How Personal Performance Affects Athletes’ Self-Worth

Sierra Pirkey, Staff Writer

In almost every coming-of-age film, athletes are portrayed to be the best in schools. The jocks always win homecoming king, the cheerleaders are always the most popular, and athletes are praised for their performances under the Friday night lights. Yet, the toll that personal performance has on athletes’ self-worth is often overlooked. Most commonly, people overlook the pain and suffering that comes with failure in sports and only choose to focus on success. By only acknowledging the good, athletes become addicted to the praise and fall even harder when personal performances fall short of expectations. Praise is tied very tightly to perfection and perfect performances, and when athletes fall short of their goals, they are often left feeling worthless and like they aren’t enough. My goal is to shine a light on the impact personal performance has on athletes’ self-worth, and hopefully show other athletes that they aren’t alone in their struggles. 

Sophomore Cemryn Pickett was one athlete who chose to speak up about the effects her performance has on the way she views herself. Pickett grew up in a baseball family, with her older brothers playing baseball when she was young. She grew up playing t-ball and coach pitch and began getting serious about softball at the age of 10. At age 10, she began playing competitive softball and has played ever since. When asked what the hardest part of her sport was, she stated “ As a pitcher, I struggle with not being able to throw perfectly all the time. There are games where I go in with the mindset of having a perfect game, and it just doesn’t happen. Once other teams start hitting off of me, I lose the ‘perfect game’ mentality, and lose confidence in myself.” Cemryn Pickett went on to talk about how after losing confidence in her abilities, she loses trust in her pitches. After that, her performance has a negative snowball effect and causes her confidence to drop even more. Cemryn could specifically recall a recent game where her performance made her doubt her self-worth. She spoke of a recent tournament in which she had important scouts watching her play. The added stress and pressure from the scouts’ appearance made Pickett begin to doubt her skills after one hit. She specifically stated “ When they were there, I added more pressure to myself and my performance. Even after the first hit I had off of me, I began to doubt my skills. I was so focused on having a great game, that one small failure made me doubt all my skills. I began to question who I was as a player, and as a person. I have worked so hard for all my skills, and having a small failure made me doubt my worth.” Cemryn Pickett is a talented, young athlete, who has excelled here at Berthoud High School for the BHS Girls softball team. Yet it is clear that in a game of perfection, failure is bound to happen. She could recall a time when her performance had an impact on her self-worth, and how being an athlete can sometimes negatively impact her views of herself. It is clear how much athletes rest their self-worth on their performances in their sports. 

Another student-athlete here at Berthoud High School decided to speak up about her own experiences with sports affecting her self-worth. Senior Maggie Langer also plays softball and competed at the competitive level for 5 years. Maggie began her competitive softball career at 10 years old and decided to end her softball career at the closing of the high school softball season last fall. Through the years, Langer faced many ups and downs, and her fair share of challenges. When asked about the hardest part of her sport, she stated “ The hardest aspect of my sport is the mental aspect, as well differentiating between listening to coaches, parents, and teammates, and when you have to block them out and focus on yourself.” Maggie Langer expanded on this idea and talked about how after making errors, it is common for an athlete to feel as though coaches and teammates view you badly. The constant fear of letting teammates and coaches down after making an error impacts almost all athletes during competitions. Maggie could recall a specific time when she felt as though she was letting her team down. She explained “ At the beginning of the regular season for softball, I was hitting in the leadoff position for the team. By the end of the year, however, I had been completely removed from the lineup and wasn’t even allowed to hit in games. This huge shift in the lineup made me feel as though I wasn’t a good player, and my performance wasn’t good enough for my team. I ended up losing all confidence in myself, and felt like I was letting my team down.” Because of the challenges she faced during the season, Langer talked about her experiences and how her performance hitting made her lack confidence. She explained how when she was hitting well and had a good batting average, she felt confident in herself and her abilities. However, when she did fall into slumps, as most athletes do, she lost all confidence and questioned her self-worth. Looking back on her career, Langer had many positive things to express about the things softball taught her over the years. She stated “ Softball taught me that even after a mistake, there will always be another chance. In softball, you are bound to get another ground ball or another at-bat, and it taught me that this is true in life as well. You will always have another chance to take the test or get a job, and one act of failure is not the last chance you will ever get. I also learned how to help others stay positive after their failures, and how to help them cope so that their self-worth isn’t affected.” It is clear from Maggie’s reflection on her career in softball that her personal performance had major effects on her self-worth, but now she can look back and grow from the struggles she faced. 

Over the past 10 years of my life, I have played softball. I grew up in a family where my dad played baseball, and all three of my older siblings played baseball or softball. So, when it came to my choice in 5th grade to pick up a competitive sport, I made the obvious choice to play softball. Since then, I have played 8 competitive seasons, with plenty of ups and downs. There were some moments when I was hitting first in the lineup, and others when I sat on the bench for the whole weekend. In the moments when I played great, I felt the most confident in myself. I trusted my skills in all aspects of my life, not just in my sports. Yet, on the days when I struggled to field a ball or hit a pitch, I doubted everything about myself. I felt as though I was worthless, and everything I did disappointed those around me. Hearing from other athletes that I was able to talk to, I learned that I could relate to everything they were saying. After listening to other athletes speak up, I feel more empowered and less alone than ever. Before, I felt as though I was all alone with my thoughts, and that I was the only athlete to struggle with self-worth. However, it is clear that lots of athletes struggle with their self-worth when performances aren’t as expected. I hope that other athletes can hear the personal stories that have been told by some of our athletes here at Berthoud High School, can recognize that they aren’t alone, and can distinguish between self-worth and personal performance.