When Coaches Rage: Coaches Who Care More About Opinions of Others More Likely to Explode in Anger

Dr. John Schinnerer

This doesn’t have to do with positive psychology. But as a soccer coach of 10 years, this is near and dear to my heart…

I was recently approached by a major TV network to do a reality show involving coaches with severe anger problems. While this seems to be good for ratings, it does not bode well for the well-being of the coaches involved in the two week project. First, little change in long-term emotional behavior will occur in two weeks. Second, close proximity to other angry people will typically serve to reinforce outbursts of ire. Simply dropping an anger management expert into the mix is unlikely to have any real effect on anyone’s behavior. Perhaps the show can be reworked so the coaches can benefit along with the network.

 

Being involved in anger management, sports psychology and misbehavior coaches, it was with great interest that I came across this recent research showing that the more a coach pays attention to the opinions of others, the more likely he or she is to react with anger….

 

A minor league baseball coach punches his assistant coach in the face for being questioning his on-field call. A basketball coach horse collars his own player as runs by in the middle of the game. A hockey coach screams insults at his goalie for letting in the game clinching goal.

 

Anger management class online free expert doctor
Angry coaches care more about others’ opinions of them

Coaches who focus more on internal values, their own high standards tend to be less captivated by the opinions of others and are significantly better at controlling feelings of rage and frustration, compared to coaches who focus intently on others’ opinions of their performance.

 

This means that the anger of coaches, and to an extent all of us, can be partially explained by being overly concerned with what others think, how others perceive us, according to new research the University of Leeds and Northumbria University.

 

The study found coaches who stay focused on their own internal values and standards are less interested in the opinions of others and are significantly better at managing anger than those who are acutely aware of others’ opinions (think the sports pundits on ESPN).

 

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What are we teaching our children with the anger of youth coaches?

Dr Andrew Hill, lecturer in sports and exercise science in the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences, who led the study, stated, “Outbursts of anger from coaches are a familiar feature of many sports at many different levels — from Alan Pardew’s headbutt to a recent attack by a coach on a linesman in an Under-14 rugby match. This isn’t good for anybody. You want a calm and analytic mind on the sidelines, but we found that some features of personality may make this more difficult.”

 

The researchers questioned 238 coaches across a wide range of sports including football, rugby, hockey, baseball, swimming and basketball. Most of the coaches were involved in amateur sport and their average age was 24.

 

The results show that coaches with “high personal standards”, meaning that they set their own high standards and focused less on other people’s evaluations of their performance, were better at managing their emotions. They showed more ability to reinterpret negative feelings and see situations in a more positive, prosocial manner.

 

On the other hand, coaches who placed more weight on perceived criticism from others were driven by a fear of making mistakes. They had less ability to manage their emotions and were more at risk of exploding in anger (and possibly uncontrollable rage).

 

Dr. Hill reported, “Those who believe others expect them to be perfect appear to have more difficulty controlling their emotions. As a consequence, they will be more prone to emotional outbursts.”

 

Co-author Dr. Paul Davis, Senior Lecturer in Sport at Northumbria University, said: “The pursuit of perfect performance drives some coaches, but the dynamic nature of sport sets them up to experience intense emotions when their standards are not met. Moreover, emotions are contagious; a coach who is unable to regulate their own anger may actually undermine an athlete’s performance. In a worst case scenario, a coach who has limited capacity to regulate their emotions is putting themselves in a position where they may end up doing the one thing they really want to avoid.”

 

As we gain more awareness of what good coaching entails, it is my fervent hope that coaches will begin to take responsibility for their own emotional states and work diligently to manage their emotions in a constructive manner whereby the needs of the players, the needs of the team and the pursuit of winning are balanced with awareness and intention.

Let’s keep trying. We can do better.

 

Dr. John Schinnerer
Positive Psychology Coach
Anger Management Specialist
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280
Danville CA 94526
Positive psychology blog: http://DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com 
Anger management blog:
http://WebAngerManagement.com
Twitter: @johnschin

Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew P. Hill, Paul A. Davis. Perfectionism and emotion regulation in coaches: A test of the 2 × 2 model of dispositional perfectionismMotivation and Emotion, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s11031-014-9404-7

Bullying P.E. Teachers Can Lead To a Sedentary Life

In high school, I had a negative soccer coach. The experience was so demeaning and infuriating, it caused me to turn my back on the sport I loved for 15 years. While I could have played at a Div II college, I chose to do other things. After having my own sons and agreeing to coach their teams, I finally got past the experience. Now I try to share with young athletes, ‘Don’t let a bad coach (or PE teacher) ruin a sport you love. Your passion for the sport is the critical component.’

