Ensure Your Athlete Is Benefitting From The Right Kind Of Fear

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My Peloton leaderboard name is #FollowTheFear (any other Peloton peeps – let’s be friends!). I chose this after reading a section out of Marie Forleo’s book “Everything Is Figureoutable” a while back.

She broke down fear in a way that made it so obvious. “Fear is not the enemy. Waiting to stop feeling afraid is.”

Growing up playing sports, I was like most of your daughters and athletes. I would get nervous before games (and practices, too, if I’m really being honest). 

You know the feeling – heart racing, palms sweaty, overthinking, and needing to rush to the bathroom 10 minutes before going on the court (#pregamepoos). 

I didn’t like that feeling. And therefore, I, like most athletes (and let’s face it, most people), decided that fear and nervousness were bad things and should be avoided. Something that I dreaded. That followed me into adulthood, until I learned to reframe fear in a way that has made all the difference. 

Something I wish I would have known as an athlete. To follow the fear, instead of avoid it. Here’s why…  

1. Fear is a form of communication

Obviously, on an evolutionary level, fear exists to alert us of danger and keep us alive. For the purposes of this, though, we’re not talking about the fear that keeps us from stepping out into a busy intersection. Or the fear associated with unhealthy or abusive playing environments. We’re talking about the fear that keeps us small, safe, and stuck. 

And, just to be clear, everyone feels afraid from time to time. Every athlete or person you admire experiences fear on a regular basis (that alone might give your athlete some comfort). 

Fear is communicating using the only tool it knows how – the ability to make us feel. Stressed, anxious, nervous, heart beating, palms sweaty…its all fear arriving and getting us to pay attention. 

So, what if we listened, instead of avoiding it? As athletes, what if we met that fear with open arms because it’s communicating something to us and inspiring us to act?

The fear response is preparing our bodies for action. Which means our athletes are primed to compete when they are nervous. 

This is something that we don’t want to go away! Embracing fear as our body’s response to something important and priming us to take action can change fear from something to be avoided to something to be welcomed.

2. Fear is moving us in the direction we want to go

Usually, we interpret fear as meaning “Stop!” “Don’t go any further!” When, in reality, fear is usually pointing us in the exact direction we want to go. 

When we get nervous about trying something new, going after a big dream, changing careers, or even having a tough conversation, we can be assured that’s the exact direction we should be going towards (not away from!). 

It’s the same with athletes. 

That big game your athlete is nervous about.

The skill she wants to try but is afraid she’ll mess up

The fear that comes from trying her hardest because of what her teammates might think of her

The hesitation to unleash how good she could be because she’s afraid of what she might find out

All fear pointing her in the direction of DO IT! 

So, what if she embraced those feelings of hesitation and nervousness as signs that she should take those actions, rather than pull back and avoid them? Limitless potential!  

3. Fear means we are stepping outside of our comfort zone

There’s no way around it. If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. 

When we are safe inside our bubbles feeling content, we are rarely pushing our boundaries, trying new things, or growing. 

It’s the same with our athletes. When athletes stay in that bubble, they will only be as good as they were yesterday, or the day before that, or the day before that. 

They need to get uncomfortable in order to grow. But guess what comes with stepping outside of that bubble and trying something new? Fear. Nervousness. All of the things we are programmed to listen to as “bad.”

But, by now we know, athletes need this! Fear is proof that growth is right around the corner. 


If you found this interesting or helpful, join us inside The Elite Competitor Society – a place where female athletes, moms, and coaches come together to help build lifelong confidence and elite performance!

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