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Selflessness

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I believe that selflessness is one of the most important characteristics for an athlete to posses when playing on a team. In order for the team to reach their full potential athlete’s need to be willing to make personal sacrifices in order to better the team. A true teammate mentality, asks what does the team need, before asking what do I need?

When I was an athlete, one of my favorite things about playing on a team, was the opportunity I had to help my teammates be successful.IMG_9849 I learned to push my skill level by keeping the mindset that the team’s success was more important than my own.
On defense, playing for teammates helped me to overcome my fears. Instead of worrying about how scary diving for a ball was, I was focused on getting the out my pitcher needed to end the inning. I knew that if I didn’t lay-out she was going to have to throw to another batter. The need to help my teammates over shadowed my fears.

As a coach, I’m noticing that this mindset is no longer the norm. I may have been simply oblivious to the selfish culture of sports as an athlete, but it seems to me the game has drastically changed. Athletes are so focused on capturing that collegiate scholarship that they’ve completely forgotten about the teammates around them. It’s me, me, me, or I, I, I. Rarely do we hear an athletes concern for “we”, “the team” or “us”. We constantly hear: “Why am I not starting at first base?” or “ I didn’t get enough fly balls at practice”. What’s even worse, is most of these complaints aren’t coming from the athlete’s themselves; they come from the parents. “My daughter only got to base run today at practice”. “My daughter sat out two games weekend.”

This culture of hyper-focusing on individual success is eroding a piece of the game I IMG_0064loved most. Creating that unique bond with your teammates is something I haven’t found in any other environment in my life. When you know that the people around you care just as much or more about your success then they do about theirs is an indescribable feeling. It’s why teams become families and create bonds that last a lifetime. With so much focus on individual success and college scholarships a lot of athletes are missing out on what it feels like to be a true teammate.

I believe that it’s imperative for coaches to create a team culture that is built around selflessness. Selflessness is the basis of teamwork. Teamwork is one of the biggest factors of success. Praise athlete’s when they display the trait of selflessness. Reward the ones who have mastered what it means to be a teammate. Create opportunities for your athlete’s to show how selfless they can be. Set team guidelines so your athletes know what you expect, and know what selflessness looks like on a team. Selflessness can teach athletes so much on and off the field. It can help them reach their true potential by learning to rely on their teammates and experience genuine teamwork.

Quote of the day:

“It’s not about what the team can do for you, it’s about what you can do for the team.”

A Perspective on Playing Rough

As a coach, if you resort to rough play, what does it say to your opponent, and what does it say to your players?

Through out my experience as an athlete, I don’t remember having an opinion or perspective on rough play. I do, however, remember a specific incident when one of my teammates made a rough move on our opponent. The only thing my coach told her was, “If you’re going to dish it, be prepared to take it.” I immediately adopted this response as my philosophy in regard to rough play. I would never encourage it, but if it were to happen, my players better be prepared to deal with the consequences gracefully.images-41Now that I’m a little wiser and a little older, I wouldn’t tolerate rough play from my athletes. I want my team to be respected not only for their talent but how they present themselves. I want my athletes to achieve success in the fairest play possible, without any sort of rough or negative behaviors. Playing rough, reminds me of the saying, “If you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying”. If a team resorts to playing rough, it puts off the vibe that they are incapable of defeating their opponent fair in square. They need an extra edge to defeat the opposing team. If I’m the opponent, I take this as a compliment. My team is so good, our competitors are worried about beating us, so they are resorting to other means. As for my own team, I want them to believe that being a winner means putting in your best effort, not cheating and merely attaining a higher score to be named the winner. It’s all in how you define success, I don’t agree with winning at all costs, I believe in winning means putting forth your best effort. Respecting the game, the opponent, your teammates, coaches, and officials.

Playing rough teaches players to get rough when the tough gets going, and not only on the sports field, but it also teaches them that getting rough is the answer in life. As coaches we can instill the opposite trait in our players by teaching them to react with good sportsmanship when this situation presents itself. This will carry on with them through life, and help them to always treat people with kindness no matter how rude or rough they are. As an adult, networking is the key to success, especially in the workforce; learning to never burn bridges is a great lesson to instill early on.

Quote of the Day:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are; your reputation is merely what others think of you”- John Wooden. 

Do Sports Build Character?

Do Sports Build Character? According to a Research Digest article entitled, “Sports and Character Development”, simply put, no. However, CAN sports build character? Yes. And I completely agree. In the article they identified three prominent aspects of character as; Perspective-taking and empathy, moral reasoning, and motivational orientation. So, someone with good character knows how to see the world through anothers’ eyes, and can empathize with their situation. They know right from wrong, and act accordingly. Lastly, they are motivated intrinsically; they strive to truly master a skill, rather than just to simply beat an opponent.

We can’t just throw youth into sports programs and expect them to emerge with a good stable character that will enable them to “live in fidelity with their moral values”.  To me, this point is obvious. For instance, look at our professional athletes, how many times have we seen our sports idols golic2caught up in a steroid scandal? If their history with sports had created a sound character for them, they would believe cheating was wrong, and wouldn’t be tempted to win by an unfair advantage. On the contrary, sports seem to be a big contributor to the good character displayed by players like Buster Posey and Greg Maddox. So what’s the secret?

According to the article, coaches of sports programs have to consciously implement character building into their coaching philosophies and styles. They have to talk about, and discuss, the aspects of good character and how it relates to sports with their players. My favorite example of this strategy demonstrated how to bring awareness to the character trait of empathy. youth-sport-baseball-playersIt’s so common in sports to hear a coach say, “keep your head in the game” when an opponent gets injured. Empathy is almost shunned in the moment. But, after the game, coaches can ask their players to put themselves in the injured players shoes. Asking them, “How do you think suzy felt when she hurt her ankle sliding into home plate?”.  Coaches can open up the conversation, allowing them to realize that getting injured or losing, isn’t the easiest situation to be in.

As a coach, you have a huge impact over the “motivational climate” of your program. In the Sports Psychology world, it is common softball_pics_161knowledge that intrinsic motivation is more beneficial than extrinsic motivation in the long run. You want your players to strive to be the best they can be, not just better than their opponent. You want them to play the sport because it feels good on the inside, gives them a sense of compentency (internal rewards), not because they get to show off, or be considered a winner  (external rewards). Coaches can alter the “motivational climate” to breed intrinsic motivation. Make practices focus on giving your best effort, being better than you were the day before, and highlight the positive things.

Being a coach gives us such a unique avenue into shaping someones life, personality, and experiences. In learning and implementing strategies, like these named above, only increases my confidence of becoming the inspirational coach I want to be someday. One of the reasons I love Sports Psychology so much is that it seamlessly applies to my everyday life. I get to use these tools in my day to day life, nobody’s perfect, and I certainly am not. These are things I can talk about with my friends, or acquaintances, or even my kids one day. You don’t have to be a coach, or be in the sports atmosphere to apply these strategies. These are strategies I can use with my kids in the car some day. Just facilitate a conversation about one of their friends that got hurt, BAM, character building lesson right there in the car.

Just another tool to throw into my coaching, and everyday life, tool kit. Thanks for reading. 🙂

Quote of the day:

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are and your reputation is merely what others think of you”- John Wooden.  

Read the full article, “Sports and Character Development” at

https://www.presidentschallenge.org/informed/digest/index.shtml

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