Athletes commonly experience an emotional roller coasting while competing — perhaps put no better than the late ABC Wide World of Sports weekly introduction that depicted the sport experience going from “the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat.” The point is that sports prompt athletes to become emotional — and herein is where aggressive and unsportsmanlike acts often originate (Sport Success 360).
Examining the recent Ron Artest incident where he blind-sided James Harden with his elbow —moments before the elbow, Artest felt excitement — and subsequently made a cognitive decision about how he would demonstrate his emotion. Rather than giving a positive and emphatic fist pump to the crowd, he decided to channel his emotion into a terrible cheap shot. Think about what a “teachable moment” this can be for kids when they begin to learn that the emotions they feel from playing sports are great, but how they channel their emotions makes the difference between being a positive leader or getting thrown out of a game for displaying unsportsmanlike behavior. Ironically, and simplistically, the direction in which Artest threw his elbow made all the difference — had it gone in the direction of the crowd rather than the back of Harden’s head, he likely would have helped his team continue to pick up energy, confidence, and mental toughness – variables linked closely to sports focus and athletic success.
Sports parents and coaches can teach student athletes to develop the sport psychology mental toughness skills needed to control emotions while competing and re-direct negative thoughts (that often lead to negative actions) into positive, facilitative, team-building emotions and actions (like giving high-fives to teammates).
Young athletes can learn early in their careers that how they think on the field will directly impact how they play. By understanding that mistakes will happen, games will be lost, and possibly injuries will be experienced at some point, kids can prepare emotionally ahead of time by developing positive thinking routines to use when these situations eventually occur.
When adults take time to process with kids the teachable moments commonly experienced in sports — like effectively handling adversity — many really terrific things usually occur. Perhaps the biggest change you will notice is a surge in confidence, which often triggers motivation, focus, and goal commitment. As you might guess, these are the athletes that reach their full athletic potential as a result.
The next time you go to your child’s game, keep an eye out for when a young athlete throws a glove, curses, or pushes an opponent after a play ends. Remember, that same energy you witnessed in those acts could have all been turned into much better outcomes, like smacking a glove emphatically, telling the team “lets get them next time,” and helping an opponent up in the spirit of sportsmanship. Your child can learn vicariously from these experiences (meaning she can learn by watching others rather than being directly involved in the unsportsmanlike act), and quickly improve her mental toughness through your teachings. As you help kids make these pro-social thought-behavior connections, talk about the many other ways these skills can be applied (or transferred), like toward academic success.
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aggression, anger, emotion, energy, frustration, mental, moment, psychology, sports, teachable, toughness