There's a common theme spreading through sport these days; "motivated and passionate athletes are rare; players just aren't like they used to be". I've noticed and even agreed with this statement at times, but the more I ponder it, I think it may be a bit of a cop out. The game hasn't changed, maybe the athletes have evolved, but I don't think it's as significant as some claim it to be.
Athletes who seem to be unmotivated and continually make excuses for their lack of ability may be experiencing a significant fear of failure. These athletes are so afraid to fail that they start to avoid hard work all together. In doing this, they create a perfect excuse for not performing well. For example; an athlete like this will put little effort in at practice, stay up late that night, and then perform under par at the game the next day. This athlete now has the perfect excuse for not playing well - a lack of sleep. When these athletes do succeed and perform well, it makes their abilities look above average because they are succeeding while putting very little effort forth.
These athletes are creating a self-serving bias. In good outcomes they attribute their succeses to their abilities and efforts, and in negative outcomes they attribute their failures to something external that is beyond their control. This is a defense mechanism. It protects the athlete from honestly putting themself out there and experiencing cold, hard, failure. This nonchalant attitude they carry prevents them from having to attribute failure to personal shortcomings. It protects their ego and self perception.
These are athletes who play tentatively and conservatively. They are timid and aren't as aggressive as they should be. They hope for the opponent to make a mistake that tilts the game in their own favor. These athletes need to realize that failure is a means to learn, grow, and develop their abilities. Without failure we would never get better or make adjustments to improve our game. Failure is a natural and beneficial peice of sport. Especially in sports like baseball and softball failure is a significant part of the game. A GREAT batting average is .400; that's "failing" 6 times out of ten at the plate. Encourage and empower athlete's abilities and teach them to change their perspective on failure. It's not a failure, it's a learning opportunity.
Provided by: Sarah Marcia - A sport psychology graduate student from California’s Bay Area. She has an extensive history in athletics, playing collegiate softball and coaching at an elite level for a number of years. She received her Bachelors degree in Kinesiology with a focus in coaching and a minor in exercise science. She is passionate about making sport a positive experience for all athletes; her passion is evident on her blog,onegameonelove12.com, where she lends sports psychology advice to coaches, athletes, and parents.
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