Thursday, December 2, 2010

Character Development in Youth

            Many school aged children have parents who are not around when they get out of school because they are still at work, which in some cases can lead to violent behavior and aggression.  Many of these kids are using their aggression in a negative way.  “Aggression is any form of behavior directed toward the goal of harming or injuring another living being” (Gill and Williams, p. 226).  Therefore, a plan has been put in place to develop an after school program for upper elementary and middle school children so they will have something to do until their parents get home from work.  The program will be centered on physical activity and character development; primarily the development of good sportsmanship.  To start, we need to hire personnel who can motivate the children and at the same time teach them the character traits that go along with good sportsmanship.  We want these kids to learn how to follow rules, have respect for others around them, and have self-control when things don’t go their way.  We want to create a program where everyone has the right to participate no matter what their personal situation is. 
            Physical educators have traditionally included the development of sportsmanship as one of the major values of participation in sport for athletes of all ages and abilities (Weiss and Bredemeier, 1986). Sport programs for young people, in particular, mention sportsmanship as an intricate part of participation.  One of the most notable programs in the development of teaching strategies that focus on moral development has been Fair Play for Kids, a teacher resource manual developed by the Commission for Fair Play in Canada. The manual includes a series of interdisciplinary educational activities for children in fourth through sixth grades. These activities are designed to focus on the development of attitudes and behaviors that exemplify the ideals of fair play identified by the Commission. The primary principals are (a) respect for the rules, (b) respect for officials and their decisions, (c) respect for the opponent, (d) providing all individuals with an equal chance to participate, and (e) maintaining self-control at all times (Gibbons et. al., 1995).  We plan on implementing these guidelines in our afterschool program in order to teach the students about positive character development.  Gill and Williams (2008) state that sport and physical activity can have a positive impact on moral growth; therefore we teach most of our character development through in this manner.
            To break down the principals the first thing we need to address is respect for the rules.  This sometimes can be a daunting task, but if we treat every child the same and have the same expectations for everyone the point should come across rather quickly.  Respect for officials and their decisions can be a little tougher to learn.  This is true at any age level, so teaching its importance while the children are in the beginning stages of sports should help them in the development of respect for authority both in and outside the realm of sports.  Officials are something that we have no control over, so if we teach the kids to worry about the things that they do have control over (control the controllables), this should help them focus more on what they are doing rather than what the officials are doing.  Respect for ones opponent is similar to respecting the officials.  However, the opponents have the same goals, so our focus will again be to control the controllables and learn to do the best they can and accept the things that happen to or around them.  Providing all individuals an equal chance to participate should be one of the easier principals to enforce.  Developing true care for others falls into this principal.  In Hellison’s levels of cumulative progression, participants are motivated to extend their sense of responsibility beyond themselves by cooperating, giving support, showing concern, and helping others (Gill and Williams, 2008).  The final principal to incorporate into this program is maintaining self-control at all times.  This may be the toughest one to teach and enforce.  But once we can enforce respect for authority and opponents, as well as teammates and peers, the students will understand that things are not always going to go their way. 
            Implementation of a specially designed educational program can effect changes in several facets of moral development.  The purpose of this program is to get kids off the streets and give them something to do after school other than get into trouble.  Teaching character development through physical activity and sportsmanship can be achieved if the program is consistent in nature.  Throughout the entire program, the activities will be fun and enjoyable so the students are excited to be a part of the program.  Incorporating some of these principals while in the daily classroom could also help promote the program to other students to join the afterschool program.  The overall outcome should be less violent behavior from these kids, more respect for people around them, and hopefully happier kids, parents, and teachers in the community.


