The Media

As an elite athlete, one of the best things you can do is stop paying attention to the media. Too often the media wastes your time, inflates your ego, causes complacency, increases pressure, or discourages you. You can maintain a much healthier mindset by blocking out the media.

It's human nature to want to know what others think about you. Everyone has an ego and likes it when they receive attention from others. It can become addictive to check the media to see what people are thinking about you and your team. When you hear or read positive things, you may get happy. When you hear or read negative things, you may get angry, but still, you may want to check back everyday to continue hearing/reading the negative comments.

At first, you may think this is harmless. You may even think it helps you. You may think it helps motivate you by providing positive reinforcement as well as "bulletin board material." But you'll be surprised at how fast it can spiral out of hand and negatively affect your mindset. You might not realize it until it's too late. So let me warn you beforehand!

You may think coach Nick Saban is over-exaggerating when he says media attention is like "rat poison." But he knows what he is talking about. He understands the negative effects media and social media can have on athletes. Paying too much attention to the media can hurt you in many ways.

First of all, it can be a waste of time. You don't need to hear or read what others think about you. You should be spending your time more wisely. Instead of wasting time checking the media, you should be focusing on your priorities. You should spend so much time training, studying, and spending time with your friends and family, that you don't have enough time to check the media.

Second, positive media coverage often demotivates you more than it motivates you. When you keep hearing good things said about you, you may get too satisfied with yourself. This can cause you to get complacent and stop working as hard.

Similarly, this attention inflates your ego, which not only can lead to complacency, but also arrogance, narcissism, and selfishness. It can make you want to be the "star," which can turn you into a bad teammate.

You may say, "What about negative media coverage? Doesn't that motivate athletes." Yes, this is true. Many athletes love to use negative media coverage as fuel to work harder. But you need to be careful with this. First of all, using only this kind of "prove haters wrong" motivation can be bad for your mental health. It can make you a bitter, angry person on and off the court. Also, this kind of motivation is not always good for performance. It can cause a fear of failure that increases nervousness and choking. Furthermore, you may get too dependent on this source of motivation. If the media happens to stop paying attention to you or starts saying positive things about you, you may lose your motivation.

But more importantly, you shouldn't have to constantly check the media to find motivation. You should already be motivated from all your other sources of motivation. And if you ever do need a boost of motivation from haters, then you can just check the media one time. Don't make it a habit, or else you're going be wasting time and checking for motivation when you're already motivated enough and need to get off your phone and get to work.

Even if you're not trying to gain motivation from it, checking the media can still put too much pressure on you. If you're worried too much about meeting other peoples' expectations of you, you may get too nervous in games and choke.

Another negative effect of paying too much attention to the media is the discouragement it can cause. Instead of drawing motivation from media criticism, you may get discouraged by it. It can hurt your confidence, which can hurt your motivation and performance.

All of this applies to social media as well. Random fans and trolls can impact your mindset in these ways.

So how do you avoid these traps and maintain a good mindset? The answer is to block out the noise, of course. Simply stop watching and reading certain types of media. However, this is easier said than done. It takes a good plan to successfully accomplish this. The first thing you need to do is commit yourself to this goal. You have to seriously believe in the negative effects of paying too much attention to the media. You have control your ego and tell yourself that you don't need constantly check the media to feel good about yourself. You have to understand your core motivations and tell yourself that you don't need constantly search for haters to prove wrong. 

As a coach, you need to emphasize all of this to your players. Tell them that all the information, feedback, motivation, and expectations that they need comes from WITHIN the locker-room. Tell them that they'll be way better off if they keep their attention within these confines.

Some of you may already have these bad habits of checking the media and social media too often. If this is the case, you're going to have to work hard on breaking these bad habits. There's many practical things that you can do to help you break these habits. For one, you can simply keep the TV and radio turned off. Or you can watch different shows that are irrelevant to sports. If you're willing enough, you can delete your social media accounts. This can be extremely helpful. However, many people are unwilling to do this, or they need their social media for certain reasons. If this is the case, then you can also unfollow any account that negatively affects your mindset. Be very careful about who you follow. You can also set daily time limits for how long you can use your social media accounts.

If you successfully do this, you'll be surprised at the results. You may realize that "ignorance is bliss!" You may find it easier to maintain motivation and commitment to your sport. Your time management may improve. You may see your performance improve. And you may notice your mental health improve! You may look back and say, "Wow, I can't believe I wasted so much time paying attention to what others think! I'm so glad I stopped."

You may doubt that it helps this much, but you won't know until you try!