For most athletes, the number they wear on their uniform is of great significance as the number, in essence, becomes their athletic identity (AHPS). While it may be true that the number a player wears has nothing to directly do with scoring points, playing great defense, or making great plays in the clutch, players who feel good about their number may benefit in other, less observable ways. For instance, sport psychology studies show that athletes who feel confident, comfortable, and ready to go because they take the field wearing their unique number may actually play with more mental toughness as a result.
When athletes take pride in their number they often create a self-fulfilling prophecy that allows them to “play up to” the identity they have created through their sports identity. In other words, while the number itself may not do anything, the idea that when an athlete puts on his or her uniform a new identity takes over — one that is tougher, more focused, and motivated to succeed — it may not be such a bad thing!
So as you can see there isn’t anything magical about a favorite sports number, but for athletes who value and take pride in their number the identity that is created can be one that actually elevates the athlete’s game. The reality is when we feel good, we play good.
Savvy coaches can use team number assignments in positive ways, perhaps most importantly as a source of individual and team pride. When kids realize that the number they wear has significance as it relates to their own success, the team’s success, and even the pride the community takes on for the team, their number then takes on more meaning and is often used as a tool to increase motivation, perseverance, and resiliency.
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