Memes are popular because they can convey ideas in a simply digestible form. I find they’re very good for comedy, combining a good one liner and an image. But for conveying psychology, especially around something that people are very passionate about, I think most of them are just not good.
The fundamental here is simple. Harping on the deficits of athletes you are coaching is not an effective technique for getting improvement. This is not about "holding them accountable" or "sugarcoating". It's just a matter of fact: shaming is not a coaching technique
Positive Psychology is some powerful stuff. So powerful that the US Military has been using it as part of their Master Resilience program since 2009 with strong results.
But when I get out into the world of swimming, not everyone sees the immediate value of Positive Psychology for their team. I can understand why, because each of the most common objections I get is one I had myself at some point or another. Here are three common objections I get and the best responses to them:
1. We have already incorporated psychology into our program.
Many coaches out there see the value of either including some research-backed strategies into their coaching. Even better, some reach out to professionals and outsource some of the load.
When I started to learn about Positive Psychology, I did what most people do. I went out and bought some books and went through. I was excited and wanted to try some of the stuff I had read about. But it didn't work quite the way I thought it would- in fact sometimes it didn't work at all.
When I went to school for Positive Psychology, I learned the deeper art by getting the full picture of the research that backed up interventions and concepts. I was then able to put it back into practice fully understanding what I was actually doing.
Positive Psychology is distinct from traditional Psychology in that it studies the positive counterparts of the afflictions described in the DSM. It also has distinct roots from Sports Psychology, whose most common interventions revolve around the mechanics of sports.
Positive Psychology is science that will help coaches, athletes and parents to live a better life first and then get a performance improvement from that better life. The performance improvements from a better life are huge.
2. The Kids on My Team Have Problems- What Can You Do About That?
Coaches who are not trained in psychology may nevertheless recognize that some of their athletes are exhibit symptoms of anxiety, depression or social disorders. This is a common objection globally to Positive Psychology, in that it traditionally offers "green cape" solutions, i.e does not address illnesses directly but promotes well-being.
Much as with physical injuries, it's smart to let professionals (orthopedic doctors, physical therapists, trainers) help diagnose and treat problems. Even better, however, is to set up systems to prevent injury in the first place.
By focusing on creating more optimism, better relationship skills and better emotional regulation, Positive Psychology can make mental injury less likely on your team. Doesn't that sound nice?
3. Positive Psychology is New Age Bull**** That Is Everything Wrong With Kids These Days
Here's something I have heard 1000 times while delivering a piece of criticism:
"Aren't you supposed to be the Positive Psychology guy?"
A lot of true Positive Psychology has been co-opted by people who have little to no understanding of it, and the results can sometimes tarnish the reputation of a science that is trying to apply rigor to human betterment.
Positive Psychology is not about never saying no, or anything critical, or smiling and clapping for your swimmers as they leave practice early. By honing Positive Psychology techniques, you will find opportunities to build PERMA (Positive Emotions, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment).
By doing so, you will find yourself having to say no less, be less critical, and your swimmers are more likely to want to be at practice and work hard. While the research is new, many of the ideas underpinning it are not- but they have been crafted to help the modern world we live in.
Want to build PERMA on your team? Contact me!