From ScienceDaily.com…

Negative Phys Ed Teacher Can Cause a Lifetime of Inactivity

ScienceDaily (Jan. 7, 2010) — Humiliation in physical education class as a child can turn people off fitness for good, according to a University of Alberta researcher.

Dejected Kobe Bryant

Dejected Kobe Bryant

 

Billy Strean, a professor in the U of A’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, says a negative lifelong attitude towards physical activity can be determined by either a good or a bad experience, based on the personal characteristics of the coach or instructor. For example, negative experiences may come from a teacher who has low energy, is unfair and/or someone who embarrasses students.

During his research, Strean heard from individuals who opened up about negative experiences with coaches and instructors, some from many years ago.

One study participant wrote, “I am a 51-year-old-woman whose childhood experiences with sports, particularly as handled in school, were so negative that even as I write this my hands are sweating and I feel on the verge of tears. I have never experienced the humiliation nor felt the antipathy toward any other aspect of life as I do toward sports.”

Strean hopes to raise awareness of such experiences so those who instruct children in sport will realize they have the ability to create either a fun and playful experience or an experience of humiliation.

Strean has tips for coaches and teachers, including putting attention on fun, connecting with friends and learning, and, until kids enter their teens, minimizing attention on outcomes.

Strean also found study participants had better experiences from minimally organized games such as street hockey, compared to the more organized activities. He suggests adults try not to over-organize sports and allow the children to explore sporting activities on their own, with minimal rules and no scorekeeping.

Strean’s research was recently published in Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise.

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Alberta, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

University of Alberta (2010, January 7). Negative phys ed teacher can cause a lifetime of inactivity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder of Guide to Self, Inc.

Free online anger management course blog: http://drjohnblog.wordpress.com.

Free PDF of John’s award-winning self-help book available at http://www.GuideToSelf.com

Psychologist Shows Why We ‘Choke’ and How to Avoid It

From ScienceDaily…

ScienceDaily (Sep. 27, 2010) — A star golfer misses a critical putt; a brilliant student fails to ace a test; a savvy salesperson blows a key presentation. Each of these people has suffered the same bump in mental processing: They have just choked under pressure.

Greg Norman putting

It’s tempting to dismiss such failures as “just nerves.” But to University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock, they are preventable results of information logjams in the brain. By studying how the brain works when we are doing our best — and when we choke — Beilock has formulated practical ideas about how to overcome performance lapses at critical moments.

“Choking is suboptimal performance, not just poor performance. It’s a performance that is inferior to what you can do and have done in the past and occurs when you feel pressure to get everything right,” said Beilock, an associate professor in psychology.

Preventing choking in sports Some of the most spectacular and memorable moments of choking occur in sports when the whole world is watching. Many remember golfer Greg Norman’s choke at the 1996 U.S. Masters. Norman had played brilliantly for the first three days of the tournament, taking a huge lead. But on the final day, his performance took a dive, and he ended the Masters five shots out of first place.

Choking in such cases happens when the polished programs executed by the brains of extremely accomplished athletes go awry. In “Choke,” Beilock recounts famous examples of these malfunctions in the context of brain science to tell the story of why people choke and what can be done to alleviate it.

Thinking too much about what you are doing, because you are worried about losing the lead (as in Norman’s case) or worrying about failing in general, can lead to “paralysis by analysis.” In a nutshell, paralysis by analysis occurs when people try to control every aspect of what they are doing in an attempt to ensure success.

Unfortunately, this increased control can backfire, disrupting what was once a fluid, flawless performance.

“My research team and I have found that highly skilled golfers are more likely to hole a simple 3-foot putt when we give them the tools to stop analyzing their shot, to stop thinking,” Beilock said. “Highly practiced putts run better when you don’t try to control every aspect of performance.” Even a simple trick of singing helps prevent portions of the brain that might interfere with performance from taking over, Beilock’s research shows.

Preventing choking on tests and in business The brain also can work to sabotage performance in ways other than paralysis by analysis. For instance, pressure-filled situations can deplete a part of the brain’s processing power known as working memory, which is critical to many everyday activities.

