Thursday, March 21, 2013

Does team sport build character?

The idea that an individuals' involvement in team sport builds character is firmly engrained in our minds. Advocates of sport participation believe that sport provides opportunities for learning moral development and social skills like cooperation, conflict resolution, self-control, teamwork, fairness and a good work ethic. As a result, many parents often sign their children up for a sports team in the
hopes that they will learn some, if not all of these skills.

There is considerable evidence that the development of character in young athletes can be formed positively, if helped along by sport coaches who implement specific strategies to do so.
  • Set the example - Young athletes will look to their coaches to teach them how to respond to a difficult situation - a coach who can effectively control his/her emotions under pressure or in anger is a great example for good sporting behavior. If a coach expects good sporting behaviour, but does not follow the set rules, young athletes receive mixed messages.
  • Goal setting - Set team and individual goals, ask them to express how they wish to see themselves grow as players and as a team and help them to accomplish those goals.
  • Peer influence - Peers are extremely important in the socialization of young athletes. Establish a peer leader that engages in positive, character-building behaviors and not just those with the greatest skill set.
  • Establish guidelines - Make it clear that disrespectful behaviour towards opponents and officials is not tolerated. Let your players know what the expectations are as a team, for example, shaking hands with the opposing team before and after a game, respecting calls from officials, and following the rules of the game.
Character development is a process that requires careful planning that can definitely be developed through sport, but this type of development will not just happen on its own. To be effective, coaches need to set a personal example for youth as well as come up with an organizational plan to help athletes overcome challenges and work towards their individual and team goals.

References from the SIRC Collection: 

1. Boardley I, Kavussanu M. The influence of social variables and moral disengagement on prosocial and antisocial behaviours in field hockey and netball. Journal Of Sports Sciences. June 2009;27(8):843-854.
2. DiCocco F. The Importance of Character. Texas Coach. August 2012;57(1):34-35. 
3. Doty J, Lumpkin A. Do Sports Build or Reveal Character - An Exploratory Study at One Service Academy. (Abstract). Research Quarterly For Exercise & Sport. February 2007;78(1):A-91.
4. Falc√£o W, Bloom G, Gilbert W. Coaches’ Perceptions of a Coach Training Program Designed to Promote Youth Developmental Outcomes. Journal Of Applied Sport Psychology. October 2012;24(4):429-444. 
5. Gaines S. Developing Individual and Team Character in Sport. Strategies. November 2012;25(8):30-32.
6. Murray K. Team Sports and Character Development. ACSM Fit Society Page. Summer2007 2007;:1-2.
7. Welch B. Character team building. Australian Fourfourtwo. October 2011;(72):96.

1 comment:

Glenn Allen said...

Great article. All too often though as we see demonstated in the many examples highlighted by the media and in countless examples in pro sports there's a real disconnect in society between what's considered to be acceptable behavior in regular society and the exceptions and excuses that seem to be made in team sports in particular. Kid's learn from example and often the example is not good. Hope that this reaches more people with the underlying message that part of the job of sport and the leaders in it is not just about producing winners on the field but good human beings off the field as well. Not to do so is a tragedy.