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Alter ego in sports

Image via Sports Illustrated

Alter ego is a psychological tool used to help people embody characteristics or traits that are different from their primary personality. It is the practice of adopting a different persona or identity while competing or performing. Having an alter ego allows athletes to tap into different qualities that they feel will benefit their performance.


Alter egos can help athletes reinvent themselves or break free from perceived limitations. By embodying a different persona, athletes can explore new ways of approaching their sport, developing new techniques, or showcasing different aspects of their personality that may not be as prevalent in their everyday lives.

Confidence and Mental Resilience

One of the primary benefits of adopting an alter ego is the boost in confidence and mental resilience it can provide. Athletes can create a persona that embodies the qualities they aspire to possess—strength, fearlessness, focus, or unwavering determination. By mentally assuming this alter ego, athletes can detach themselves from self-doubt and insecurities, enabling them to perform with heightened confidence and resilience in the face of adversity.

Enhanced Performance

When athletes adopt an alter ego, they can tap into a new level of performance. By dissociating from their everyday self and taking on the persona of their alter ego, athletes can unleash untapped potential. The alter ego acts as a conduit for athletes to access their abilities more freely, unencumbered by self-imposed limitations. This mental shift can lead to enhanced physical and cognitive performance, allowing athletes to push past their boundaries and achieve new heights in their athletic pursuits.

Athletes alter egos
Image via Kevin Lynch, Kevin Lynch Studios
Kobe Bryant “The Black Mamba”

Kobe was the Black Mamba, a nickname he gave himself after watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” in which the snake, known for its agility and aggressiveness, was used as a code name for a deadly assassin. “I read up on the animal and said, ‘Wow, this is pretty awesome,’ ” Bryant recalled. “This is a perfect description of how I would want my game to be.” Bryant stated that "Kobe" was tasked with dealing with all his "personal challenges," and "The Black Mamba" handled business on the court.

Image via Never Finished by David Goggins
David Goggins “Goggins”

David Goggins was a shy kid from horrific beginnings. His childhood was difficult, he dealt with abuse, poverty, and trauma. David developed a guy he calls ‘Goggins.’ This is his alter-ego — the toughest man alive. Bulletproof and unbreakable.

An alter ego, as an alternative persona, provides athletes with a powerful psychological tool to enhance their performance, overcome challenges, and unlock one's full potential.

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