Gibbons, S., Ebbeck, V., & Weiss, M. (1995). 'Fair play for kids': Effects on the moral development of children in physical education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 66(3), 247.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Weiss, M. R., & Bredemeier, B.J. (1986). Moral development. In V. Seefeldt (Ed.), Physical activity and well-being (pp. 373-390). Reston, VA: AAHPERD.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

PE for Life

Multicultural competence refers to the ability to work effectively with a variety of different types of people (Gill and Williams, 2008).  As a physical education teacher, I don’t have control of the types of students I am going to be assigned, therefore it is very important that I have the ability to work with and relate to all different types of people.  It is also important I be able to cater to them individually and develop activities that will allow each of the students to gain the most out of my class.  My goals are to promote health and well-being to each of my students while helping them understand the benefits of physical activity and exercise.  I want to reach each student personally and assess them individually so I can be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.  Age, sex, ethnicity, and overall personal background are all important when organizing class activities. 
            Trying to incorporate multicultural competence in the workplace goes beyond just myself and my students.  The overall goal is to really get to know my students and understand them fully inside and out.  Cultural competence is “the ability of an individual to understand and respect values, attitudes, beliefs, and mores that differ across cultures, and to consider and respond appropriately to these differences in planning, implementing, and evaluating health education and promotion programs and interventions” (the Joint Commission on Health Education and Promotion Terminology, p. 5).  When putting class activities together my focus will be both on individual and group play.  Each student will take a series of physical tests such as a 100 yard dash and push-ups in one minute.  Throughout the school year they will be able to try and beat their own record; and when they do they will receive mini-prizes.  I also want to incorporate competition within the physical education setting.  I can split the class up into different “types” of groups each day, while addressing a different focus.  Each group will have different goals and will compete against the other groups in the class.  I want to structure the class around their needs, desires, and overall ability; and understanding their different attitudes and beliefs can influence how the students will responds to my activities. Research has suggested that within a group setting, such as an exercise facility, diversity with respect to members’ demographic backgrounds can have a powerful effect on performance of the individual (Pelled, 1996).
            Working within a physical education setting I have a responsibility to focus my class activities on promoting physical activity and exercise as a lifestyle, and not just something they have to do in school. In 1992, the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) published content standards calling for physical education programs to develop the "physically educated person" (NASPE, 1992, 2004). These standards defined this person as someone who achieved and maintained a health-enhancing level of physical activity, thus establishing the promotion of lifetime physical activity as the primary outcome of physical education. NASPE standards have shaped the physical education programs of today, resulting in considerable research and fueling attempts to define the role of physical education in public health. Studies have consistently indicated that this role is providing experiences that will lead to increased adult physical activity, an outcome reinforced by multiple researchers and organizations (Sallis & McKinzie, 1991).  Every physical education educator needs this quality background so they can pass their knowledge onto their students.  
            At a 1923 conference, physical education leaders set guidelines that included putting athletes first, preventing exploitation, downplaying competition while emphasizing enjoyment and good sporting behavior, and promoting activity for all rather than an elite few (Gill and Williams, 2008).  This statement points out the importance of enjoyment in sports and physical activity and just basically having fun.  Not worrying about winning and losing and whose team you’re on will allow a better overall experience.  If we as physical educators want to provide and environment that will allow growth for all our students, we need to be open to adjusting activities to fit the needs of everyone.  As stated earlier, my primary focus is to promote positive health and well-being to all of my students.  In doing this, hopefully they will encounter “real life” experiences and be able to take what they have learned with them.  Diversity is not always looked at on a deep level; however it is necessary to be aware of boys vs. girls, blacks vs. whites, old vs. young, etc.  We don’t mean to, but we do stereotype. Therefore, focusing on each student as an individual and teaching them how to integrate with others will hopefully prepare them for the “real world.”  


Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Joint commission on health education and promotion terminology. (2002). Report of the 2000 joint committee on health education and promotion terminology. Journal of School Health, 72(1), 3-7.

McKenzie, T. L., Alcaraz, J. E., & Sallis, J. F. (1994). Assessing children's liking for activity units in an elementary school physical education curriculum. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 13, 206-215.

National Association for Sport and Physical Education. (2004). Moving into the future: National standards for physical education (2nd ed.). Reston, VA: Author.

National Association for Sport and Physical Education. (1992). Outcomes of quality physical education programs. Reston, VA: Author.

