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Psyche of an amateur athlete: Why do they compete?

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We have all watched elite sporting action before, from the regional SEA Games, to larger-scale ones like the Commonwealth Games, or even those on a global level like the Olympics. We have witnessed the highs and lows of competition that an athlete goes through – the anguish, the exhilaration, and all the feelings in between.

martina shooting commonwealth games 2014Martina Veloso, Team Singapore shooter. Photo: Sport Singapore

However, closer to home, such action could also be found in our local communities, where amateur athletes young and old have been competing in meets such as the Singapore National Games, which will be making a return this August as part of GetActive! Singapore

These amateur athletes are not out to break the world record, nor to clinch an international title, but they are no less enthusiastic or energetic than those competing on the world stage.

Joshua Chua, Associate Sports Psychologist from the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI), shared his perspective on what motivated amateur athletes to train and compete as hard as they did.

“Different people have different goals, or aspirations that they have in mind. I think it’s important to establish that aspect,” he pointed out.

“It’s a matter of how we think and how we perceive the competition and the importance of it, and how one responds to competition,” said Chua.

With less possibility of achieving international glory and fame compared to professional athletes, amateur athletes placed competition experience as a top priority, as Chua noted.

SNG SepaktakrawAmateur athletes are no less enthusiastic or energetic than those competing on the world stage. Photo: Sport Singapore


“When you compete, you want to win, and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. But the importance that [amateur athletes] place on it, whether they win or lose, isn’t perceived as greatly as professional athletes,” he shared, adding that national athletes faced more pressure as they bore the weight of their country and team’s hopes.

Keeping that in mind, one might assume that amateur athletes would not feel any stress when competing, but Chua begged to differ, explaining that competitions will always be an inherent source of stress and anxiety.

In fact, Chua reckoned that it was these forms of emotions, stemming from the rollercoaster ride of competing, that kept participants coming back.

He shared: “The competition can provide an adrenaline rush, and people like it! Once they get started, they keep coming back, even though they would say at the start that it was very nerve-wrecking or stressful.”

For community-level meets such as the Singapore National Games, he also emphasised the importance of having fun, and considered it to be one of the most crucial elements in attracting participants, who typically sign up with their friends.

Chua elaborated: “[These competitions provide] a sense of belonging to their group, [and] an avenue where they can compete with like-minded people, on various levels.”

“Through all these competitions, regardless of sport, that’s where they start to meet people, and [possibly] form social groups where they can [keep] training together subsequently,” he shared.

SNG AthleticsAn amateur athlete in action during the previous edition of the Singapore National Games. Photo: Sport Singapore

While regular sports participation alone was already enough to boost one’s physical, social, and mental health, Chua encouraged more amateur athletes to take part in competitions, as it would add an additional thrill to the sport that they loved.

“Sometimes, as you get older, there is no fixed goal in mind, and you just want to play the sport. Competitions can be seen as a driving force, as a form of motivation also, for people to continue to improve,” he explained.

“Sports is a very good way to keep fit, and be physically and mentally active. Emotionally to me, if you have a routine where you exercise daily, regardless of whether you play sports, [it] can uplift your mood too,” Chua shared.

Ready to get into the competitive spirit this year along with your friends? Sign up for the Singapore National Games 2018 here when registration opens in May 2018!


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