Confidence key to any success

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 26, 1999

A recent survey of coaches brought forth interesting news. It is news that reaches from the ball fields to every day life.

The survey found that psychological factors are more important than physical characteristics in determining what makes for a winning young athlete.

The findings send a message to parents and coaches that emphasizing having fun and trying hard make happier children and better athletes in the long run than a win-at-all-costs strategy.

Email newsletter signup

Six hundred and fifty-eight coaches of young athletes from 43 sports responded to a survey that asked what qualities they saw in top young athletes who were &uot;real winners.&uot; Coaches were instructed to pick five of 128 listed characteristics, half of them psychological and half physical. The survey then asked what could potentially damage a young athlete most, and provided a blank space for a response.

According to results presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston, the coaches overwhelmingly chose psychological factors over physical factors as characteristics of real winners.

The top five responses were &uot;loves to play,&uot; picked by 43 percent of the coaches, followed by &uot;positive attitude,&uot; &uot;coachable,&uot; &uot;self-motivated&uot; and &uot;strives to improve.&uot;

The top physical characteristic chosen, &uot;natural physical athlete,&uot; was only the 19th most popularly chosen characteristic on the list, picked by 10.2 percent of the coaches. Immediately following were &uot;physically pushes self&uot; and &uot;good eye-hand coordination.&uot;

Coaches identified criticism and constant negative feedback from coaches and parents as the most damaging influences for a young athlete.

As parents we all know this or should know this, but usually we let this slip in the name of competition.

Shame on us for doing so. Sports is too fun to ruin for children by the withering pressure of parents and coaches.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in winning and I’m as competitive as the next person. As one grows wiser with age, one realizes that the win-at-all-cost philosophy often does more harm than good.

Can a tough as nails coach like Vince Lombardi survive in today’s world of football? Probably. Lombardi was a special coach.

Many of today’s great coaches are tough but that wouldn’t be the first word I would use to describe them.

If one word describes the great coaches of today, I would have to chose the would innovative. The innovated coach is getting more mileage from his players than the drill sergeant coach.

Coaches like Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren are definitely tough but they are innovated to. They are innovative play makers and handlers of personnel. No two players are alike. No one in the sports workforce or any workforce are robots. A master at handling the different personalities in a positive fashion will go a long way.

The study shows that coaches who exhibit more positivity and less negativity are liked better and have athletes who work harder and perform better.

As a former high school athlete, I can honestly say I had the talent to earn a scholarship. One thing kept me from that scholarship: I lacked confidence in myself.

Looking back on a long faded career, I wonder what would have happen if a coach had shown confidence in my abilities as a player.

Coaches, teachers, parents and bosses take heed of this research. As Joe Friday would say. The facts don’t lie.

Tim Isbell is creative director at the Democrat. He can be reached at 446-5172 ext. 233 or