Pelled, L. (1996). Demographic diversity, conflict, and work group outcomes: An intervening process theory. Organization Science, 7(6), 615-631.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pep-up PE

The primary role of physical education teachers is to motivate students toward an involvement in, and appreciation for life long physical activity, healthy eating, health, and fitness.  Educators aim to give students the skills and knowledge to help them make balanced, informed choices about the roles that physical activity and good nutritional choices should play in their daily lives.  As a teacher for a middle school physical education class, I realize there is going to be a wide range of knowledge, skill levels and interests.  Because of this fact, my primary focus will be on incorporating team building into my physical education class.  Brawley and Paskevich (1997) define team building as a method of helping the group to increase effectiveness, satisfy the needs of its members, or improve work conditions.  Part of team building is setting goals and evaluating the teams strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of team improvement.  I want to make sure each student sees the value of their role on the team.  In doing this, I want to incorporate the “Pep-up PE” program.  The goals of this program are to enhance the self-esteem of each student, improve the efficacy of each student, allow students to enjoy friendly competition and develop good sportsmanship, promote cooperation within a group for the attainment of a common goal, to encourage students to accept and be accountable for their own actions and behaviors, to allow each student to recognize essential skills for leadership, to improve students’ overall skill development in sport activities, and to simply have fun.
            The philosophy of Pep-up PE is one of building up, not tearing down, a student's self-esteem, through participation or performance in class activities. It is essential that students be convinced to adopt this concept. Negative statements, such as "That was yours," "You're terrible," or "Oh no...Johnny is up!" will not be accepted. Students in general crave positive reinforcement, be it from an instructor or from a peer; therefore, class discussion prior to, during, and at the end of daily physical education activities is a key component in reinforcing the "we build up - we don't tear down" philosophy. Students will be given examples of encouraging statements to use in class, such as "good serve," "nice try," and "Hey, we'll get it next time." They will also be encouraged to help one another improve skills for various class activities.      
Before the program begins, the class will be divided into teams.  Instructors must attempt to keep teams even in terms of race, gender, and skill abilities. Getting to know the students as unique individuals will allow the instructors and students to find out something special about each student (Gill and Williams, 2008).  The instructor appoints a team leader. The teams are then told to choose a team T-shirt color. The purpose of the team T-shirt color is to promote team identity and to encourage group loyalty.  The objectives, goals, and rewards are explained to the class once teams have been created.  Developing team goals and team commitment are two values important in team building (Gill and Williams, 2008).  There is then an incentive for the teams such as a pizza party will be held for the team that obtains the most points for participation and competition throughout the school year. This incentive alone promotes cooperative efforts within each team. There are other external rewards, such as gum and/or certificates, for the most improved, most enthusiastic, and most cooperative teams. These rewards also seem to lead to internal feelings of satisfaction among most students.
An attempt should be made to minimize the number of competitive events during the program to reduce the stress and anxiety levels of less skilled participants. In the basketball competitions, for example, teams can be further divided into A and B squads with six or seven members on each team.  Gill and Williams (2008) indicate that summing up the abilities of individual group members does not accurately describe group performance; we must also consider the group process.  This leaves room for the incorporation of teamwork; involving the “talented” students with the “non-talented” students to work together toward a common goal.  This will still allow for competitiveness for all the students, and also allow them to see how they are each important to their team.  Effective teamwork can often be the difference between success and failure (Voight, 2001); therefore teaching the students the values of teamwork will benefit them both in their physical education class, but also in everyday experiences. 
Incorporating a program such as Pep-up PE will help me make my physical education classes fun and enjoying for both the students and myslef.  Teamwork is something we use each and every day, and teaching that in my class will help my students realize its value. 


Brawley, L.R., & Paskevich, D.M. (1997). Conducting team building research in the context of sport and exercise. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9, 11-40.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Voight, M., & Callaghan, J. (2001). A team building intervention program: Application and evaluation with two university soccer teams. Journal of Sport Behavior, 24(4), 420.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Families Together & Active

