Lessons Learned: Expectations

A collegiate wrestler had been on a losing streak for several months with increased frustration and little idea of where to direct more of his efforts/energy. He explained that he had been staying after practice for additional repetitions in skills, had been strength training harder and running longer, and had discussed his frustrations with his coach. The wrestler indicated he was losing to opponents he had defeated easily in the recent past, was losing motivation, experiencing intense mood swings, and intimidated by almost every competition (which used to energize and excite him).
After some work with a sport psychologist discussing his thoughts leading up to, during, and after a match, it became apparent that the wrestler was very focused on his coach’s expectations. He also became more aware of his expectations for himself in comparison to his father, who had been a very successful wrestler. He started to understand how these additional expectations would take him out of his focus during competition. The wrestler stated, “My opponent only has to deal with me. I have to wrestle against him – and myself.”
Through awareness, restructured self-talk, redirected focus (on the process rather than outcome), and goal setting, the wrestler began to wrestle like his former self. He experienced some of his best matches, feeling confident and secure in himself. The wrestler learned that his expectations for himself and his focus on the process rather than the outcome would allow him to create his own success (rather than his father’s or coach’s).

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