I was born into an auto racing family. My grandpa raced on dirt tracks in Iowa, my dad drag raced everything from old Dodges to fuel-injected altereds, and then I married my husband who started drag racing a 1966 Nova he built when he was 16 years old. For the last 20 years my husband and I have campaigned a rear-engine big block Chevy dragster in various classes from super quicks, to index racing, to big buck bracket racing, etc. At the end of the day, I just love everything about auto racing.
I also am a professor at McKendree University and teach psychology classes including sport psychology, so I have been able to combine my love of auto racing with psychology. I write for various drag racing magazines and also work with many individual athletes and teams in auto racing and with other sports like bowling, basketball, softball, etc. What I find most interesting is that the skills you learn on the track, on the field, or gaming are very similar and can also be generalized to life in general. Here are my top 5 sport psych skills that make you a better athlete and a better person!
- Practices makes you closer to perfect. Every athlete knows that the only way you get better is to practice. This seemingly simple notion, is so important to truly understand. If you want to be a better racer, a better gamer, a better employee, etc., you are going to have to get some experience and practice being better.
- Goals and pride in reaching new goals. In the world of sports and gaming, it is easy to set goals to reach milestones and then to push yourself to do more. The best athletes I know get a great deal of satisfaction from setting goals, reaching goals, and then setting new goals. Sometimes in our work and relationships, it is harder to set such tangible goals, but the same basic principles are there. Set goals, work hard, reach a goal, celebrate that accomplishment, and keep moving forward.
- Teamwork and social support are important. Even individual athletes still need coaches, teammates, friends, family, and support. The world of athletics brings us closer to people as we share interest and work together. When I ask a lot of athletes what they love most about their sport they often say the competition and the friends. Many of our best friends are also racers, you have a shared sense of community, your own jargon, and simply fun things that you can talk about for hours!
- Learning to handle stress, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. Sports help people get better at feeling nervous, but performing anyway. There is something very important about feeling stress, but being willing to do it anyway! Sports also let you know what it feels like to win and how to be a good winner. Sports also teach you how to lose. It is not about losing, but about losing, learning, and getting back up and doing it again. One of my favorite quotes is I never lose, I either win or I learn! (Nelson Mandela)
- Commitment and passion make life worth living. Every good athlete I have ever met is extremely committed to what they do and they are passionate about their sport. Sure everyone gets down, losing is hard, it may be a lot of work, but at the end of the day, they do it because they can’t imagine not doing it. The sport gives them purpose, excitement, and becomes part of their identity. All of us should be so lucky to find work, relationships, and hobbies that bring us joy, excitement, and a sense of purpose!
Tami Eggleston is a professor of psychology at McKendree University. She and her husband race dragsters at various drag races. Her sport psychology website is www.thinktuff.com Tami regularly works with individual athletes and teams. She also does presentations on goal setting and success for businesses. Her goals for all of her activities are to educate, engage, and inspire!