High School Sports


Danny Desin: Dear athletes, what's your why?

Odessa Zentz
Posted at 10:54 AM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 13:23:39-04

(Editor’s note: Report by Danny Desin, M.S., www.desinsportpsych.com)

As athletes, it’s helpful to understand the reasons that you play. In other words, you need to know your purpose for playing the game. When working with athletes, I’m always unsure about when to talk about purpose. In times like these, I think understanding your purpose is an essential piece in guiding you through the upcoming weeks.

The question I like to ask is, “What’s your why?” The great author and speaker Simon Sinek* has written a lot about this concept and has developed something he calls the “Golden Circle.” It’s simply three circles: The outer circle is labeled WHAT, the second circle is labeled HOW, and the inner circle is labeled WHY.

So many of us start by thinking about what we are going to do. You’re stuck at home, so what will you do now? When we look at it in that light, we aren’t very motivated to get things done. Instead, we should start with WHY and let our purpose feed into what we do and how we do it.

“I play because …”

This is going to increase your motivation to get better on a daily basis and will drive you to make better decisions in your time off. This is the groundwork to the progress that you want to make before sports start up again.

I want to give you an example of a purpose statement, which is what I think you should develop over the next week. I developed mine a while ago and read it every once in a while to make sure I’m on the right path:

“I do what I do because I love the spirit of competition and the pride of accomplishment, even if those feelings don’t come from myself. I believe that human beings are capable of unbelievable things, and it seems to me that we often hold ourselves back. It just so happens that sport and performance is one of those areas that I feel I can reach people.

"I would consider my style to be collaborative. I won’t try to control people that I work with, but I will challenge them appropriately when they have a goal in sight. I find my enjoyment in tagging along for the journey with the people that I influence. They are simply on their own path, and I get to advise from time to time and share in their highs and lows. My overarching goal is for the athletes I work with to be satisfied in what they do or what they accomplish in performance. Performing at a high level is important, but not nearly important as soaking in the positive aspects of pushing beyond your limits.

"I will always strive to give the athletes I influence my very best. I do have faults and often make mistakes, but I’m always eager to learn. I don’t pretend to understand something that I don’t, but will continue to ask the important questions.

"I love the position that I’m in right now and the purpose that I feel I’ve been given. I hope that I can influence others through my actions and words over the course of my career and beyond. If I can help others to find their purpose and help them to be satisfied in their pursuits, I will be fulfilling my own.”

Your purpose statement can and should be different than mine. We are talking about a return to sports participation, so you definitely want to make your sport the focal point. Take your time in developing your “why.” Don’t go for the cliché statements and buzz words that you hear on social media, go for the words that actually mean something to you. When you finish, read it and believe what you’ve written. This is going to increase motivation levels, which may be fairly low at this point in time, and will give you no excuse when you have the choice between getting better and wasting your time.

[*Sinek, S. (2019). Start with why: how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. London: Portfolio Penguin.]

About Danny Desin: Danny Desin has been around the Billings sports community all of his life — as a spectator, player, and coach. Desin received a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from MSU Billings and played college basketball for both Montana State University and MSU-Billings. Has has graduate level education at both Boise State University and California Southern University, where he finished a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a specialization in Sport Psychology. He is a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC).