Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology

Letters to the Editor

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Subj:  Coaching Children
To:  [email protected]

       I enjoyed the article in the latest issue which focused on coaching children. However, I noticed that there was very little information on abusive coaches and the effect it has on athletes of allages. I would like to see an article on this because it is an issue that effects athletes in many ways. Plus, it is an issue that is over looked in athletics.
       I would like to see an article that talks extensively on the effects that emotional, verbal and physically abusive coaches have on athletes of all ages. How does this effect the athlete? Do the athletes show anger or keep it locked up inside so the coach does not see that it bothers them? This would lead to the signs that the athlete would exhibit. Discuss how this effects the athlete in school, in their home life and/or in the way they look at themselves. I have seen a coach who is emotionally abusive and the effect it has on the athletes is amazing. Their self-esteem and confidence is shattered.
       Also, discuss ways that would help the athlete to deal with issues that affect his/her behavior. What could the athlete so to keep focussed on the game? The athlete should not have to avoid the sport or his/her friends in order to escape their coach. I have had friends who have quit a sport because of this type of behavior from a coach. However, with quiting they then have gotten ridiculed by other players and even friends. It seems like a no win situation. What are the solutions or ways that the athlete can cope with this type of coach?
       We can not forget about those future athletes who do not know what the characteristics of an abusive coach are! If they see a coach who is like this they may just think that it is what a coach is llike. What are the characteristics of an abusive coach? What are the signs that athletes and parents can look for?
       Young athletes have a hard time with these things growing up and then having to deal with them in an activity they love or enjoy should not be tolerated. Athletics should be fun, develop mental and physical growth and a learning experience. I am a coach and I show support and enthusiasm every chance I get. If you can be positive and supportive it makes it more fun for you and for the athlete. I believe some coaches only see and smell winning. They have forgotten what it is like to play, have fun and accomplish things that you never thought you could!

Sandi Dunkelberger

Dear Sandi:

       You certainly raise an important issue. Coaches in general exert a powerful influence over the lives of young athletes. This influence can be both positive and negative. Although it may be deemed necessary to push young athletes so that they give their best performance, research indicates that most people respond best to behavioral strategies including positive reinforcement. When the reinforcement that comes from a coach is interpreted as punishing then detrimental effects can ensue. Warning signs may include the unwillingness of a child to participate in the sport . However, this may simply reflect a child's changing interests. Children will often take their cues from the home. If parents are insistent, demanding, and otherwise abusive of their children, they may assume that this is appropriate behavior and will be more likely to accept it from their coach. Look for an article in an upcoming issue of Ahtletic Insight. In the mean time I recommend an article that was printed in Sports Illustrated. I believe it came out in late December or early January of this year. Thanks for the feedback.

Miguel Humara

Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology: Line

Subj:  Personality and Performance
To:  [email protected]

       I'm a doctorate student at the Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada. My English is not very good so I hope that you'll excuse me for the typing errors.
        I'm searching for people who have interests, or are open to discuss or even work, in sport psychology from a psychodynamic perspective. The following text is a reaction to the article entitled "A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Anxiety in Athletes" by Tom Ferraro in the Athletic Insight, Volume 1, Issue 2 and is also an invitation to open the discussion about the collaboration that I hope will someday be possible between the psychoanalytic and cognitive-behavioral paradigms. I really think that each of these perspectives can do good things in sport psychology but there is still no opened discussion about the way that they can co-exist or complement one another.
        I know that historically, psychoanalysis and sport psychology didn't go along very well and I also know that personality has been disregarded as an important factor in the performance of an athlete. However, I think that this is mainly because what has emerged from the research until theses days is the heterogeneity in the personality of the athletes and the absence of common factor.
        However, I think that the article by Ferraro (1999) replaces some things in perspective. I think that some cognitive-behavioral interventions are necessary when working with athletes but I also think that some athletes have a pervasive pattern of behavior that may seriously interfere with, or influence, their performance. From a clinical standpoint, it is very well known that some personality aspects can interfere in different areas of life (love relations, professional life, etc.), so why these aspects could not interfere in sport performance too?
       However, I don't want to be mistaken here: I am not saying that there is a typical personality for the successful athletes. What I'm saying is that some aspects of the personality can interfere (both negatively and positively) with performance. Neither am I pointing at specific aspects of personality. I think that it is the combination of the different aspects of a personality that makes them influence negatively or positively with the performance.
        My work is based upon psychodynamic theories: the Object Relations and the notion of Personality Organization (or Structure) as Otto F. Kernberg (1995) defined them specifically. I intend to make my thesis on the relation between the Personality and the performance of an athlete from a psychodynamic perspective.
       As I said earlier, I don't want to be mistaken and I really think that some cognitive-behavioral interventions are necessary when working with athletes. In fact, I wish I could get some formation on the cognitive-behavioral interventions. Finally, I'm going to reiterate my invitation: If some of you or someone you knows have interests or are open to discuss or even work in sport psychology from a psychodynamic perspective, just let me know.

Etienne Hebert, M.Ps.

Dear Etienne:

       Thanks for the feedback on Tom Ferraro's article. This article was posted in part because, like you said, psychoanalytic perspectives have been long overlooked in the field of sport psychology. I think that it is important to remember the population that we are working consists of individuals not groups. As such it is necessary to treat them in this way and provide whatever treatment will help them accomplish their goals in therapy. Although the term eclectic gets thrown around a lot these days when discussing one's theoretical orientation, it fits very well in these cases. At times, some athletes will benefit from purely cognitive-behavioral techniques. But in other instances they are likely to benefit from just being in the room with an individual that makes them feel like their experience is understood and validated. It is important to asses our patient's needs as they enter treatment, otherwise we run the risk of driving them away by not providing the services that they need. In my own work, I have been surprised by how often a patient I thought would be most likely to respond to cognitive-behavioral techniques responds to a psychodynamic intervention. At AI we strive to present alternative views on treatments within the field of sport and exercise psychology and will continue to do so in the future.

Miguel Humara

Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology: Line

Subj:  Recovery from injury
To:  [email protected]

Dear Editor:
       I was injured while playing basketball about six months ago. I tore my ACL and so far the recovery has been long and drawn out. I was wondering if you had any articles that deal with recovery from injury. More specifically, I have noticed that I have been going through emotional stages. Initially there was shock and disbelief but this quickly turned to feelings of depression. Now that I am physically able to run, although still with a brace, I find that I'm getting anxious about returning to play in my league. Any information that you had would be greatly appreciated.

Roger McCough

Dear Roger:

       I am sorry to hear about the problems that you are having. Recovery form injury can be painful both physically and emotionally. I imagine that your initial feelings may have been related to the loss of an integral part of you life. In this case, it is possible that you re going through stages that are similar to the ones that someone undergoes during bereavement. Look for an article examing this issue in the next issue of Athletic Insight.

Miguel Humara

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ISSN 1536-0431