      The goal of the local parks and recreation department is to engage families in more exercise activities, and in order to do so I have been asked to put together a program to give families more options for physical activity and exercise. My focus will be on improving participants’ performance and increase positive attitudes toward physical activity for all members of the family. In order to do this, we want to give families the opportunity to engage in activities they enjoy while spending time together. The social aspect of exercise and performance play a big role in the outcome. There are three main types of social influence that have and affect on performance. Social facilitation deals with the influence of the presents of others on performance; social reinforcement occurs through evaluative comments and actions; and modeling is how we learn through observation (Gill & Williams, 2008).
      According to R. B. Zajonc's (1965) drive theory of social facilitation, the mere presence of others increases arousal and, thereby, the frequency of dominant responses. Our focus needs to be on increasing arousal for activity and exercise so that we have an improvement not only on performance, but also on their experience. In doing this, we need to create activities which are fun for families to participate in; perhaps even something they have never done before. Some of these activities will include rock climbing, water volleyball, kick boxing, and racquetball. We want to incorporate activities which families can work together to be successful while learning the values of teamwork and communication. Both of those qualities are important for families outside the exercise setting as well. Once the families have had the opportunity to learn and develop skills in different areas of physical activity, they will have the opportunity to compete against other families for prizes. For example, we would put together a water volleyball tournament to be held on a Saturday and families can come and compete, and also cheer on other families they have gotten to know throughout this experience.
      Social reinforcement consists of positive and negative evaluative comments and actions, such as verbal praise, criticism, and body language (Gill and Williams, 2008). Therefore, we need to teach and encourage families to give off the right kind of reinforcement toward their family members to enhance performance and their overall experience. This is especially important with children. Whether this is the child’s first experience with exercise, or they have been doing it for years, correct reinforcement is valuable. Although there is now a considerable literature on the effects of different social reinforcement procedures upon learning in children, it is not easy to discover if positive or negative reinforcement is more beneficial (Wright, 1968). However, in this program, positive reinforcement will be the primary focus. Parents and recreation personnel need to make sure they are using frequent and intense forms of reinforcement in order to positively affect the child’s performance.
      When teaching an activity to someone for the first time, many instructors will use modeling. Typically, a learner who is learning a new motor skill is provided with instructions about the correct movement pattern. That is, the instructions usually refer to the coordination of the performer's body movements (Wulf et al., 1998). According to Bandura’s (1986) social-cognitive theory, when we observe others we form a cognitive representation of the action that serves as a reference of correctness. When working with families, and especially children, the recreation staff needs to make sure they are not giving too off too much information too fast. We need to make sure the families are retaining the information we are trying to teach them. For example, when teaching the family about the sport of racquetball, we will start with simple instruction such as how to hold the racket and hit the ball forward. We will gradually move into the rules of the game, but want to make sure we don’t move too quickly, or too slowly.
      Our final focus of the program will focus on values. Fredricks & Eccles (2004) talk about four ways values can be evaluated; utility values focus on how useful it is to the child’s goals, intrinsic values focus on the enjoyment the child experiences, attainment values focus on how important the activity is to the child, and cost refers to the negative consequences of the experience. Obviously we want to do our best to keep the families from experiencing anything negative.
      Families cooperating together in exercise will make it fun and enjoyable for them, as well as have positive affects on their health. Keeping the family atmosphere throughout the program will increase family values. Keeping the parents involved in teaching and working with their kids will also be a part of the growing family dynamic. The more children perceive that their parents value sport participation the more likely they are to perceive themselves as competent, value their own sport participation more, and actually participate, even if it is something they have never done before (Gill and Williams, 2008). Hopefully the families involved in this program will enjoy learning new skills, meet other families with similar goals, and achieve even more than they expected.


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Fedricks, J.A., & Eccles, J.S. (2004). Parental influences on youth involvement in sports. In. M.R. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 145-164). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Wright, D. (1968). Social reinforcement and maze learning in children. Child Development, 39(1), 177-183.

Wulf, G., Hoess, M., & Prinz, W. (1998). Instructions for motor learning: Differential effects of internal versus external focus of attention. Journal of Motor Behavior, 30(2), 169-179.

