Unlocking Potential: Understanding the 6 Core Needs to Become a Better Athlete

One of the reasons why you struggle to do certain things is related to how well you perceive that that action is fulfilling your core needs. Let me explain…

As athletes, we are constantly striving for improvement and success – to push our limits, surpass our opponents, and achieve greatness. However, our journey to becoming better athletes goes beyond physical training and talent. It involves understanding our psychological and emotional facets, specifically our core needs as human beings, which play a significant role in our performance on and off the field.

All dysfunctional behaviors arise from the inability to meet these core needs consistently. But people’s needs aren’t just behind the poor decisions we make – they are also behind all of the great things that humans accomplish. Understanding your own needs and psychology can not only help you avoid toxic behaviors and habits but can also help you achieve your goals.

What force drives and shapes all of our emotions, actions, quality of life, and ultimately our destinies? In this article, we will explore why fulfilling these core needs is essential to unlocking our full potential as athletes.


  1. Certainty

Certainty is an innate need that revolves around feeling secure and having predictability in our performance. When an athlete has certainty in their abilities, they are more likely to compete with confidence and composure. It is the uncertainty and sense of loss of control that sends an athlete into a state of ‘fear’ where the mind tries to consciously control performance instead of performing instinctively from the skillset that has been lodged into muscle memory and the subconscious mind (the habit mind).

“Natural talent only determines the limits of your athletic potential. It’s dedication and a willingness to discipline your life that makes you great.” – Billie Jean King


  1. Variety

While certainty is crucial, athletes also need variety in their training routines to stimulate growth, prevent stagnation, and eliminate complacency. There is also a need for change, difference, and excitement. If everything was certain and the same all the time athletes would get bored and uninspired.


  1. Significance

We all need to feel special and unique, like our voice matters, and what we do counts. The need for significance is about feeling valued and acknowledged in athletic pursuits. For most, this comes from social approval or reward but athletes should understand that authentic significance primarily comes from within and should not be solely dependent on external factors such as trophies or accolades.


  1. Connection

The need for love and connection is universal. Connection and love are fundamental needs that extend beyond athletic achievements. Developing strong relationships with coaches, teammates, and support systems nurtures a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and emotional support.

“When people start to lose a sense of meaning and get disconnected, that’s where disease comes from. That’s when a breakdown in our physical, mental, and social health occurs.” – Bruce Perry


  1. Growth

These last two needs can be described as spiritual needs. You have a need to grow and expand as a human being, expand your consciousness, expand your knowledge, expand your reach, success, and achievement in the world. The need for growth is at the heart of an athlete’s journey. Those who embrace continuous learning and improvement are more likely to achieve long-term success.


  1. Contribution

You also have a need to give back, to make a difference, to use your growth, knowledge, and uniqueness to lead others in some way, and to leave a legacy. Whether that be prioritizing the greater good and using your platform to inspire others or giving back to your community. Athletes have the power to have a positive effect on the world beyond their athletic achievements. Understanding their need for contribution empowers athletes to use their influence to impact in a positive way, creating a sense of fulfillment and purpose that transcends the confines of their sport.


To become a better athlete, it is essential to recognize and address how we extract the six core needs in our lives. By understanding these needs, athletes can create a holistic approach to their development, focusing not only on physical training but also on psychological and emotional well-being. 

Here’s how to fulfill the six core needs to maximize potential and promote athletic success.


Need more Certainty?

Create a balanced and consistent training regimen, incorporating deliberate practice. (physical) Couple this with effective strategies to overcome adversity and setbacks such as focus-recovery techniques and a Plan B’ (mental). This allows athletes to develop self-assuredness and confidence in their capabilities. Understanding the need for certainty helps athletes cope with the uncertainties of competitions, enabling them to maintain focus and perform at their best despite the external pressures.


Maybe more Variety?

Embrace new challenges, and explore different strategies and different ways of thinking. Introducing fresh workout routines keeps athletes engaged and enhances their adaptability in diverse situations. By incorporating variety into their practice sessions, athletes can better prepare for unforeseen circumstances, develop higher levels of resilience, and improve their problem-solving skills.


Want to feel more Significant?

A deeper understanding of your inner drive, how you are primarily motivated and your set of core values helps athletes redefine their purpose, ensuring they prioritize personal growth over external validation. Appreciating the significance of self-improvement allows athletes to move on quicker from elements outside of their control, create a higher level of discipline, and stay motivated and dedicated to their craft, regardless of the external outcomes.


Want to build stronger Connections?

When people say they don’t care what anyone else thinks, that’s a lie. At a basic human level, we all yearn for a level of connection and social approval – maybe not from everyone but at least from those we care about the most. Athletes must recognize the importance of cultivating these meaningful connections to drive their passion, self-belief, and boost morale during challenging times, to create an environment that fosters growth and success. Nobody succeeds alone.


Feeling Stagnant?

A crucial part of personal fulfillment in your sport is understanding that growth is a process and not a destination. Great athletes are connected to why they do what they do, the direction they are headed, the strategy of getting there, and the help they need to achieve their dreams. Athletes must set both long-term and short-term goals, break them down into manageable steps, and analyze their progress regularly. Fostering a growth mindset, helps athletes overcome setbacks, adapt to change, and exploit opportunities for self-improvement.

“Those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That’s the dream.” – Kobe Bryant.


Want to Inspire others?

There are a number of ways that athletes can leave a legacy. Our need to positively impact others is universal. Whether it’s coaching the next generation in your sport, relaying valuable knowledge to those around you, giving back to your family, kids, or community, or maybe inspiring others through your platform. This not only builds a connection to others through purpose but a stronger connection to your authentic self.

Embracing these six human needs allows athletes to cultivate resilience, maintain motivation, and navigate the ups and downs of their journey toward success. Ultimately, unlocking their full potential as athletes requires a comprehensive understanding and integration of these vital components.

“The only person you are destined to be is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson


– 𝒞ℴ𝒶𝒸𝒽 𝒞𝒶𝓁. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.