Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Self-Fulfulling Prophecies

After reading about self-fulfilling prophecies over the last couple of days, I decided to share some information in my text (Applied Sport Psychology: Sixth Edition by Williams, 2010). Of course we have all heard that first impressions last a lifetime, and Williams explains how a coach's initial expectations often become athletic reality in a sense that unwarranted judgement of athletic talent in an untimely or unskilled manner may result in success or lack thereof.

The self-fulfilling prophecy as it relates to coaching and athletics is this: a coach's preconceived expectations (positive or negative) will ultimately result in that behavior being exhibited by the athlete (positive or negative respectively). I believe all sports are plagued by some degree of politics, meaning coaches are berrated by the opinions of others telling them athlete A is good or bad and therefore creating a preconceived expectation of this athlete's ability. What this feeds into is a self-fulfilling prophecy between athlete A and the coach leading to unequal treatment of athlete A until they eventually become the star player as they were thought to be after the preferential treatment they have received over others on the team.

Williams describes four simple stages that occur sequentially to complete the self-fulfilling prophecy. The stages are summarized here:

Stage 1- The coach develops an expectation for each athlete predicting the level of skill, development, and potential possible for the upcoming year. This immediate expectation can start as early as team try-outs where a coach may see an athlete play one time and think they have a clear idea about an athlete's potential.

Stage 2- The coach's expectations influence treatment of the atheltes on an individual level. I think this is really the turning point in the entire process because this is the stage where thoughts (an internal process) become actions (external symptoms). This is the stage where individuals begin receiving preferential treatment and others are inadvertently being treated unfairly.

Stage 3- Here, the way the coach treats the athletes affects an athlete's thoughts, feelings, actions, rate of learning, development, and eventually performance. All athletes recognize the coach's variability and therefore understand the coach's feelings, leading them to create thoughts about their own ability.

Stage 4- The culmination occurs when the athlete's performance matches the coach's expectations as a result of the treatment they have received over the period of time.

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