Self-esteem is the regard one has for oneself. It should be based on who you are as a person. A crucial difference exists between self-esteem and self-efficacy (the perception of one’s ability to perform a task successfully). Many athletes, particularly young athletes, find it difficult to separate the two.
It’s not unusual to hear young athletes saying….’The coach doesn’t like me’, often as a reaction to not being selected for a particular task or role. This simple phrase demonstrates the dilemma in separating the athlete from the person. It is the joint responsibility of coach, athlete and where appropriate, the athlete’s parents to develop a sound working relationship based on trust, continuous assessment and reporting.
A method of separation is to treat time spent participating in sport in the same way as an actor steps into character, by ‘creating an identity’. When training or competing, athletes assume the role of performer but on leaving the sporting arena, let go of the judgments and switch into the other part of one’s life. In the same way as a child uses role-play to enhance communication, cognitive flexibility and problem solving (Hughes 1999, Singer & Singer 2005) a young adult can derive benefits from getting into character in the sporting arena.
I once had the pleasure of meeting the late George ‘Corky’ Young the Rangers FC and Scotland captain. Standing 6’2” and weighing around 15 stones, he was once described by the politician Tam Dalyell as a ‘Bear of a man’. Young was renowned throughout his distinguished career for taking no prisoners and being ferocious in the tackle. The man I met was genial, gentle, humble and erudite. I mentioned to him that he was nothing like my expectations, to which he replied….’You were expecting to meet ‘Corky’ the footballer, he only existed between 3pm and 4.45pm on a Saturday’.
Referring back to the ‘The coach doesn’t like me’ conundrum, a coach selects according to an athlete’s ability to carry out a function, not on the non-performing aspect of an athlete’s personality. There may be aspects of an athlete’s behaviour that influence decision-making, such as in the case of say, a player who runs the risk of being sent off because of inability to control temper or an unwillingness to follow instruction, however such decisions are based on delivering the best outcome for the group or team and only refer to the sporting environment.
I’ve had a parent say to me ‘You just don’t like my boy!’. Evidence that parents as well as young athletes find it hard to separate performance from personality. Such attitudes transfer low self-esteem to the athlete. Often the coach will explain to an athlete why he or she hasn’t been selected for a task, however too often the information is not relayed back from athlete to parent for fear of further shame.
Coaches are driven by results, not necessarily the ‘win/lose’ dichotomy but very possibly process or performance goals. Try using a Likert Scale to apply questioning relating to your sporting performance: Do I give 100% every time I compete? How does my physical fitness rate? Do I focus hard in training? Do I respect and support my team mates? Select six questions and learn where your strengths and weakness are, it will provide a self -reference for future development.
Example: Likert Scale
How is my mental preparation for competition? (1 = Poor, 6 = Excellent)
1 2 3 4 5 6
An athlete with a ‘Growth Mindset’ (see Blog 3) will separate and evaluate the personal from the performer. Having done so, a solid base is created to help identify current mindset and provide a platform to work towards achieving personal goals (e.g., get into the starting team, improve my personal best time) and improve both self-esteem and self-efficacy.