Sport is complex and complicated, yet simple

    Josh Dick/Pixabay

Credit: Josh Dick/Pixabay

Have you ever thought how incredibly difficult it is to be an athlete? So many factors affect how well you can perform on the field, court, course, trail, hill or whatever, whether training or competing. And a small mistake or failure in any of these many areas can result in disappointing performance with little or no opportunity to turn things around.

I actually see sport in three ways: as always complex, sometimes complicated and yes, in the end very simple. let me explain.


Anyone familiar with sport knows that these are very complex activities with many contributors to sport development and competitive successes and failures. The factors that affect athletic performance are both internal and external to the athletes and, consequently, both within and beyond their control.

Environmental elements that can have a huge impact on your performance in training and competitions, depending on the sport, include weather, venue conditions and altitude. Cold, heat, wind, snow, rain and lack of oxygen make it an incredibly difficult goal to consistently perform well. The sheer variability of these outdoor spaces can cause the best preparations and efforts to fail. Frustratingly, none of these impacts on performance are under your control. Ultimately, you can only adapt to this complexity as best you can.

Other external forces are people you interact with. teammates; other competitors; Trainer; Officer; of course parents; and social media (a big problem these days!) are other pieces of the do your best puzzle that make the puzzle harder to complete. Comparison to other athletes, overtraining, and the need to make positive posts on social media all add to the complexity of consistently performing well.

And don’t forget gear. Many sports rely to a large extent on the complex interaction of the different types of equipment that are necessary to practice a sport. This impact begins with testing and finding the right gear for your individual skills and needs, continues with fine-tuning your chosen gear, and ends with competitive adjustments that optimize the gear’s performance.

Internal factors add even more to this complexity – physical condition, athletic training, technique, tactics, sleep, diet and, especially nowadays, the use of technique. In order to consistently do your best, you need to maximize all of these areas to get the most out of your physical abilities.

And let’s not forget the mental side of the sport. You need to train and strengthen your “mental muscles” (e.g. motivation, confidence, intensity, focus and mindset). You also need to have a well-stocked mental toolbox when problems arise, including goal setting, positive self-talk, mental imagery, exercise and competition routines, and breathing, to name a few. The interaction of all these mental influences makes it even more difficult to find the ideal combination.

Due to the nature of the sport, there is nothing we can do to make it less complex. It is precisely these complexities that make participating in a sport so interesting, challenging and ultimately fulfilling. All you can do is understand everything that makes sports so complex and look for ways to manage them in the best way possible.


Unfortunately, athletes (and coaches and parents) too often take sports beyond the realm of complexity and overcomplicate it unnecessarily. This new level of complications occurs entirely in the minds of those involved, and those who end up suffering from these complications are athletes themselves.

You find it difficult enough to respond positively to the many obstacles I have described above that are beyond your control. It is totally unfair and undermining that you should be expected to also deal constructively with the obstacles that come to your mind, your parents, coaches and our destructive sports culture.

These mental barriers include overinvestment in your sport (you want to care about your sport but you don’t want to care about it too much), perfectionism, fear of failure (epidemic in our culture and the number one reason athletes come to me even though they not knowing that this is the real reason for their mental challenges at this point), a preoccupation with outcomes, expectations and pressures. These obstacles conspire to deliver you a massive mental hit in the form of loss of motivation, loss of confidence, worry, stress, anxiety, distraction and a veritable tsunami of negative emotions such as fear, frustration, anger, disappointment, hopelessness, sadness and despair. Add these ingredients to the sport’s already boiling cauldron and you have a poisonous stew that makes consistently good performances nigh impossible.


I apologize for painting such a depressing picture of what it takes to be successful as an athlete. But I’ll end on a very positive note. While accepting the inevitable complexities of the sport, your goal is to let go of the complications that are thrown at you, which is certainly no easy task. In fact, I believe that ridding your mind of these psychological and emotional difficulties is the holy grail of exercise and actually living a happy and prosperous life. While it’s beyond the scope of this article (much of my writing over these many decades has been geared towards showing athletes how to drink from the Holy Grail, so please visit my blog to learn more), I can tell you provide a perspective that might help you focus on what matters while shedding the metaphorical weight vest laden with the complexities and complications of the sport.

Despite what I’ve written so far in this article, exercise is actually quite simple. How is that?, you might be wondering. Because when you step onto the field, regardless of your sport, you should only have one thought in mind: Perform as well you can! That’s it, that’s all, it’s that simple. You can call it Bring, Full Throttle, Full Throttle, Attack, Attack, or what-have-you. Regardless, the message is the same: rid yourself of all the complexities and complications (i.e. crap!) and just give it all you’ve got and play your best from start to finish.

Of course, that single focus is easier said than done for all of the reasons I outlined above. At the same time, its simplicity is also its strength, because the idea of ​​​​just bringing it with you is easy to embrace and focus on, and it is easy to build a wall of simplicity around you when you enter the competitive arena, which can shield You from the massive mess that can overflow your brain until you feel like it’s about to explode.

So the next time you get caught up in the complexities and complications of sport, remember how simple sport really is: just do your best and achieve as much as you can! Win or lose, you’ll feel good after giving it your all. And if you continue to keep it simple and always give it your all, sooner or later you will do a really great job and the result will be very, very good.


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