Monday, November 21, 2011

"Circle the wagons!" The problem of loyalty in the culture of college sports

What are the cultural aspects of college athletics that led employees of the athletic department and the university administration to cover-up the sexual abuses of revered coach Jerry Sandusky, who was sodomizing children for years in his dual role as the boss of the Second Line charity? Is Penn State football so revered in Pennsylvania that football coaches can't be held accountable to the same moral and legal standards as all citizens? How come Sandusky wasn't cut loose and dealt with in 1999, when charges first began to surface?

The answer lies in a disturbing part of the human psyche, in one of our tragic flaws that is essential for survival, but has also created its share of human misery throughout time. I'm talking about loyalty, which has the power to bind you to a group that means more than yourself, but also to blind you to the abuses that a group may make in its own interest.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mental Toughness - now part of Wikipedia

Mental toughness has been my primary research interest over the last two years. It is a term that gets used frequently without having a strict definition or framework that explains what it is and what it ain't. In the internet age, a Wikipedia entry can provide consistency and clarity for a term. It's typically the first hit of a Google search. With that in mind, I've created a mental toughness page for Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is an open venture. Its strength lies in crowd-sourcing. I highly encourage people to update and edit this post, as it serves as a beginning framework.


Mental toughness - a term commonly used by coaches, sport psychologists, sport commentators, and business leaders - generally describes a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances (such as difficult training or difficult competitive situations in games) and emerge without losing confidence.
Mental toughness is a contested term, in that many people use the term liberally to refer to any set of positive attributes that helps a person to cope with difficult situations. Coaches and sport commentators freely use the term mental toughness to describe the mental state of athletes who persevere through difficult sport circumstances to succeed. Only within the past ten years has scientific research attempted a formal definition of mental toughness as a psychological construct.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Brief History of Sport Psychology

This history of sport psychology was my contribution to the Sport Psychology Wikipedia entry, and a much abbreviated version appears on Wikipedia. In this history, I tried to focus on the modern applied sport psychology movement and the events that have led to the crossroads the field now stands at.

I was urged to write a portion of the new Wikipedia entry by my Michigan State cohort Sam Forlenza, who is battling the stunning lack of clarity in sport psychology knowledge and information on the web. Sam has also revived the sport psychology movie database, a comprehensive list of movies related to sport psychology.


Early History: Isolated Studies of Motor Behavior and Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity
Look back at the history of sport psychology, and until the mid-1960s, it is hard to find a consistent line of research and applied practice typical of a scientific discipline. From the late 1800s until the middle of the 20th Century, psychologists, physical educators, coaches, and even ornithologists, carried out the “work” of sport psychology.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Psychological Development in Youth Swimmers

Here's a great video on psychological development in youth swimmers. The speaker is Dr. Dan Gould at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.

I think the discussion of maintaining consistency after races is something that swimming coaches and researchers need to explore. There is always a reason to celebrate a good performance, and it's important to acknowledge that a string of good races creates a sense of positive momentum in a swimmer's mind (it can also contribute positive momentum to others by inspiring teammates). However, each race is a separate entity in a swim meet, and swimmers who are able to compartmentalize past performances (both good and bad) seem to be the most consistent performers, especially in pressure situations.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coaching with compassion

Coaching in a positive way allows the person being coached to open up and be more perceptive. Coaching in such a way where the person being coached feels angry or guilty may cause this person to shut down. These findings come from neuro-scientists at Case Western have examined the brain's response pathways to different coaching styles. I should point out here that coaching in these cases refers more to the type of coaching you would experience in the business world... arguably, there are many carry-overs to sports coaching.