I have never seen an athlete who did not live in fear. He walks with it. He sleeps with it. It has become so much a part of him that he does not know where his self stops and the fear begins.
Some consultants call it anxiety. Others call it pressure. You can call it what you like. For me, it is fear. Its power is enormous. It is as old as man.
The performance community, coaches, psychologists, and the athletes themselves are intent upon creating massive walls to shield the athlete from it. These walls come in various forms: rituals, aphorisms, routines, self-talk.
Legions of athletes subscribe to them. Who can blame them? It is natural to arm yourself against such a fastidious force.
Who can blame the coaches and the psychologists?
For they are simply trying to protect their athletes from this tremendous force. In fact, I applaud their tenacity and commitment.
My only question is: why continue to fight a war that you cannot possibly win?
In fighting against fear, the athlete will only enslave himself. In using clever tricks, he will only delude himself.
The reason that man fights is because he shies away from the ultimate battle: The battle of understanding.
Where is the coach that is willing to explore the nature of fear?
Where is the athlete who is willing to explore, once and for all, what PRECISELY it is that he is afraid of?
The answer may surprise him.
Kapil Gupta, M.D.