The athletes guide to more success in sports and life

guide for athletes Apr 06, 2022

Text by Ann Zaprazny
Photo by Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash

In this article, you will gain insight into achieving more success in sports and life.

Want more success in sports and life?

Drop your expectations! 

If curiosity killed the cat, expectations stressed the athlete. 

It stresses the athlete.

There is a big difference between goals and expectations.

Goals are aspirational.

Expectations are what we internalize and believe we should achieve.

When we don’t achieve our expectations, we may be brutal on ourselves for falling short.

Athletes often have ambitious goals and unrealistic expectations. 

It’s important to have goals.

It’s counterproductive to have unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations often lead to disappointment, anger, and frustration derailing performance.

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How do you know if you have unrealistic expectations?

List your expectations

Be honest and list them.

Then do a google search to see who has accomplished your expectations consistently.

There are examples of some of the expectations athletes have shared with me. 

  • Baseball – Hit a double at every bat.
  • Golf – Score a birdie on every hole.
  • Lacrosse – Score on 100% of shots I take
  • Basketball- Make 100% of the field goals I attempt.
  • Swimming/running – I get a personal record every time I compete

You get the idea.  


Let’s check how realistic these expectations are.

  • Earl Webb, the former professional baseball player, hit 67 doubles in one season in 1931 and still holds the single-season record. He did not hit a double every time he was up at bat.
  • Hideki Matsuyama, one of the top golfers globally, averages 4.53 birdies per round on the PGA. Only 11 PGA players average 4.0 birdies or more per round. No golfer in the world birdies every hole every round.
  • In lacrosse, Austin French had the highest scoring percentage in Division 1 men’s lacrosse in 2017 @ 0.519. No lacrosse player has scored on 100% of their shot attempts.
  • Wilt Chamberlain holds the highest field goal percentage for a single season @ 72.3% (That means he missed 27.7% of the time.)
  • Even the best swimmers/runners in the world can not perform a personal record every time they compete. (They can give their best in every competition, which may not result in a personal record.)

None of these athletes' expectations are realistic. Imagine the internal stress associated with these expectations for these athletes.

So what’s the answer?

Play with no expectations, high confidence, and focus on the process, not the outcome.

No expectations. None. Drop them.

Releasing personal expectations is hard to do.  Very hard to do. You have years of thinking and EXPECTING lots of yourself.  To make the change, you have to first acknowledge your expectations.

List them. Be transparent and list them.  Most of them will be outcome-based.

Once you drop your expectations, replace your expectations with process goals.

For example

  • The batter who expects a double at-bat should drop their expectations and focus on quality at-bat, swinging at quality pitches, and making good contact.
  • The golfer who expects a birdie on every hole should drop their expectations and focus on one ball, one stroke at a time, good swing, good contract.
  • The lacrosse player who expects to score on every shout should drop their expectations and focus on the target – where do you want the ball to go.
  • The basketball player who expects to score 100% of their field goals should drop their expectation and focus on quality shot selection, form, and follow-through.
  • The swimmer or runner who expects a personal record during each of their competitions should drop their expectations and focus on a strong start, good form, and a strong finish. Etc.

When we focus on the process, execution, and on doing the small things correctly, the outcome will follow.

Parents Role

Parents can fuel an athlete's “expectation cycle.”  Think about the questions you may ask after an athletic event. Often questions are strictly outcome-based:

  • Did you win?
  • Did you score?
  • What was your time?
  • Did you start? How much playing time did you get?

A Better Conversation

Imagine how your son or daughter would feel if they heard you ask

  • Did you play your hardest?
  • Are you a good sport?
  • Did you have fun?

We don’t want the stress of personal expectations to spoil the journey of the sport.

Understanding and managing personal expectations in sports are important for sport and life.

How many situations do you know that went awry because the expectations for the moment were unrealistic.

Apply the same exercises we just walked through for sport to a personal situation.  Expectations often lead to disappointment, anger, and frustrations.  

Drop your expectations. No one in the game of sport nor life is PERFECT

Focus on one play, one race, one moment at a time.

Do you feel stressed? Be more relaxed and less stressed


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