There is a theory in psychology that can be directly applied to sports and really help athletes with their on-field success. I am talking about Locus of Control, a theory developed by Julian Rotter , refers to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them. Generally speaking, some people believe their fate is more in the hands of others, while other people feel as though they are largely responsible for the things that happen to them – good or bad. Locus of control has a dramatic impact on youth, interscholastic, college, and professional sports, and can be the difference between one athlete’s success and another athlete’s failure (Advanced Human Performance Systems).
In sports, it is very easy for athletes (and parents) to quickly point the finger and blame everyone (i.e. the coach) and everything (i.e. the “politics” of the selection process) when dealing with sport adversity. Of course, blaming others provides immediate comfort during stressful times, but in most cases it is not the fault of others when we fail.
Athletes who develop an external locus of control tend to immediately point the finger at all the reasons why they came up short in a game – the coach didn’t play me the right way, the officials were terrible, etc. On the other hand, athletes with more of an internal locus of control first look inward when they face adversity, and begin by asking themselves what they could have done different or better so that they wouldn’t have failed. Guess which athlete is more likely for future success?
Developing an internal locus of control can dramatically help with sport success, as resiliency and mental toughness are dramatically enhanced as a result of rational thinking. When athletes (and parents) stop pointing the finger outward and begin to realize that sports aren’t “perfect,” nor are they always fair, only then can a healthier sport-training paradigm develop. rather than blaming others or situations, athletes will benefit more by learning mental toughness skills, including skills around focus, concentration, and bouncing back from adversity.
It goes without saying that there are sometimes “politics” in sports, and that sometimes athletes get a raw deal while playing. But in the big picture is it really worth it to dwell on those unfortunate experiences, or would it be more advantageous to simply move on and focus on the next play/game? For young athletes, developing an internal locus of control can really help with on-field sport success, as well as life success.
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