Some top performers are very religious, but is this statistically significant? Could it be more than a coincidence?
Jordan Burroughs is an example of this as I’ve written about in one of my other blog posts, but the 2016 Freestyle Wrestling Olympic champions at 74kg (Hassan Yazdani) and 86kg (Abdulrashid Sadulaev) have also been known to be religious.
So, where’s the connection? This post is one educated guess.
Connecting Faith and Performance
From my understanding of performance psychology, the specifics of how you worship in your faith or from whom your belief stems (mentor, coach, teammates, close friends, etc.) seem to be up to the individual’s preference. I suspect that there’s more I have left to learn in this area, but I believe the massive underlying principle behind this is the ability to believe or have faith in something that you cannot see or otherwise tangibly sense. Nevertheless, you still believe in its presence and its positive impact. And why not? Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell has brought up an interesting idea in the past: why would you limit yourself to that which you can perceive? Why would you rule out the supernatural as a possibility? Regardless of where your beliefs lie, it’s certainly an interesting thought.
As for how this affects performance, I suspect this relates to how certain people handle themselves in times of adversity. For example, a wrestlers could be having a hard time seeing success in competition or in practice. At that point, it’s very hard to see future success, but as a man (or woman) of faith, they’re able to continue, knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They believe in something that they currently cannot see or feel, and in that state of mind, winning is far less important as a measuring stick for success. Their faith grows in the amount of work they put in every day, and eventually they will find what they weren’t able to see before.
In Jordan Burroughs’ words, “Some good will come out of this.”
Long story short, the ability to believe in what you cannot see or sense at the time seems to be a very strong quality. Those with faith in some form or another are more capable of achieving it than those who don’t have that sense of belief.
Some devote their life to sport and some devote their life to religion. The two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. At the higher levels of competition or mastery, the way in which you perform reflects your personality and character in many ways since you’re drawing from the subconscious mind to execute. With such devotion, there’s bound to be some overlap.
Do you consider yourself a person of faith? Have you had moments where you believed in the light at the end of the tunnel, even if you couldn’t see it at the time?