Research Paper By Michelle Benning
(Performance Coach, UNITED STATES)
The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of coaching and its impact on athletic performance. Pinson (2010 The ability to maintain a positive image in the media is essential for any professional athlete, coaching can reduce negative media and other untoward attention.
Over the past few years much has written and published relative to the relationship between an athlete’s mental state and his or her performance. Allen, (2002) stated that athletic performance efficiency is reduced by distractions. Distractions interfere with an athlete’s ability to focus. When an athlete experiences distractions they can evoke negative mood responses, anxiety levels, and stress, resulting in the consumption of their time and energy. Specifically, mental energy is an important component required to be able to concentrate one’s attention and maintain a positive mental attitude. By concentrating effectively, an athlete can conserve physical energy by maintaining good technique and focus, executing skills properly, and pushing the body through pain and fatigue barriers. Time spent fretting over distractions drains mental energy so that performance suffers. According to Birouste (2005), distractions may arise from various sources including: the presence of loved ones they want to impress, family or relationship problems, teammates and other competitors, coaches, underperformance or unexpected high performance, frustration at mistakes, poor refereeing decisions, changes in familiar patterns, unjust criticism, and the media.
Consequences of Negative Media Attention
An athlete’s image and brand are everything they represent both in their public and private lives. Negative media attention can have a profound impact on the athlete as it can be a distraction, divert attention, and divert resources. The public and media relations department of the major teams are usually staffed with senior experienced personnel, with their main focus being to uphold the image and brand of the team and the athletes in it. There is a direct correlation between an athlete’s negative press and reduced ticket sales for that team.
Pinson (2010) noted that most talented athletes will rarely have any problems getting picked by teams or sponsors. With so many talented athletes, teams want a positive or at least neutral image. Teams want really good athletes, but they also want athletes that have good character and can represent the team well. Staying out of trouble is another aspect of understanding the media and how an athlete’s reputation can be tarnished by having their wrong doings brought to light. Teams now do not want the headache of dealing with athletes with bad reputations and do not want to put up with the character issues that can result in ultimately tarnishing the brand of the sports organization. Having the reputation that can be trusted no matter what the media throws their way, may be the final straw that convinces a team or sponsor to keep an athlete on their roster.
Media’s influence on Athletic Performance
Many athletes are targets and susceptible to the prey of the media. Often times, regardless of the situation, their performance and life are publicly dissected by the media. According to Ferguson (1990, p.51), “Criticism can be easily avoided by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing. Mediocre people play it safe and avoid criticism at all costs. Champions risk criticism every time they perform.” Being in the spotlight and also performing at top levels brings about media glorification and expectation, and/or jealousy and criticism. For the same reason that people marvel at how talented athletes are, they also marvel, criticize and judge them by the mistakes they make. Mistakes made around others are fair game. The mistakes are reported by the media, social networking sites and video clips of their actions on the Internet.
This does not necessarily mean they cannot make mistakes as perfection cannot be attained by anyone. It does mean they need to be aware of the impact their decisions and actions can have on themselves, the organization and their families.
The families and children of athlete’s also suffer as they become media targets due to the negative attention their parent, spouse or significant other is receiving. The lack of money management also leads to the players behaving in a manner that can draw negative attention to themselves. As a result of money mismanagement, and negative media attention, many athletes withdraw when they are not able to maintain their former lifestyle. Some athletes suffer from depression and low self-esteem when the sport they played is no longer the center of their lives.
Most athletes have a very small shelf life (Elmore, 2004). if they get suspended, incarcerated and do something to damage their reputation, it can affect their endorsements and causing them to lose a ton of money because of their misconduct. Pinson(2010) stated, , while not all athletes will get national or even local endorsement deals, athletes can improve their odds by paying attention to their total package. Investing time in building a positive, even neutral image can make a huge difference in getting opportunities others won’t even be considered for.
Athletes have a lot of control over the image they give the media to work with. Just like the media is the place where people can see them in action, the media is also a potential outlet for their community events and activities. If used correctly, the media can be an outlet to help gain positive exposure and extend what the public sees in their public and private lives. Many athletes blame the media for always reporting the negative information. If athletes limit the negative things they do in their life, they will also limit what or how much the media reports. Athletes need to be aware of who they are and what image they are giving the media to relay.
Effects of Social Networking
Through the use of social networking, professional athletes are also directing negative attention to themselves. The media is different now because there are so many different sources of media. There are cell phones with cameras and video capability, flip cameras, pocket size cam corders that record in high definition with user friendly editing capabilities. Instant uploading to a computer gives anyone the ability to instantly share information. The content, pictures and videos athletes or someone else uploads, are for all intents and purposes on the Internet to stay.
Many times when others think a picture has been erased, it does not necessarily go away immediately. The 2009 Cambridge University study revealed that while some of the websites they studied removed pictures immediately, most failed to remove image files from their photo servers after they were deleted from the main website. Sending nude or semi-nude pictures on a cell phone via a text is called Sexting(Pinson, 2010). Under certain circumstances, it has cost athletes their spots on a team. It may also cost them and their team embarrassment and ridicule. In the worst case scenarios, some have been arrested and charged with child pornography. A conviction comes with a lifetime sex offender label. Once pictures, videos and other content are distributed, it is nearly impossible to pull them back.
The rules and regulations regarding athletes and social networking vary by sport. Some sports do not have restrictions on the content of the athlete’s social networking usage. However, some do have timing restrictions on the use of their mobile devices before, during and after games. Some sports organizations fine athletes when they overstep their bounds and have to pay huge fines.
Ott (2006) stated that if leveraged properly, athletes and social networking can be a winning combination. For personal branding, integrating all social networking platforms and ties to sponsors or endorsements must be consistent. Bigger social networking popularity can mean a bigger paycheck. Some sports organizations are giving thousands of dollars in bonuses to athletes that immensely grow their Twitter following.