Importance of Character in Sports Performance

I do not think there is a Viagra pill that can suddenly rid sports of all its ills and infuse such spirits that would catapult sportsperson to ultimate glory. Such short-term measures may show instant results momentarily, but not repeatedly. They will not make a champion out of you. There are no quick-fix solutions.

I am looking at a holistic view of improving sporting activity, nurturing the talent available, assisting them in achieving excellence in their discipline and also preparing them for a productive life after their "sporting life" is over. In the process of creating excellent sportsperson, I also have a dream of molding their character and personalities which would not only stand them in good stead during an active sporting carrier but throughout life. There is an incredible talent that we can ill-afford to ignore.

I have a vision that someone should take under their wings, without disturbing the existing structure of "training", all young potential sportsperson in the age group of 8 years to 14 years and 15 years to 21/25 years, for imparting soft skills and emotional literacy. The literacy should be provided continuously as a 'course' during their sporting-skill training at Centers. Subject-specific workshops must also be conducted at regular intervals. The idea is to in-grain these skills into their psyche that they automatically begin to 'live' these skills. The sports fields should be their 'classrooms' where they learn to be soft-skill-and-emotionally literate sportsperson.

It is widely accepted that sports and games provide lessons for soft skill and personality/character development. In fact, games and sports serve as a resource to teach soft skills in management and other educational institutions. When a sportsperson participates in competitive games and sports, he tends to unconsciously learn and develop his soft skills. By the time he is proficient in these skills his active sporting life is over. He gets no opportunity to use these skills to contribute to excellence in his chosen sports discipline. It is too late. I recommend some 'reverse engineering' merely by changing the timing of his exposure. Whilst developing sporting skills, the sportsperson should be imparted soft skills and emotional literacy side-by-side. When he graduates into a team of some 'level', it must be with all these skills in place. Thereafter, he has ample opportunity to contribute to individual or team excellence as the case may be. And of course, his skills are not only used to achieve excellence, but also fine-tuned and improved upon with live experience.

I have tentatively identified important defining skills for sportsperson involved with:-

Team sports

- Reliability

- Constructive Communication

- Active Listening

- Active Participation

- Sharing Openly and Willingly

- Cooperation and Helpfulness

- Flexibility

- Commitment

- Problem solving

- Respectful and Supportive

Individual Sports

- Goal Setting

- Decision-Making

- Communication

- Conflict Management

- Time Management

- Execution

Emotional Intelligence/Literacy (both team and individual)

- Emotional Self Awareness

- Accurate Self Assessment

- Self Confidence

- Emotional Self Control

- Empathy

- Influencing Others

The final set of skills to be imparted will be decided consequent to a Detailed Needs Analysis and after necessary interaction with the athletes and coaching/support staff.

Most people involved in sport agree that proper behavior makes the sport better and that character matters. While there is a great amount of attention paid today to ideals of sportsmanship, or positive relational character - respecting self, teammates, opponents, and the game - little consideration is paid to the influence that an athlete's or coach's character actually has on performance. Besides the evolution of "sportsmanship" programs which are intended to heighten awareness about the realities of sport today - the relationship between character and performance is seldom addressed. Despite the logical link between character and performance, many coaches dismiss this as an intangible factor that is immeasurable!

Performance and relational character are not mutually exclusive. 'Performance character' focuses on the diligence, perseverance, and self-discipline necessary to a commitment to academic, athletic, and other areas of excellence. 'Moral or relational character' embodies the traits of integrity, justice, caring, and respect - needed for successful interpersonal relationships and ethical behavior.

Character strengths such as hope, perseverance, creativity, and zest are but a few traits which, when habituated, provide sport participants the greatest opportunity to improve performance and enjoyment. Hope is about goal-setting and optimism, creativity is about finding alternative strategies to improve performance, and zest is about the enthusiasm that players and coaches bring to the field.

An athlete who has developed a strong character can call on a foundation of well-formed habits in aspiring to true excellence. The competition of the sports arena, together with a personal goal to optimize performance, challenges the athlete to continually stretch his or her abilities through deliberate practice, a focused and effort-full rehearsal. We must 'will' good habits and improved skills; we cannot just 'wish' them to happen. What separates successful performers from others is the ability to make the most of what they can control in their aspirations for optimal performance. This does not mean that anyone can become an elite athlete, btt it does mean that athletes can strive to perform to the best of their ability levels - aspiring to excellence as individuals and as members of a team.

Ajit K Singh has a Masters in Economics from Delhi University. Among his varied interests is a passion for Philosophy, Psychology, Soft Skills and related subjects. Following the family tradition, he got commissioned in the Indian Air Force as an Administrative Officer. He specialized in selection of Officers for commissioning, having done a course in the Defense Institute of Psychological Research, Delhi. Post retirement he researched and became a trainer in Soft Skills and Emotional Intelligence, including Life Skills. He is an avid writer and occasional poet.


Article Source: Ajit_K_Singh

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