#106: The Dark Side of Achievement-Driven Athletes w/ Nikki Kett, Life Coach for Athlete-Minded Women

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Moms – Did you know that some identity struggles (for possibly you and your daughter) go along with being an athlete-minded person? Being competitive and outcome-driven has always been a part of athlete culture. And achievement-driven female athletes have not been exempted from the dark side of this culture. 

There’s this constant pressure of hustling to be at the top. And it’s not about enjoying the sport anymore, it becomes all about survival and being able to catch up or you’ll get left behind.

As a sports mom, it’ll be of great help to notice and identify these dark sides earlier and help our female athletes enjoy their sport while having their own identity. 

We’re going to discuss all of that today together with Nikki Kett, life coach for athlete-minded women. Get ready to learn from her insights!

What are the three categories of struggles most athletes struggle with?

Here are the three categories of struggles our athletes face:

#1. Externalized validation

It’s about athletes creating their identity based on external things and putting their self-worth based on it. External things could include validations based on the outcome of their performance. It’s putting self-value based on wins and losses instead of who they are within or outside their sport. 

 #2. Self-Doubt

Self-doubt or just doubt in general is the belief of having to always work hard for good things to happen and not trusting that just putting in enough work would make good things come in time. It’s the belief that failure is a failure, and not trusting that failures will give so much learning. It’s doubting that there’s a reason for everything that happens.

#3. Unhealthy Competition/Comparison

It’s about athletes constantly trying to compare themselves to other people. They’re putting pressure on themselves from an unhealthy place. 

“I have to do this”
“I have to fix myself”

This kind of motivation is not healthy. They’re motivated because of negative reasons instead of deciding to work out because their body feels good about it.

What does the right balance of the competitive hustle look like?

Are they hustling because of negative reasons? Or are they hustling coming from a happy place?

Although the pressure of comparison and being too competitive could be unhealthy, that competitive hustle and mindset has also its benefits. And to be appreciative of that is also a good thing. There’s the confidence that when it’s needed, your athlete could get through it with her hard work.

Tapping into the right balance is realizing the importance of other things in life outside sports. It’s about having their own identity outside their sport. Athletes can have balance in hustling by not forgetting to pull back and relax. 

It’s about celebrating the things that get them to where they are and not just looking at the outcome. It’s having the time for themselves to enjoy while they hustle. 

How can your athletes experience more out of their sports journey and be in balance?

Allow your athletes to sit in with their emotions and let that be okay whatever that emotion might be. 

For moms, that means showing up to a sporting event and processing your emotions for yourself first whenever you realize that things aren’t looking good. You’re allowing your daughter to be independent with this because you’re doing that work for yourself. You’re getting yourself to a place where you’re calm and able to show up that it’s okay. And when you’re modeling that you can handle challenging emotions, you can handle failure, you also invite your daughter to have those beliefs as well. 

It’s a good practice to notice and sit with your emotions, and then learn to be intentional about turning these emotions to be a positive reason to thrive. So, let them feel and take action after that, instead of pushing the emotion aside and just continuing to hustle more.

How can parents help shape the environment for their athletes to avoid the unhelpful athlete culture and patterns?

Help your female athletes understand who they are outside of sport. Let them be involved in other hobbies. Let them have other friendships that maybe aren’t on their sports teams. 

The more that they have this identity or deep knowledge of themselves outside of sport, it’s less pressure. It allows the athlete to choose for themselves and find out about what they enjoy. 

So, don’t limit your daughter’s ability to sustainably choose to stay in the sport because they love it. Let them decide for themselves. 

The other thing I could recommend is to show up for your kids. 

How do you show up for them? Is there a difference in how you talk to them when they don’t perform well? Are you treating them that it’s all good whether they fail or not? 

My dad would always tell me this, and I’m so grateful that I had him. 

“As long as you’re having fun, I literally don’t care, like as long as you’re having fun.” 

That could be a prime example of how to shift your athlete’s focus from the outcome toward the process.

In the end, it’s all about how your daughter is learning things in life and it’s not just about the result. Failing isn’t a bad thing at all. Learning could be so much more powerful when we’re able to remove our self-worth from our failures. 

So, if your athlete knows who they are, and knows that you’re going to show up for them and why they have a great performance or not, then you allow them to reflect on failure. 

Where can parents put their emphasis to help their female athletes be in balance? 

It’s a normal thing for parents to get excited over their athletes’ wins, but as parents, are we emphasizing that over the effort they did to allow that to happen? 

When parents overemphasize the outcomes, that’s when the pressure starts to come with athletes. They’ll feel pressured to do well again. And sometimes when they’re still in the process of figuring out how to put on their best self out there on the field, they get pressured into figuring out how to do it again. 

Instead of emphasizing the outcome, emphasize the process or their journey. Celebrating who they are! Celebrate their character and reinforce the things that made them successful. In that way, they’ll realize that sport was just kind of the vessel for the value that they were adding. 

Think about their good values, and help them see those. Thinking about their values will encourage them to be balanced and experience the fun in life. Let them have that break. Taking a break will allow them to be more motivated, coming back when they make that choice.


Culture impacts motivation.

For example, there’s the “you got to push through, no excuses” culture, that even if your female athlete’s body needs rest, she’d feel the pressure of missing out on her workout or training. That pressure gets bigger depending on how coaches could act in a certain way, or how athletes would internalize that pressure. There’s a chance that it could influence their well-being outside of the sport as well. 

Because of that masculine athlete culture, athletes tend to struggle with externalized validation, self-doubt, and unhealthy competition.

Realizing the importance of other things in life outside of sports is key to finding the right balance. It’s about developing that identity outside of sports. Allow them to process their emotions and make their own decisions. People’s thoughts and belief patterns are what bring them to the right balance.

By assisting your female athletes in understanding who they are outside of sport, you can help them avoid unhealthy patterns. Help them separate their self-worth from their successes and failures. Instead, focus on their values, the process, and how they work toward their goals.


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