Letters to the Editor
Subj: Mitch Lyon's Commentary on Sport Psych and High-School Athletes
I read with interest Mitch Lyon's "In Support Of A Written Curriculum Based On Sport Psychology For High School Sports Teams." Mr. Lyons has done a great deal of research and the article is informative.
Do we really want each player striving for personal excellence in a team sport? Comparing one's excellences to another's can lead an individual to greater accomplishments. In the world of sports the goals are easy to see run the fastest jump the highest. In the world of Medicine finding the cure or creating the vaccine to say lives can be goals. To measure we against ourselves alone may not be the best way to reach our potential as an individual or as a team. To strive to better the team may mean working harder as an individual, this may ultimately lead to greater individual and team success. Should we be happy to be the best player in our school? Could we be the best in the county or even in the country? I think the truly great measure themselves against the best.
My comment is that I agree that comparing one's self to others can add motivation to do better. In fact, the very first study in sport psych (1897) was that bicyclists against competition did better. Comparing yourself as a motivational tool can be fine. But to view the program only about that, rather than the mental skills to be learned from sport psych, would be to over-emphasize one facet of the program (be the best you can be and forget about others) to the detriment of skills like being positive with self and others, goal-setting and the rest of the skills learned.
And the program is not about the "truly great". The "truly great" are few in number by definition. This program is for the 99.9% of kids who are just trying to be the best they can be. Maybe they will become truly great but it won't be because of they spent their mental energies on comparing themselves to someone else. They will get their own head straight first.
Should we be happy to be the best player in our school? I really hope so. We will not learn to build our self-esteem if we are never happy with who we are and what we have accomplished. We must relish such an accomplishment. (I hope my son and your son did in high school)
By the way, I love competition. I don't think the program says don't enjoy competing or even using competition with another as a motivational tool, but it does say you can control only what you can control and no more.
Should we stop trying to choose higher goals after we have attained being the best in the school? No. Goal setting teaches us to set a new goal, like being the best in the county or country, but only if that is realistic. If you cannot be happy unless you are the best in the country, you will end up feeling bad about yourself, or have low self-esteem.. This program is for everyone else but the best in the world. Except for the best in the world, there is always someone better. For the vast majority of people, they must live with that and not feel bad, but be happy at what they achieved. I think the "truly great" are happy with who they are if they know they have given everything they are capable of giving.
If you compare yourself to someone better and cannot beat that person, are you less of a person? That's what the program is about. Building your self-worth by trying to be the best you can be because that is all you can control. It is not about being the best in what you do, but being the best you can be while trying to be the best in the world. When you can't make best in the world, people need to find happiness in who they are. This course teaches skills to attain that happiness.
Editor's Note: Look for an update on Mitch Lyon's Sport Psychology Program for High-School Athletes in the next issue of Athletic Insight - The Online Journal of Sport Psychology