During a recent pair of Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings for student-athletes at Southern Illinois University, we watched one video per week and then discussed what we had just seen and heard. The videos were interviews of Dr. Ben Houltberg, Assistant Professor of Counseling at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). The discussions concerned emotional wellbeing in athletics. They had been referred to me by our colleague and friend, Dr. Ashley Null.
I was immediately thankful for the reaction that I saw in the athletes present, mostly swimmers and divers those weeks, but was absolutely amazed at the impact the videos had upon them during the Missouri Valley Swimming and Diving Championships this past weekend.
Two swimmers in particular told me about their approach to the championships, one a senior who would swim the last races of her career during the weekend and the other, a junior freestyle swimmer. While most of their teammates were very tense, these two were loose and giggling during the warm up period and right up to race time. Their head coach was a little concerned that they were not taking things seriously enough, but those concerns were quickly dispatched as the senior swam the best 100 meter breaststroke of her career and the junior was a member of the conference champion 200 meter freestyle relay team. They had some of their best performances of the season and even of their careers.
The freedom that they are experiencing due to their growing faith in Christ and its implication upon their sense of personal worth, their identities being solidly, securely in their relationship with Christ and their approach to swimming now being an act of worship, was greatly enhanced by the videos. The contrast between the senior, relaxed and assured after the meet, was remarkable when seen beside one of her highly achieving senior teammates who was totally undone, in the throes of a serious loss of identity and life purpose as her career as a competitive swimmer was suddenly over.
I would highly recommend sharing these videos with your competitors, regardless of sport, gender or culture. Further, I would recommend that you watch it with them and then discuss some of the major points so they can process all they have seen and heard. I believe you will experience similarly beneficial results. Links to the videos on YouTube are below.
Here are some of the questions we discussed after watching the videos. I hope they are of value to you and those you serve.
Part 1 –
• Dr. Houltberg said, “The lows are lower than the highs are high.” Does that resonate with you? When do you experience that?
• He talked about “enjoying the process” when referring to training and practice. How much do you enjoy the process? How could you enjoy it more?
• He said that sometimes, “the gift becomes a burden.” When do you feel that way?
• He said that, “The gift is for you. God doesn’t need your sport performance to glorify Him.” How does that affect how you view your athletic gifts?
• Dr. Houltberg said, “Anxiety is future oriented.” How much does the unknown nature of the future and the results to come produce anxiety within you?
Part 2 –
• Dr. Houltberg mentioned that competition can become a threat to one’s social self, pulling from one’s resources. Have you experienced this?
• He mentioned a link between shame and failure in some competitors. Do you know anyone who feels failure in sport like personal shame?
• He spoke of moments in sport when fear takes over. How have you experienced fear and its effects upon your sport performance?