Beilock’s work has shown the importance of working memory in helping people perform their best, in academics and in business. Working memory is lodged in the prefrontal cortex and is a sort of mental scratch pad that is temporary storage for information relevant to the task at hand, whether that task is doing a math problem at the board or responding to tough, on-the-spot questions from a client. Talented people often have the most working memory, but when worries creep up, the working memory they normally use to succeed becomes overburdened. People lose the brain power necessary to excel.

One example is the phenomenon of “stereotype threat.” This is when otherwise talented people don’t perform up to their abilities because they are worried about confirming popular cultural myths that contend, for instance, that boys and girls naturally perform differently in math or that a person’s race determines his or her test performance.

Beilock’s research is the basis of her new book, “Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting it Right When You Have To,” published Sept. 21 by Simon and Schuster, Free Press.

In Choke, Beilock describes research demonstrating that high-achieving people underperform when they are worried about confirming a stereotype about the racial group or gender to which they belong. These worries deplete the working memory necessary for success. The perceptions take hold early in schooling and can be either reinforced or abolished by powerful role models.

In one study, researchers gave standardized tests to black and white students, both before and after President Obama was elected. Black test takers performed worse than white test takers before the election. Immediately after Obama’s election, however, blacks’ performance improved so much that their scores were nearly equal with whites. When black students can overcome the worries brought on by stereotypes, because they see someone like President Obama who directly counters myths about racial variation in intelligence, their performance improves.

Beilock and her colleagues also have shown that when first-grade girls believe that boys are better than girls at math, they perform more poorly on math tests. One big source of this belief? The girls’ female teachers. It turns out that elementary school teachers are often highly anxious about their own math abilities, and this anxiety is modeled from teacher to student. When the teachers serve as positive role models in math, their male and female students perform equally well.

Meditation and practice can help Even when a student is not a member of a stereotyped group, tests can be challenging for the brightest people, who can clutch if anxiety taps out their mental resources. In that instance, relaxation techniques can help.

In tests in her lab, Beilock and her research team gave people with no meditation experience 10 minutes of meditation training before they took a high-stakes test. Students with meditation preparation scored 87, or B+, versus the 82 or B- score of those without meditation training. This difference in performance occurred despite the fact that all students were of equal ability.

Stress can undermine performance in the world of business, where competition for sales, giving high-stakes presentations or even meeting your boss in the elevator are occasions when choking can squander opportunities.

Practice helps people navigate through these tosses on life’s ocean. But, more importantly, practicing under stress — even a moderate amount — helps a person feel comfortable when they find themselves standing in the line of fire, Beilock said. The experience of having dealt with stress makes those situations seem like old hat. The goal is to close the gap between practice and performance.

A person also can overcome anxiety by thinking about what to say, not what not to say, said Beilock, who added that staying positive is always a good idea.

“Think about the journey, not the outcome,” Beilock advised. “Remind yourself that you have the background to succeed and that you are in control of the situation. This can be the confidence boost you need to ace your pitch or to succeed in other ways when facing life’s challenges.”

University of Chicago (2010, September 27). Psychologist shows why we ‘choke’ and how to avoid it. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 13, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2010/09/100925120110.htm

Mindfulness, meditation, stres management techniques, realistic optimism, resiliency, self-compassion, forgiveness, nonattachment are all examples of tools that are learnable and can be used to improve performance in business and in sports. These tools can be used to improve academic performance as well as satisfaction with life.

For a FREE copy of John’s award-winning self-help book that discusses all of these topics in depth, visit www.GuideToSelf.com and click on the yellow book icon on the left side of the page. In exchange for your email address and name, you will be granted instant access to your very own PDF copy of this invaluable book. Check it out now. It won’t take more than 90 seconds of your time.

All the best,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self

Football and Brain Damage – Should You Let Your Child Play Football?

I am an avid football fan and have been since I was six years old. I grew up down the street from Gene Upshaw, Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders, and Head of the Player’s Union for years. I love football.

That said, my 12-year-old son and I have an ongoing debate over whether or not he can play PeeWee Football (in the San Ramon Valley it’s called Thunderbirds). I have told him repeatedly that the damage done to his body, in particular his brain, is not worth any success that may be had playing football.

