and enjoy playing for is a crucial piece to your success as an athlete. By playing under a coach who is constantly negative, or you don’t agree with, it’s easy to begin losing your love for the game.
Fear of Failure
A lot of joy can be stripped from the game when all you are concerned about is not failing. When dealing with the fear of failure, your attention will be latched onto failure. You have such a deep fear of failing, that you focus on how to not let that happen.
Sadly, the more you focus on not failing, the greater chance you have of failing. No longer will you be playing out of love and enjoyment for your sport. It will be hard to play freely since you are constantly on the defensive, seeking ways to avoid failing.
Performance anxiety and fear of failure go hand in hand. If you are continually concerned about not failing, naturally anxiety will develop as a way to signify possibly threatening situations. You may begin feeling anxious leading up to a game, during a game, or even at practice.
Anxiety is a feeling that can make even the most enjoyable activities turn into a complete terror. So, if your sport is seen as a cause of anxiety, your likely response will be to lose the passion you once held.
As a perfectionist, you never give yourself a break. When we become obsessed with a false ideal of perfection, it can be difficult to ever see ourselves as successful. No matter how well you play, you can guarantee you’ll find some little mistake that makes the day a failure.
Focusing so intently on your shortcomings drives negative self-talk and leads to a negative self-image. If your idea of perfection is geared towards your performances, and you always feel short of perfect, at some point you will grow exhausted. Now, you may begin to dread your sport instead of being passionate about playing.
If you are finding yourself with less passion and love for your sport than in the past, look to these four factors first. Do any of them align with your situation? Each one of these factors drives intense negative emotions. The pain resulting from them makes it seem understandable for you to fall out of love.
Once you discover an underlying factor, it can now be worked through.
After having played a sport for a while, your position may begin to grow mundane. Training can lose its excitement, and you no longer have the same level of passion to compete. So, what can you do if your position is to blame for your low interest?
Though it’s not always the easiest option, you can look to change positions. This would generate a unique challenge that may bring back some much-needed excitement into your sport. You will need to learn new responsibilities, and possibly new mechanics as well.
I actually used this option myself about a year ago. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to keep playing baseball. A few frustrating years had left me with little passion to continue. That’s when I decided to give pitching a try.
For my whole career, I had been an infielder, either playing third base or short-stop. However, I pitched one successful inning the previous summer and discovered a newfound love for the game.
I spent the next year training as a pitcher. The following season was my first as a pitcher only. The experience gave me new insight into the game and was a breath of fresh air at the time.
So, if you are currently feeling frustrated or bored with your position, try switching things up. The added pressure and hard work required may be the spark needed to bring back your passion for playing.
Remember Why You Started
Why did you begin to play your sport in the first place? Was it because all your friends were, your parents forced you to, or was there a feeling within that you belonged on that field?
For many of us, the reason for playing and why we kept playing was joy. As a kid, playing sports is centered around having fun. Whether you derive enjoyment from competing, being with friends, or simply playing the sport, that was the main driver as to why you were out there.
As you grow older and more pressure is put on performing well, it can seem like the reason you play is to fill a stat line. That needs to be an after-effect of a more meaningful reason to play. Once you become so tied up in your stats or the outcome of a performance, it’s easy to lose the passion which led to you playing in the first place.
Taking some time to reminisce about what drove you to your sport is a great way to bring back the love with which you used to play.
Shift Your Focus
This follows the same concept as the previous tip, you need to examine where you are placing focus. Are you giving all your attention to stats, accolades, and the outcome? Do you only enjoy playing if you perform well?
If you judge the level of satisfaction you receive while participating on your stats, you’ll likely be left unfulfilled. Yes, every once in a while, a great game will occur and you’ll be floating on cloud nine. But you can guarantee a downturn to happen soon after.
Failure is a natural part of sports and life. You have to find something else to focus on to keep you going rather than the outcome of each day. If you are struggling with a lack of passion, perhaps you are spending too much time worrying about how well you perform.
Of course, we all want to do our best, but performing up to your potential rarely happens when that’s what you’re focused on. This occurs as a result of training, setting effective goals, and playing with a high level of enjoyment.
Try to start focusing on simply playing. Be in the moment, soaking up every second of the time you have playing your sport. When it’s all over, what do you think you will miss the most, achieving a specific number on a stat sheet or the act of performing?
“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
There is much truth in this statement. When in the middle of your athletic career, it’s very easy to take it for granted. This is true for all aspects of life. If we’re not fully immersed in the moment, it’s easy to not appreciate it as much as we should.
You can use this concept to your benefit, though, when seeking to regain your passion. By stepping away from your sport, you can get a clear picture of your true feelings. Do you feel like you’re missing a part of yourself? Do you feel a pull to go back and compete?
Stepping away is one of the more difficult options on this list, but it is very effective in coming to the truth behind your loss of love. You may feel relieved when you step away, and that may be a scary reality to face.
Right now, you may not have as much passion for your sport but at least you’re still playing. By stepping away, you run the risk of finding another passion. But, if you truly love the game, this action will reignite that desire and can be phenomenal for you and your athletic career.
Losing love for a game you once had so much passion for can be a painful experience. You may feel shameful, like a fraud, and as if you’ve lost a part of yourself. That doesn’t mean it’s the end, though.
If you have the desire to once again play with passion and purpose, there are steps you can take to do so. With the five tips discussed in this article, you can work to fall back in love with your sport.
Are you struggling with finding the passion to play? Do you feel like you’ve lost the love you once had?
If you’re interested in getting more direct help with this process or need help in any other area, click here to learn how one-on-one mental performance coaching can help you build a strong mindset to achieve peak performance in your life.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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