Zajonc, R. B. (1965). Social facilitation: A solution is suggested for an old social psychological problem. Science, 149, 269-274.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lack of Motivation can Hold You Back

It is always helpful when starting a new workout program to do it with a friend.  In the case of Ben and Jack, they have been going strong for five weeks.  Even though Ben was the one who talked Jack into starting to workout, Jack has made greater gains in his workouts than Ben.  However, Jack would like to expand their workouts to more group activities other than just weight training, but Ben is reluctant to branch out to new exercises.  Rudy, their personal trainer, has noticed that Jack is not working out as hard as he normally does, and he doesn’t seem to be motivated.  Jack seems to be suffering from a lack of intrinsic motivation because the exercises are no longer interesting and challenging to him, and because Ben insists on only weight training, Jack feels he has no real choice in the activity.  Understanding motivation requires consideration of individual differences (Gill and Williams, 2008).  Therefore, because of the differences in workout interests, Jack is lacking motivation in his workouts.
            Rudy needs to find a way to help Jack get motivated again so he can start to see success in his workouts.  In order to do this, I believe Rudy’s first step is to talk with Jack about what his short and long term goals are.  This should help Rudy in determining how to motivate Jack.  It is not uncommon after doing the same type of workouts for weeks to get bored with them because of their repetitiveness.  Rudy and Jack together need to use the self determination theory to help figure out what drives Jack.  The self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2002) examines motivation from a humanistic perspective. According to the self determination theory, there exist various forms of motivation that can be aligned on a continuum of self-determination, or greater choice and self endorsement of the behavior.  So this brings to question if the weight room is the right motivational environment for Jack to see the benefits he wants.  He has shown some interest in joining a group aerobic workout; therefore I think this is something Jack should pursue despite Bens reluctance.  Jack can still continue to workout with Ben with his weight training if he still has that as a goal, but he can also incorporate some of the group workouts on his own or with a different workout partner.  I also don’t see the harm in Rudy encouraging Ben to participate in the aerobic training to expand his exercise repertoire.  Ben may find that he actually likes the group workout setting and therefore would have a new challenge to add to his workouts.
            Rudy also needs to address the specific motivations Jack has.  “Two people in identical situations can have two different motivational experiences” (Gill and Williams, p. 132).  This is the case with Ben and Jack.  At the beginning their motivations may have been similar, but over time they have changed.  Gill and Williams (2008) suggest that understanding motivation requires consideration of individual differences and situational factors.  Helping us understand Jacks motivations means figuring out his intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.  Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are believed to be conscious self-regulatory processes, therefore finding out what motivates Jack will help Rudy guide him towards his goals.  Extrinsic motivation is intentional and controlled by external forces (Gill and Williams, 2008); therefore if Rudy can find some external motivators for Jack he may be able to help move him in the right direction.  Some examples of external motivators or rewards would be a free aerobic class at the gym or a six-pack of Gatorade.  Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, may be a little more challenging for Rudy because it deals with Jacks internal motivations.  Figuring out Jacks intrinsic motivations is vital to Rudy helping him with his workouts.
            The final thing Rudy should focus on with Jack is his overall total effort.  Gill and Williams (2008) indicate that personal effort is an internal quality we can control individually.  Effort is controllable, however since Rudy cannot control Jacks effort, he needs to use internal or external attribution.  Attributions are the perceived causes of events and behaviors (Gill and Williams, 2008).  Perhaps Jack feels like he is a failure because he is not really being challenged anymore with only weight training.  Perhaps he is upset or annoyed with Ben because he feels like Ben is limiting him.  Whatever the reason, Jack needs to find his drive again.  People seem to take more pride in successes that they earn than in those that are due to external factors, therefore it is imperative that Rudy challenge Jack in the workouts so Jack feels challenged and satisfied.  This should help Jack get back on track and stay motivated for his exercise goals.


