“Oh Shit!” is a term that I and many other people may use when we get in over our heads in an extreme sport. I believe that many participants in the world of extreme sports will go to extreme lengths to fit in. I believe that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could be a driving force behind these actions.
For those of you who may not be familiar, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a tier of physical and social achievements that people strive towards in their everyday lives. The figure below illustrates the different levels.
Of these five levels, I believe that most extreme sports athletes are striving towards achieving the top three levels, because the bottom two levels had already been met, and if the bottom two levels had not been achieved, then the athlete would not be participating in the sport. Continuing on, I believe that when people try to achieve success in the upper three tiers, that is when injuries may occur. As I previously mentioned, many people will go outside of their comfort zone in order to feel accepted, this is kind of like peer pressure, but the individual is not talked into doing something, but rather will take the “plunge” on their own.
The first tier that I will talk about is the need to feel accepted into a group. I and many others are guilty of trying something outside of our comfort zones in order to feel accepted by our peers. These actions may not have gone so well, because I know that I personally crashed on a bike trying to keep up and prove that I am worthy of being accepted by my peers. After we all feel like we have been accepted into the group, we move on to the next tier.
The next tier is needing to gain a sense of self esteem. This is the big one when it comes to sustaining injuries in the process, because we are pushing ourselves to our personal extreme in order to gain a sense of self esteem. That means that we are always trying to go bigger and or go faster, or even a mixture of both which again could cause us to crash. After we have gained a sense of esteem, we will move on to the final tier of the hierarchy of needs.
Self actualization is the final tier in the hierarchy of needs. Reaching a point of self actualization means that we would ultimately feel like we have truly mastered our sport, we would feel like we would have nothing left to learn or achieve.
Here’s the thing, after conducting research on the subject, it did not seem like anyone had reached this point of self actualization. This baffled me, so many professional athletes in all of these extreme sports, and not ONE sounded like they had reached a point of self actualization. After watching many videos about crazy feats that people had attempted, it dawned on me; no one had reached this point because everyone still had things that they thought that they needed to work on in order to get a better run. Even professionals were still in the third and fourth tier of the hierarchy of needs.
This also brings up some interesting ideas about how this could be causing injuries in extreme sports. After realizing that almost every extreme sports participant was still trying to achieve a sense of belonging and or self esteem, that could explain a lot of the injuries that have accumulated over the years. I know that I am guilty of trying to go outside of my comfort zone in order to feel accepted, but I am not the only one, nor am I the only one to get hurt in the process. I believe that because we are all willing to go bigger than ever before in order to feel accepted, that this is causing a lot of us to injure ourselves to prove that we belong.