The brain is the consistency of a wet sponge or a soft boiled egg. The human skull is hard to keep your brain safe from injury. However, the inside of the skull has pointed ridges which can damage the brain when the head and body are stopped suddenly, such as that which happens on many plays in football. Even those hits which don’t result in a ‘concussion’ still bruise the brain to an extent. It’s not as simple as one has a concussion or one does not. It’s not black and white. Damage to the brain occurs on a continuum. Think of it as a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being uninjured and 10 being a severe concussion.

Even lesser hits in football can result in minor bruises to the brain, bruises which may not be considered even mild concussions. But there is still a cumulative negative effect on the brain. And we’re beginning to see the results thanks to former NFL and college players who have donated their brains after death.

We’ve known for roughly 20 years that ex-NFL players suffer from the degenerative brain disease known as CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is the only fully preventable cause of dementia of which we know.

A new study has revealed that the brain of a deceased 18-year-old former college football player showed early signs of CTE. This is the youngest age that signs of CTE have been found, to my knowledge.

The same study also report that Mike Borich, a former college football player who passed away at the age of 42, showed advanced signs of CTE. This is the first time that advanced signs of CTE have been identified in a former college player who never played in the NFL. It is also the first time that CTE signs have been found in one who played the position of wide receiver. This means that the damage done to the brain in high school and college football is taking a toll on the brain that adversely affects quality of life later on. Adverse effects of CTE may include symptoms such as change in personality, self-destructive behaviors, addictive behaviors, memory loss and more.

According to Dr. Robert Cantu, a leading sports concussion expert and clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine, ‘It is our hope that this evidence helps draw the focus of the CTE discussion to amateur athletes, where it belongs. Young men and women are voluntarily exposing themselves to repetitive brain trauma without full knowledge of the potential consequences, and the rules of the games are designed without an appreciation for the risks carried by the players.’

Cantu and the other co-directors of the BUSM CSTE, Robert Stern, PhD, and Chris Nowinski, a former division I football player, published a paper that reported these CTE findings in the July issue of the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology (2009, vol.68¸ pp. 709-735). The results were also presented to the NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee and NFL Players Association.

As long as I’m in charge of my son’s health, he won’t be playing football. The risk is too high. The importance of a healthy brain is too great. Odds are, he will be angry with me for some time. I’m willing to risk it.  

All the best,

 

John Schinnerer, PhD

Guide To Self, Inc.

 

 

 

 

Bullying Bosses Driven By Feelings of Inadequacy and Being Overwhelmed – UC Berkeley Study


From ScienceDaily (Oct. 15, 2009) — ‘Bosses who are in over their heads are more likely to bully subordinates. That’s because feelings of inadequacy trigger them to lash out at those around them, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.

 

In a new twist on the adage “power corrupts,” researchers at UC Berkeley and USC have found a direct link among supervisors and upper management between self-perceived incompetence and aggression. The findings, gleaned from four separate studies, are published in the November issue of the journal Psychological Science.

 

With more than one-third of American workers reporting that their bosses have sabotaged, yelled at or belittled them, the new study challenges previous assumptions that abusive bosses are solely driven by ambition and the need to hold onto their power.

 

“By showing when and why power leads to aggression, these findings are highly relevant as abusive supervision is such a pervasive problem in society,” said Nathanael Fast, assistant professor of management and organization at USC and lead author of the study.

 

During role-playing sessions, study participants who felt their egos were under threat would go so far as to needlessly sabotage an underling’s chances of winning money. In another test, participants who felt inadequate would request that a subordinate who gave a wrong answer to a test be notified by a loud obnoxious horn, even though they had the option of choosing silence or a quiet sound.

[snip]

 

“Incompetence alone doesn’t lead to aggression,” said Serena Chen, associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and co-author of the study. “It’s the combination of having a high-power role and fearing that one is not up to the task that causes power holders to lash out. And our data suggest it’s ultimately about self-worth.”

[snip]

 

That said, flattery may not be the best way to soothe a savage boss, the study points out: “It is both interesting and ironic to note that such flattery, although perhaps affirming to the ego, may contribute to the incompetent power holder’s ultimate demise — by causing the power holder to lose touch with reality,” the study concludes.


Journal reference:

1.      Nathanael J. Fast, Serena Chen. When the Boss Feels Inadequate: Power, Incompetence, and Aggression. Psychological Science, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02452.x

 

University of California – Berkeley (2009, October 15). Bosses Who Feel Inadequate Are More Likely To Bully. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 15, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/10/091014102209.htm

 

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Cheers!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.