We did an exercise in a group education session this week that gave me pause for thought around the psychological netball journey I have been on. Our performance psychologist posed a question along the lines of “What negative behaviours do you exhibit under pressure and/or stress?” Being a relatively self-aware person it surprised me to realise that my go to response was not actually one that I associate with myself anymore.
Each person brings a unique set of gifts, attributes and expectations to any environment that they operate. When working in a team sport, the ability to have an awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses along with how they compliment or cause friction with those of your team-mates is crucial.
Building towards the last Commonwealth Games and Word Cup with our previous England coach we focussed a lot of our time and attention on the performance psychology side of things. We carried out various activities and engaged in an insights model to provide us with a framework for self-understanding and development. We were looking to heighten our understanding of self, and highlight perosnal strengths and weaknesses so that we could develop effective strategies to interact with our teammates and learn to respond better within our environment.
Our own perceptions are often different to the perceptions others have of us and often, we have most difficulty understanding and interacting with those whose preferences are different to our own.
As a young netballer I often came under extreme criticism for the persona that I projected on those around me. It is likely that I have referred to this before but I recall a particularly poignant moment when I was told by my junior international coaches that it would not be my talent that held me back in netball, rather my attitude and how it affected those around me.
In response to the question I referenced earlier that our performance psychologists posed I would previously have said that at my worst I was emotional to the point of rage, I could lack discipline and control on the court and the manner that I communicated with my peers was blunt to the point of rudeness.
Having certain unacceptable characteristics highlighted by coaches and behaviours detailed through the insights project helped to create ways for the group and I to increase communication and collaboration, improve personal effectiveness, develop personal leadership and take my self-awareness to the next level.
There is so much more that goes in to being a professional athlete than just your physical capacity and it is often easy to just review the things that we focus on daily in the gym or on the court. It is very refreshing to be able to reflect on how I have grown from a performance psychology perspective given how much room for improvement there was to make.
How self-aware are you without having access to the resources of an international athlete? I know I have a personality that does not naturally thrive in a team environment and my core values can conflict each other. For example I set high standards for myself and others but my perfectionism can make me impatient and intolerant. I am lucky in that I can easily slip into the role of observer or director as I am equal parts introvert and extrovert but I work daily on my ability to inspire and support the people that I am alongside through my behaviours and communication.
I am thankful for all of the extremely uncomfortable time that we spent exploring this area given how important emotional intelligence and management has become whilst playing the most competitive netball of my life in a new environment.