Recently I found myself in a discussion with several athletes and a couple other chaplains about things that enable us to do well or succeed. We got talking about the role that emotions play in the process. You see the role of a chaplain is an interesting one, some would argue that it’s not required that there are “Sports Psychologists” that can tend to and diagnose an athlete and help them to do better by getting into their mind. Truthfully I find this offensive and foolish and please don’t mistake me, I’m not talking from my perspective but rather the athletes. You see it’s like this, the Sports Psychologist will sit with an athlete and their whole desire, purpose, and truthfully what they are being paid to do is to find out what is bothering the athlete and not necessarily help, guide or counsel them healthily through their issue(s) but rather to mask it, embrace it or harness the feelings it’s caused hoping it will spur them on to success in some way shape or form. To make this more simple I’d explain it this way, the Sports Psychologist is worried about the professional and the performance, where as we as chaplains are more concerned with the person.
So as I was saying we were talking about the different effects that circumstances, life and other temperaments can have on an athlete. It’s so important to remember that though they are dressed and decorated with their countries colours and insignia they are people too. They hurt, grieve, laugh, cry, feel pain, love, get frustrated, are disappointed and also stressed…they have families, friends, some are married, some not yet. And all these things play a part or a factor in their overall performance.
Take some feelings or emotions for example:
- FEAR – this emotion can be and is healthy and a small portion before a race or event can be good as the athlete is cautious and sensitive and perhaps now even more inclined to focus at the task at hand. However, too much FEAR and an athlete can tense up and their judgement and thinking can become clouded and decision making more reactive instead of proactive.
- ANGER – this emotion can inspire and fuel an athlete to compete and conquer other opponents and personal bests. However, too much ANGER can be dangerous and an athlete can become destructive and also a threat to other competitors if the emotion over takes them.
- NERVOUSNESS – this can release adrenalin and can actually be an advantage to an athlete as it all shows a healthy understanding of the importance of what they are doing and that they are connected with it personally. However, again too much can be debilitating and can even cause one to be ill, the athletes nerves are on end and are now prone to make foolish and rash judgements which could lead to frustration.
What’s interesting is that Sports Psychologists and Chaplains alike will tell you this, that there is one emotion that you can certainly not have TOO MUCH of and that is JOY. In fact it has been proven how positive the affects of joy are on an athlete when they are competing. It’s no wonder to me therefore the number of times we read it in God’s Word that we as Believers are to be filled with joy, in fact it is even one of the fruits or evidences of the Spirit dwelling within us. Joy truly enables and empowers us to do great things and the thing that I have noticed about joy is that it is truly contagious.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious JOY…”
1st Peter 1:8
Quite possibly the most difficult thing for us to do is to wear this enabling joy at “all times”. There comes moments where we are weak, where we are frustrated, where we are disappointed or where we feel let down and that’s okay, we’re human! I think the real key is our perspective. The athlete who was favored or expected to medal who didn’t achieve what he or she felt or believed she would can find joy in their disappointment. It can be a turning point in their career where they are now all the more convinced and determined to succeed. Look at the Men’s Ice Hockey team from Canada, we finished 7th at the last Olympics after winning the Gold in Salt Lake. Thus, much speculation and excitement surrounds this years team and there is a genuine sense of hope that fills the hearts of Canadians. When we face obstacles we need to see them as opportunities, that’s what James says…
“Consider it pure JOY, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
You ever think about how usually the things that you love to do or the things that bring you joy you are also good at (I think they fit hand in hand)? I wonder if there was no source of joy how quickly we would abandon those same things. Joy as we said early is an enabler and us carrying it in abundance can be what helps to inspire and enable others around us (like we said it’s contagious). If we can find joy in the most unlikely places we know that people will be drawn to us and we will have numerous opportunities to share of our faith and source of our joy!