Youth Sporting Events and Social Impact on Children:
The interactions young adults have through sports can significantly impact how they interpret appropriate behavior and motivation habits in future encounters. If I reflect back on all my previous youth involvement in sports I can only seem to remember the experience of being on a team and working with others. I cannot vividly remember how successful we were as a team in terms of wins or losses, but I can remember how I interacted with others around me and the relationships that were established.
I observed a youth soccer game located at Queen Ann bowl and observed specific behaviors the coaching staff and parents displayed to establish a unique environment for the players. The goal orientation and positive reinforcement that the staff and parents projected on to the players reduced their state anxiety and improved their internal motivation.
One environmental factor that the coaching staff had control over was the competition orientation of the team. From my observation, the head coach placed emphasis on goal orientation and the achievement of those goals. There was not an overwhelming degree of importance that was placed on the concept of winning, although the coaches did positively and negatively reinforce behaviors that would indirectly lead to the outcome of the game. One orientation that I noticed the coaching staff placed emphasis on was goal orientation. Goal orientation “is a focus on personal performance standards” (Weinberg and Gould, 2007, p.107). The coach would typically individually identify a goal for various players, and concentrate on maintaining that activity throughout the entire game. Their defensive player’s goal at times was to attack the ball. Emphasizing goal orientation was also paired with reinforcement.
The staff would consistently reinforce this by encouraging players to go for the ball when the opposing team charged down the field. When they would complete this behavior he would positively acknowledge the behavior, which appeared to encourage similar behaviors in the future. According to Weinberg and Gould “reinforcement is the use of rewards and punishments that increase or decrease the likelihood of a similar response occurring in the future” (Weinberg and Gould, 2007, p.126). One thing to note about the coaches use of reinforcement was that they rarely used any type of negative reinforcement, which is when doing something results in an unpleasant consequence. This was important to see, especially in younger individuals because of the effect these styles of reinforcement may have on their self esteem and perceived self worth. When observing the players it became clear that when they made a mistake, they often would appear to display a high level of anxiety, even when no negative reinforcement was given.
This seems to show the overwhelming occurrence of state anxiety in each of their participation. State anxiety refers to “the ever-changing mood component” and is defined as an emotional state “characterized by subjective, consciously perceived feelings of apprehension and tension, accompanied by or associated with activation or arousal of the autonomic nervous system” (Weinberg and Gould, 2007, p.79). One thing that sparked my intrigue was the participation of the parents at these times. From the parents who were attending the game, many would yell words of encouragement to the player if they belonged to the same team. It appeared as though this did help increase the intrinsic motivation in the athlete to continue playing to the best of their ability.
The motivational difference among the players is was what intrigued me the most. After viewing most of the players participate in the game, it seemed as though there were some who had endless energy and motivation to go for the ball and put forth a large amount of effort. On the other hand there were a few who still seemed motivated to play the game, but lacked the intense drive that these other players had. This can be referred to as motivation and is defined as “the direction and intensity of one’s effort” (Weinberg and Gould, 2007, p.52). Each player could be examined based on the trait-centered theory, the situational-theory, and the interactional view. It initiates the question of why these players are motivated so intensely and may be beneficial for the coaching staff to understand their internal motivation to decrease the occurrence of social loafing. Whether the player is motivated in most situations, most sport situations, or just in soccer situations, it would all be good knowledge for the coaching staff to discover.
One suggestion that would be beneficial to the organization and to the participants would be to encourage the players who are not competing at the time, to be actively engaging their teammates with social support. This would add motivation to the players who are on the field, add to team cohesion and unity, in addition to integrating participation to the players who are not on the field. As an athlete, this is one of the most important parts of playing on a team with others. Having a social support system and motivation coming directly from your teammates will add to their overall performance and positive athletic experience. The coaching staff of this team provided an effective leadership style that seemed to work well with most of the players and parents with little conflict. They appeared aware of the positive and negative impact they can have on these children, while running a successful organization.