Even Shaq suffered under the bright lights at the free throw line. Many different shooting coaches were brought in to help him improve his form and he learned to shoot a high percentage from the line in practice. But in a game situation, “hack a Shaq” was the motto of opposing teams as the game tightened up. Why did Shaq struggle from the line? He was so skilled and yet even he felt the weight of the audience. How much more pressure does a teen feel when stepping to the line in front of his girlfriend, parents, and classmates?
It turns out that we all have a tendency to fall victim to the ‘spotlight effect.’ Whether we are coaches, parents or players, we all believe that other people are really attending to what we are doing. It is within our nature to grossly overestimate how many people notice something about us. There have been many psychology studies conducted that support this phenomenon. The research attributes much of the spotlight effect to egocentrism – the idea that we are all the center of our own universe and our existence is built from our own experiences and perspective. But other people are also the center of their own universe and focused only on their own things. So it is easy for us to notice our mistakes on the court and think everyone else noticed them too, even though fans might be more focused on their own hunger, girlfriend, or spilt drink.
With limited experience in the world, teens are the most prone to the struggle under the spotlight. Students often want to skip school because of the new pimple on their nose or will only attend wearing name brand gear. The spotlight effect can really impede our confidence and ability to move past our mistakes. What if Shaq had reminded himself when he stepped to the line that most people were buying popcorn, talking to their friend, looking at a cheerleader, or checking out their cell phone and were not focused on him? Even the acknowledgment of the spotlight effect will help athletes perform better and succeed when they think everyone is watching.
From their website: “Surprise that player or coach in your family with the Swish videos! As you come to know the Swish Method, you’ll see it’s exactly what Curry is doing that sets him apart from others. As you learn and perfect the Swish shot, you will not only shine as a “shooter” – you will also become aware of what the great shooters are doing that helps them excel.“
One of the reasons that sports are so awesome is because in order to be successful you must be willing to challenge assumptions about yourself and others. To improve in athletics you always need to be ready to change and grow. And while this is an easy message for athletes, sometimes coaches can struggle to apply this same flexibility to their own lives.
With years of training others and always needing to be the strong voice in the room it can be hard for coaches to listen. Along with the routine teaching, coaches may also shut down and even become defensive as a result of the predictable challenges from parents, players and administration. Many coaches in fact, often take on a bunker mentality and can become easily stuck within their own approach or philosophy to the game.
Instead of being defensive and protective of your approach, it is beneficial to learn how to roll with the resistance and anger of others. The hostility and doubt of parents, athletic directors, and even spouses can feel overwhelming. Like the first wave you encounter on your way out to surf, the pressure will set you back unless you dive under it. Once you get through that initial set of breakers, the swells in the water will become much more settled and manageable. It is at this point that you can sit up on your surfboard and survey the horizon.
Once settled, take time to listen and learn rather than just react and teach. As parents, coaches and leaders we are well practiced at sharing our opinion. But if you want your coaching and parenting skills to expand it might be time to begin the process of receiving information. Add to your emotional bank account by giving people a chance to teach you. Start by recognizing that maybe you should not believe everything you think. Then begin collecting some opposing thoughts and approaches. With openness and flexibility you might just find some solutions and energy for this game.
Do you aspire to be the captain of your team? Maybe you are just starting out in coaching and are excited to make an impact. Leadership on and off the court used to be centered on the leader, commanding attention and making their voice heard,
“I am the leader look at me! Listen to me and do what I say!”
But today that type of authority doesn’t win much commitment or sacrifice from others. Instead, today’s best leaders find ways to notice others and demonstrate their willingness to listen. Great team leaders search for ways to make their teammates the focus of the cheers. At its heart, leadership is selfless, not selfish. So whether you are on or off the court, find ways to lift others up and you just might find yourself in leadership.
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The past few years Team Sky has dominated the world of cycling. Over the past couple of decades many teams and athletes had begun to believe that the only way that they could compete with the best cyclists in the world was to gain an advantage through the use of drugs and blood manipulation. After watching the lies catch up with Lance Armstrong, Team Sky believed that there must be a better way. They wanted to be competitive without cheating and so they took a closer look at every aspect of health, fitness, diet, and bike technology. While they could not make significant gains in any one area they believed that if they could make tiny improvements in many different areas that this would add up to be significant. This became known as a search for “Marginal Gains” and it lead them to win the Tour de France three times in four years.
Looking for small adjustments across many different areas can have a significant impact on your team as well. Teams already practice as many hours as they are allowed, they run many of the same drills, and share similar defenses and offenses. But are you talking to freshman players about the value of sleep? Are you tracking their diet? How about talking to that senior about the influence of his girlfriend? Success in athletics is often the result of having many areas of your life in order and functioning at a high level of excellence. So take some time to dig a little deeper and find the marginal gains that have been going noticed up till now.