Starting Your College Athletic Career: Finding Internal Validation

From awards to praise, there are numerous opportunities for validation as an athlete.  It’s easy to become dependent on external validation, meaning that others tell you that you’re doing a good job.   For many high school athletes who have committed to playing in college, having their talents recognized is a common occurrence.  For some, the availability of accolades and consistent praise fades when they make the transition to college.  As a result, they might feel uncertain about their abilities and have a hard time measuring how well they’re doing.  This is when internal validation becomes essential.  Athletes have to be able to find ways to recognize what they’re doing well and give themselves positive feedback, so that they can stay motivated and continue improving once they’re in an environment where they’re not consistently told that they’re the best.  Here are some tips for improving your ability to provide internal validation:

1.     After each practice and each game, think about what went well. While it’s also important to reflect on what areas need improvement, start with the positive.

2.     Talk to others about what went well.  For example, instead of asking your parents for positive feedback, start by telling them what you think you are doing well.  Parents can help by pulling for the positive: instead of simply telling your child what they’re doing well, ask them to talk about the positives first.  It’s important for athletes to practice generating positive self-talk and engaging in a positive self-reflective process.

3.     Find ways to measure your performance and progress, both using objective measures, like stats and examining the intangibles.  As a lacrosse goalie, I used save percentage as my measuring stick, but I also measured my success in regard to how hard I was working and how positive and supportive I was being as a teammate. This well-rounded approach helps athletes focus on a realistic view of their performance while giving them variables, like work ethic, that they can control.

4.     For those of you who haven’t yet made the transition to college, start working on this now! The better you get at providing internal validation, the more positive your sports experience will be as you continue through your athletic career.