• Sammy Jo (Diffendaffer) Allen, M.S., LMFT

Mind Blowing Dichotomies Every Athlete Faces

Life is full of things that simply aren't black and white. In fact, most things in life don't fit into this box or that box 100% of the time. While habits like categorizing, labeling, and even stereotyping often reduce the amount of work our brain does in any given scenario, these tactics are still not entirely effective, nor arguably are they the most efficient. Even after years of developing established short cuts for identifying/labeling everything we come in contact with from colors and shapes, to the people at school, (the "emo crowd," the "band crowd," the "athlete crowd," etc.) we still find ourselves stuck. We can often become stagnant, perplexed, unmotivated and aloof while wrestling with inner conflicts, perhaps all the while having no concrete understanding of why we feel the way that we do.


Before finding yourself caught in the middle of an inner conflict consider a "both/and" approach to the following common dichotomies or any other challenging situation you might face.

  1. Fight to be the best. Put your team first.

  2. Be humble. Be confident.

  3. Push through the pain without complaint. Speak up when injured.

  4. Academics come first. Classes must be scheduled around practice.

  5. It's all about the process. Your numbers aren't as good.

If you're a competitive athlete, you are likely going to face at least one if not ALL of the dichotomies listed above. When we think in terms of black and white, all of the above statements are going to feel contradictory to one another. However, when considering multiple perspectives, it isn't necessarily the case that there isn't room for both statements to be true at the same time.


So, if you want to start debunking your black and white thinking, consider the both and to all of the statements listed above. For example, fighting your hardest for a starting position while ALSO cheering on your teammates to be their best. In addition, the ability to hold yourself with confidence while remaining humble enough to recognize your competitor's talent and that there is so much more that can be learned and improved in your own performance. For number 3, indeed we must push through pain in order to challenge ourselves in practices and workouts, but also diligently seeking physical therapy or medical treatments when necessary is a must in order to prevent major injury. Academics must come first in order to even be eligible to play and are also are imperative to a person's future. At the same time, organization, prioritization, and daily commitment to practice are necessary to exist as a competitive team. And lastly, focusing on the process IS the key to understanding and improving a person's game, however, organized data can also be used to make better-informed coaching decisions.


These may seem like no-brainers, however, other less obvious conflicts can creep up on us at any given moment. When not properly addressed, these struggles can cause inner turmoil and stress. Keeping an organized list of priorities can help a person navigate challenging decisions that may have no clear or obvious answer. Also processing vulnerably with a trusted person can help alleviate some of the confusion, and may also bring relief through sharing honestly about hidden inner struggles.


Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for more tips on family relationships and athlete life.







© 2016 by Sammy Jo Diffendaffer @ NTXCFT

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Licensed by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists (Lic. #202711)