Why Athletes Need Supportive Friends and Family

Strong support systems improve confidence and sports success

friends can help you in sports

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When it comes to training and competition, having the support of family, friends and teammates may just be an athlete's secret weapon to improving sports success on game days.

It may seem obvious that social support systems would help an athlete stick to a training program or eat a healthy diet, but does it really help you perform better during competition? Yes, it does, according to research on golfers.

Researcher Tim Rees reported that ongoing support of friends and family may be one of the most important factors influencing sports performance. He believes that the encouragement and support of friends and family is a key factor in building confidence in an athlete, and it's this confidence that can lead to success in a high-pressure sporting event.

For the study, Rees asked nearly 200 elite golfers about their social support systems. They were also asked about their confidence and levels of stress or anxiety. After analyzing the results, Rees found that during stressful matches, players with strong social support systems improved their golf score by one shot per round of golf, whereas the players with little social support actually played worse and added up to three shots per round to their total score.

Other studies also show that high levels of confidence can improve sports success. These studies raise some interesting questions about how confidence, or what the researchers call "self-efficacy," affects an athlete's success. Belief in one's sports ability is a large part of the drive that most elite athletes feel, but having a support system, made up of friends, family, a coach or a strong team is perhaps as important. In some cases, it appears to be the most important factor to an athlete's success.

So, if this is the case, how do you develop a strong network and support system? Here are a few tips.

How to Create a Great Support System

  • Ask for Support
    • This is probably the easiest way to find support. Share your goals and plans and then ask your family and friends to help encourage you to achieve them. Those closest to you are probably your biggest fans, but may not know that you want or need their encouragement.
  • Hire a Coach or Personal Trainer
    • A good coach is your biggest support system. A coach takes care of details, keeps you focused, provides positive feedback, understands what you are going through and is completely invested in your personal success.
  • Find a Training Partner
    • A training partner who is at your level, or even a bit more advanced, can be your best friend and confidant for sports. Seek out someone who will push you, encourage you and cheer you to the finish. Look for a training partner who is positive and encouraging and fun to be around.
  • Join a Local Club or Group
    • Finding support doesn't have to mean working within your current network. Branch out and find new friends who share some of the same goals. If you run and want to run your best 10K, find a local running group that is active, consistent and working towards the same goals. You may find that these people are the same ones cheering you on to the finish line at your local fun runs.
  • Lead By Example
    • Are you enthusiastic about your training workouts and competitions? If you grumble to your spouse, drag your feet to the gym and moan about your aches and pains to your friends, don't be surprised if they discourage you from participating in a sport that makes you miserable. If you want others to support you, you need to give them a reason to support you.
  • Support Others
    • Another great way to build a support system is to provide support to others. Enthusiasm and encouragement can be contagious and encourage others to perform their best often results in them doing the same for you.
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  • Tim Rees, et al. Social Support Moderates the Relationship Between Stressors and Task Performance Through Self-Efficacy. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. March 2009.