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press Publishing Co.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (Eds.), (2002). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Monday, October 11, 2010

There's more to running than just running

There are many different reasons people get involved in an exercise program.  It may be because of an injury and they need to do rehabilitation exercises.  Or the individual may be unhealthy and need to start an exercise program to prevent obesity or other health problems.  Many individuals get started in an exercise program simply to get into better shape, possibly lose a few extra pounds, and ultimately to feel better about themselves.  In order to keep up with whatever exercise regimen we choose, it is very helpful to implement a behavior plan.  If we can design an effective plan, we will have a higher likelihood of success.
If I were to design an exercise plan for myself, I would focus on getting into better shape and have a goal of running a 10K by the spring.  Including a behavioral plan with my training will help keep me focused on my specific goals and stay motivated to challenge myself and be successful.  I will use some of Spiegler & Guevremont’s (2003) steps to implementing a behavioral plan to assist me in designing an effective exercise program.  The first step is to clarify the specific problem, which is staying motivated to train even though I’m so busy.  So organizing a specific program that can be done with high intensity and a short amount of time would be most effective for me.
The second step is to formulate goals for my program.  “Participants should personally set their own performance goals because this increases their commitment to achieve the goals” (Gill and Williams, p. 102).  I agree that taking some ownership for the program will help me stay motivated.  One specific goal is to never go more than two days without doing a workout.  This way I won’t have to set specific days to workout, I can just make sure I don’t take too many days off.  With my busy schedule this time of year with travel and school, I feel this will allow me to have some flexibility, but still stay within the specific goals of my workout.  Taking days off when training for a run is actually encouraged.  Having at least two days free from a running schedule per week allows time for non-running activities (Kuscsik, 1989).  Also, you need to give your body a break.
The third step is to design target behaviors.  Training for a 10K is more than just going out for a run every other day.  There are many programs I can choose from to help me train and prepare for my run.  Choosing a specific program and sticking to it will be key for success.  I also need to make sure I can measure my success throughout the program.  For example I can keep track of my ‘minutes per mile’ pace and work on challenging my intensity with some of my runs.  This will help me continue to stay motivated and at the same time benefit my training.  Training runs will be different each day, with some being farther and others being shorter with more intensity.  Many people think you have to train constantly at a fast pace or you won't be able to run a fast race. Kuscsik (1989) believes that a combination of paces during your training--both easy and harder--will give you the energy, efficiency, and stamina to run a great race.
The fourth step in incorporating my behavior plan is maintaining my target behavior.  The main way to do this is to use the ABC model Gill and Williams (2008) introduce us to.  Getting myself in the right frame of mind before, during, and after my workouts will benefit my training.  I think the most important aspect of the ABC model is the (C) consequences.  How I feel after I am finished with my workout really helps me stay motivated in the long run.  Running is not my favorite type of exercise, but I enjoy it enough and feel great after I have had a good run.  Therefore, maintaining my training goals and intensity levels I set for myself will help me stay on track.
The final three steps in Spiegler & Guevremont’s (2003) behavioral plan are designing a treatment plan, implementing the plan, and evaluating the plan.  I think these three steps are very important, and can also be incorporated together.  Gill and Williams (2008) talk about reinforcement as “any stimulus, event, or condition whose presentation immediately follows a response and increases the frequency of that response.”  For me, positive reinforcement works best.  Getting acknowledgement for my training by my training partners and the feeling of accomplishment are both examples of positive reinforcement for me. 
The final part of my behavioral plan will be mental training.  Since running is not my favorite type of exercise, allowing myself to use imagery will also benefit my training.  Keeping myself in a positive, relaxed frame of mind will help me before and during my runs.  Porter and Foster (2003) explain that each time you 'see' yourself performing exactly the way you want with perfect form, you physically create neural patterns in your brain. These patterns fire the signal to the muscle to move. It tells each muscle how to move, when to move, and with how much power.  Incorporating the use of mental training and this behavioral plan with my exercise program will help me have more success as well as help me enjoy my training.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Kuscsik, N. (1989). How to improve your 5k and 10k times. Women's Sports and Fitness, 11(4), 30.

