Importance of Playing Like Yourself

Are you playing like yourself or someone else? Learn why you need to figure out what it means to play like yourself as an athlete

Are you playing like yourself or someone else?

For you to reach peak performance, you need to play like yourself. And to get there, you first need to know what that means.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through how you can uncover what it truly means to play like yourself as an athlete.

Finding Your True Self

During a session the other day, I was talking to a softball player who has been dealing with an extremely negative coach. It had gotten to the point where she wanted to quit. Luckily, she switched teams and is having a lot more fun playing again.

Even though she changed teams, the negative effect of her old coach still needs to be worked through. That’s what she and I are focusing on. And in our talk the other day, something very interesting came up.

I was walking her through an exercise where she thinks back to her best games and her worst games. I do this to help uncover her peak mindset (very similar to what we’re doing in this article).

Well, as we went through and thought about the similarities between her bad games and then the similarities between her good games, something quickly became clear…the way she acted while catching.

You see, before she joined her old team, she was very active behind the plate. She did a lot of extra stuff, like walking out, yelling to the infield, and holding up how many outs there were…she simply had a lot of movement behind the plate.

However, in one of her first games with her old team, the coach yelled at her for all the extra stuff. He told her it was a waste of time. But it was the way she got comfortable, felt like a leader, and got herself into the rhythm of the game.

Of course, she listened to her coach, since she wanted playing time and not to get yelled at. But she also developed a difficulty throwing the ball back to the pitcher, and overall, she played below her potential.

She was tight and unnatural back there. Have you ever felt like that? Where things just feel off and you’re not playing like yourself?

If so, how did you play? Were those games when you were playing in an unnatural way some of your best, or some of your worst?

How Playing Like Someone Else Hurts You

I would imagine when you’ve played stiff, tight, and altogether unnatural your performance level dropped, just like the softball player I’m working with.

The reason for this is because you are taking yourself out of the flow of the game.

While to some, the softball player’s extra movements behind the plate might seem like a waste, they were exactly what she needed to do to own her position and give her the confidence she needed to play her best.

When she limited herself, she felt small. She was not owning a feeling of leadership, and instead, was causing herself to feel intimidated and insecure back there.

For yourself, if you are trying too hard to play like someone else, whether that involves your mindset or the actual way you play, you are not using your natural strengths. Instead, you are trying to be someone you’re not.

This causes resistance. And resistance will keep you out of the flow state you need to be in to play your best. So instead of trying to be someone else out there, it’s time to let go of resistance and play like yourself!

How to Play Like Yourself

To get to the point where you’re playing like yourself, you first need a clear idea of what that means. Physically, it means playing to your strengths. Using your body in the most efficient way possible.

For example, if you’re a fast, line drive hitter, don’t get caught up in trying to hit home runs.

Now this doesn’t mean your goal is to be one dimensional as a player. But the way you get to develop additional strengths is finding out how to develop them as yourself…not trying to adopt the swing of someone else, for example.

But what I want to focus on the most is the mental side of your game. I know the example I gave earlier involving the softball player seems physical (since it was all about how she acted behind the plate), but it was the mental state it put her in that’s most important.

Finding Your Best Mindset

Ask yourself, what is the best mindset for me to be in when I play?

This is what I really mean when I talk about playing like yourself. It involves finding the mindset that matches your personality and allows you to compete at your highest level.

For example, last fall I worked with a football player, and we realized his best mindset involved wanting to prove somebody wrong. It gave him that extra push to fully focus on what he was doing and give each play full effort.

However, that very same mindset turned out to hurt a basketball player I worked with this past winter.

When he focused too much on other people and playing well to prove them wrong and make them think he was good, it distracted him and led to him playing with fear and anxiety.

So instead, I got him focusing more on having fun and being grateful to play. This allowed him to focus more on the game, leading to him playing more naturally.

Remember, when you try to play like someone else, you play unnaturally. To play naturally and in the flow during the game, you need to play like yourself. That means thinking and being in the best mental state for you and your personality.

There’s no right or wrong mindset to be in when playing…just the one that’s right for you! That’s what’s most important.

Now, to help you figure out what that mindset is, I want to walk you through the same exercise I use when working with athletes in one-on-one mental performance coaching.

  • Step #1 List out your worst three performances. Now look back over them and see if you notice any similarities in terms of your mindset.
  • Step #2: List out your best three performances. Once again, look back over them and see if you notice any similarities in terms of your mindset.
  • Step #3: Write out your peak mindset in a simple sentence. For example, wanting to prove myself, or, having fun, or, being a leader.
  • Step #4: Think about how you get into that state. For the softball player, this is where all those extra movements came into play. They helped her feel like a leader and get into a confident state.

Final Thoughts

Are you playing like yourself, or someone else?

Is the mindset you have when you play the one that fits you and your personality, or one you’ve been told you need to have or have tried to adopt because a player you admire says that’s their mindset.

The truth is, the best mindset to compete with is the one that’s best for you. And once you find it, your performances become much more natural and flow with ease.

So as you move forward, keep asking yourself, am I playing like me, or trying to be someone I’m not?

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

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