Why sports fans put so much pressure on athletes

There’s nothing worse than being a quarterback in the NFL that just walked off the field after firing three interceptions and losing the game. The amount of unrest that lies in the psyche is unbearable as the slow stroll to the locker room begins, head hanging and all. That’s the cue: Get ready to face the music from the unapologetic press and the temporarily upset fanbase.

The pressure to succeed isn’t anything new — It’s something that every dedicated athlete has been surrounded by ever since they were participating at the earliest level. In fact, it’s fair to say that some children are born with the expectation to dominate the last second field goal kick, hit the game-winning home run, and make most of their free throws.

The parents seated in the stands during those early days are so intrigued by being responsible for their child’s success that they completely forget about everything else that’s going on. But kids are playing sports to have fun, there’s no other way to put it. If you’re a parent eyeing your child’s first professional contract at eight years old, you’re doing it the wrong way.

Rethink your entire attitude, seriously.

As an athlete approaches more competitive levels of their sport, yes, the pressure does naturally start adding up. The worst types of high school teammates are the players that care so little about their craft that it brings the serious individuals down with them.

The mental games swirl around in an athlete’s head start beginning at the collegiate level, when scholarships are handed out like candy on Halloween. Some schools take that approach, and others take an act of congress. The necessity to live up to the scholarship hype is weighing heavily, especially while also balancing schoolwork. It’s difficult to handle, and there are many who simply can’t enter the kitchen when the stove is on. The competitive nature of athletics isn’t for everyone — It takes a certain toughness to grind through expectations.

Meanwhile, we created a distressed and agitated monster when social media and the sports world mixed together. The increase in the pressure on athletes in our modern day has been significant, but has also very much been self-inflicted.

After all, having a profile on social media is your own decision.

Thanks to the innovation, sports fans have even more access to players, and the opportunity for criticism is easier than ever. Instead of writing hate mail and traveling to the nearest post office to mail it, the worst insults can now be submitted with a simple movement of the thumb.

Kudos to the professional athletes who either stay away from social media or refrain from using it often. They are the real winners in this situation, as they don’t have to deal with the merciless, ruthless, and sometimes inappropriate comments that get thrown their way after a rough game.

It’s very much understandable: Fans are addicted to winning. They draft fantasy teams every preseason and literally put money on certain players to perform well. For the super outrageous ones, their lives depend on Tom Brady throwing three touchdown passes. For others, they can care less about LeBron James making that layup or not.

The bottom line is this: if an athlete is getting paid millions of dollars to play sports, they’re automatically held to a higher standard. That’s a given. However, the pressure placed on them is enormous. The fear of failing a family, high school, college, or city is a stressful thought, and attacking their personal lives is the definition of crossing the line.

If you want to be an athlete, thick skin is a tool that is important to master. Not just for sporting events themselves, but also for facing the criticism you’ll receive afterwards.