High School Coaches: Shaping our Future Adults

Sunday 06 May, 2012 at 10:11 am wandab 2

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who […]

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“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory or defeat.”–26th President Theodore Roosevelt Criticism in sport is a given fact. It is inevitable. Climbing into the competitive sporting arena with the thought of getting through a game without any negative feedback, criticism or scrutiny can certainly only be considered shortsighted and ignorant. Once an athlete enters a public arena, competing against an opponent with others watching, cheering and supporting there will undoubtedly be scrutiny, analysis and definitely criticism. It is the athletes’ choice to deal with the feedback positively or negatively, to allow it to hinder his performance or to feed off it as a motivator. So, an athlete has two choices: 1) He can succumb to the challenges of external distractions, or 2) he can meet the challenges of the feedback/criticism. Taking it one step further to the task of a high school coach… Teens have the challenging developmental task of developing their self esteem, their sense of identity, their peer identity among other very important tasks. Teens are their worst critics forming cliques, groups call it what you want in an attempt to find a group of people that can provide a sense of belonging and a sense of identity. Combine these tasks with the stresses of competitive participation in sports and the mix becomes even more daunting. It is safe

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high school coach is far more challenging than simply coaching technique, skills and aspects related to a particular sport. Unfortunately the responsibility weighs much heavier. A high school coach has a hand in moulding a human being who is in the midst of a chrysalis from child to adult and the person he deals with one day can change overnight…not because

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the child wants to be difficult or is less passionate about his sport, but because that child is becoming a man with his own sense of identity, his own beliefs, his own value system and to top all that a body that is rapidly changing in ways he does not even understand! Where is this going you may ask? Any high school coach worth his salt should therefore surely be required to have a deeper understanding of child development and especially of adolescence? Surely one of the main aspects of coaching has to be to assist his athlete to develop a positive self esteem and sense of identity separate from others, to allow the athlete to deal with feedback to his own advantage, no matter whether it is

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positive or negative. The best of these coaches will incorporate into their “lesson plan” not merely a textbook knowledge of their sport but also a commitment to impart valuable life lessons. Many books, articles, and papers have been published relative to the relationship between an athlete’s mental state and his or her performance. A point of consensus clearly stated in these

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sources is that athletic performance efficiency is reduced by distraction. It is believed that distractions interfere with an athlete’s ability to focus. Distractions evoke negative mood responses, detrimental arousal and anxiety levels, and stress, thus resulting in the consumption of mental energy. Mental energy is a vital element needed to be able to concentrate one’s attention and maintain a positive mental attitude. By concentrating effectively, an athlete can conserve physical energy by maintaining good technique and focus, executing skills properly, and pushing the body through pain and fatigue barriers. Time spent fretting over distractions drains mental energy so that performance suffers (Manktelow, 2006). As Haverstraw (2002) noted, distractions may arise from various sources including: the presence of loved ones you want to impress, family or relationship problems, teammates and other competitors, coaches, underperformance or unexpected high performance, frustration at mistakes, poor refereeing decisions, changes in familiar patterns, unjust criticism, and the media. American poet Arthur Guiterman wrote, “The stones that critics hurl with harsh intent – a man may use to build a monument”’. A champion can use those stones as momentum to win and it is the task of the coach to ensure that his athlete equips himself not only with physical prowess but with the necessary resilience, esteem, sense of identity and psychological strength to rise above any feedback thrown his way. When a coach simply jumps in to act on behalf of his athlete, to rescue his athlete in an attempt to shield him from “harm” he is sharing a demeaning message with his athlete suggesting that he has little faith in

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the athlete’s ability to be his own man, to cope in the face of adversity. Such a coach is doing his athlete an injustice, he is not imparting any life lessons. The impact

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that a coach has on a child or adolescent cannot be minimized as it has the potential to last a life time. There is increasing recognition internationally of the long-lasting damage that poor coaching behaviour, demeaning and abusive language among others can cause to individuals (kids/athletes) who become targets. Verbal abuse is the most common type, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded in 1974 by Billie Jean King. Such emotional abuse includes name-calling, hurtful comments regarding performance, swearing at players and comments meant to demean a person’s integrity. It “impairs the child’s concept of self,” according to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation. “Emotional abuse is, perhaps, the most difficult abuse to identify and the most common form of maltreatment in youth sports,” the NYSS foundation concludes. Its website lists examples as rejecting, ignoring, isolating, terrorizing, name-calling, making fun of someone, putting someone down, saying things that hurt feelings and yelling. The

latter does not necessarily only refer to members of a coach’s team but extends to other athletes including those that have not been included into the so-called “star team”, considering that the coach of that team is most often held in high regard by athletes who aspire to play for that coach at some point in their high school career. The coach’s ability to manage anger in the face of feeling frustrated and

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powerless is key to avoiding abusive situations, according to Michael Loughran, a Palo Alto adolescent psychoanalyst and Stanford University adjunct clinical professor. “Intense feeling states are brought on by anxiety about performance, the heat of competition and all the pressure that brings,” Loughran said an interview with the Weekly. “Coaches need to learn to tolerate their own intense emotions under stress and pressure without offloading onto the kids their frustration and anger. “Coaches who can’t do this make the kids the problem.” Loughran said angry coaches without appropriate self-control seek out more emotionally sensitive people as targets. If the anger is ignored or deflected by an intended target, the coach will seek a more vulnerable mark — because the anger needs to be absorbed by another in order to be alleviated, Loughran said. Unfortunately the latter therefore often occurs to the long lasting detriment of an undeserving child. At the same time, Loughran and other experts say, coaches can be immensely important to the development of a teen’s self-esteem. The mirror coaches hold up during these formative years is crucial to their development. “If an important adult treats them badly, that has a profound impact on their emerging identities,” Loughran said. Shame and humiliation tend to silence athletes who are emotionally attacked and create painful feelings of isolation, Loughran said. “You’re not entitled to how you feel, that is the message.” Coaching high school kids is about much more than being a former star athlete. Not every formerly successful athlete will have the empathy, understanding, authenticity and most importantly patience

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and skills to become a coach who will have a long lasting and profound impact on the development of a human being. Coaches be mindful of the responsibility you have in shaping our future adults. Anyone who finds themselves in the coaching field has two choices: Be a specialist in a sporting discipline OR be a specialist who imparts valuable life lessons in another human being’s life. Which will you choose?propecia isn t working hair shedding


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