Porter, K., & Foster, J. (2003). The Mental Athlete. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Spiegler, M.D., & Guevremont, D.C. (2003). Contemporary behavior therapy (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Don't Forget to Have Fun

When working with youth athletes, it is sometimes easy to get caught up in their techniques, skills, and overall physical talent.  There are times when we simply overlook their mental training, and just allowing them to have fun and enjoy their sport.  Take into consideration this young tennis athlete who has developed great physical potential, but he allows outside factors such as officials’ calls, opponents moves, and other distractions affect his play.  The emotional side of sports is very important in the development of young athletes.  It helps teach them how to deal with challenging situations and circumstances such as tougher competition, weather conditions, or when they are just having an off day physically.  Gill & Williams (2008) indicate that even slight physical changes, such as increased muscle tension, can interfere with coordination.  Therefore, focusing on how we can teach this athlete to relax and not get worked up will help his mental and physical game.
Forty-five percent of American youth, or 20 million children ages 6-18, participate in organized sports in non-school-sponsored events alone (Chambers, 1991). 
Youth sport participation has grown tremendously over the years, and we need to remind ourselves why it is the youth of today play sports in the first place.  Gill, Gross, and Huddleston (1983) and Gould, Feltz, and Weiss (1985) surveyed over 1,500 youths on participation motivation. Their data showed that the primary reasons for adolescent athletic involvement are: (1) fun, (2) skill development, (3) excitement and personal challenge, (4) achievement and status, (5) fitness, (6) energy or tension release, and (7) friendship.  Of these motivation characteristics, I believe incorporating fun, excitement and personal challenge, and skill development are the main ones to focus on at this camp.  Therefore, when working with our youth tennis athlete, we need to try and incorporate these characteristics in his practices so he can carry them over into competition.
            In an extensive youth sport study in Michigan, Sapp and Haubenstricker (1978) reported that "having fun" was the reason youth gave most frequently for participating in sports.  We need to make sure we are not over stressing skill development in place of enjoyment for the game of tennis.  Skill development is of course very important, but we should try and give the athlete fun, game like drills to enhance his performance as well as allow him to enjoy what he is doing.  Scanlan and Passer (1978) found that fun was the most potent predictor of the amount of postgame anxiety experienced by youth participants.  They showed that children who had more fun were less anxious after the game.  This relationship was true for both winners and losers.
            Now of course we want our young tennis athlete to be successful, so we will also incorporate personal challenges into his practices and competitions.  It is not always about winning, especially at this level, but we still want to keep things competitive.  We know his skill level and need to challenge him both mentally and physically to help him develop as an athlete.  Setting mini-goals such as serving percentage and winning consecutive points can help him see successes even if he is not “winning” the match.  We also need to incorporate positive self-talk in order to help the athlete work through challenging situations on the court.  Helping athletes shift their focus from negative thoughts to specific actions might well enhance performance (Gill & Williams, 2008).  So in practices, we should purposely put the athlete in challenging conditions so he can practice working through these situations.  Some examples would be loud crowd noise, an annoying opponent, and inconsistent line judges or officials.  “Teaching emotional control in exercise or youth programs can not only enhance the activity experience but also build emotional-control skills for life enhancement” (Gill & Williams, p.191).
            In conclusion I believe there are many little things we can incorporate into training youth athletes today.  It is easy to get caught up in competitions and games both for the athlete and the coach.  So it is important to incorporate game play and fun into practices while still working on skill development.  It is also very important to incorporate mental training such as self-talk in order to practice challenging situations the athlete may face.  We need to make sure we as coaches and trainers are providing an enjoyable environment for our youth athletes.  Sports can have a tremendous impact on a child’s life, and how we teach and develop their physical and mental skills is going to affect how they develop as a person.  It the situation with our youth tennis athlete; he will leave camp hopefully with some sort of self-satisfaction and accomplishment. Ideally he will take with them a fulfillment of his motives to participate, a feeling of fun and excitement for tennis, less anxiety and stress, and higher overall self-esteem.

Chambers, S. (1991). Factors affecting elementary school students' participation in sports. The Elementary School Journal, 91(5), 413-419.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Gill, D. L., Gross, J. B., & Huddleston, S. (1983). Participation motivation in youth sport. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 14, 1-14.

Gould, D., Feltz, D., & Weiss, M. (1985). Motives for participating in competitive youth swimming. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 16, 126-140.

Sapp, M., & Haubenstricker, J. (1978). Motivation for joining and reasons for not continuing in youth sports programs in Michigan. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, Kansas City, MO.

Scanlan, T. K., & Passer, M. W. (1978). Factors related to competitive stress among male youth sport participants. Medicine and Science in Sports, 10, 103-108.