Does your child’s coach suffer from the “self-fulfilling prophecy’ syndrome?

Relax, it’s no disease. Well, at least not one that requires you to urgently see a doctor.

What is it then? The self-fulfilling prophecy syndrome is a system that uses a positive feedback loop to work. Let me explain.

Let us take look at the situation of a boy called John. John is a very good Halo player. He usually spends all his free time playing this game with his friends. One day, John decides that he wants to play Halo against other online players (not his friends) so he hooks up his X-Box and plays away.

During the game, the players chat and it somehow comes up that John is younger than his opponents who are in college. This leads to the older players commenting that John is young and thus he cannot be good enough to beat them.

Let us pause for a second. Can you tell how this is going to end?

There are two things that you should keep in mind before I continue telling you John’s story. First, we’ve established that John is very good at Halo. He can handle ‘sticking’ opponents with plasma grenades and all that. Yeah, I know I’m a ‘cool’ dad. Second, we do not know whether these other older players are better than John.

All caught up? Good. Let us continue.

This situation ends with John actually playing worse than he usually does because the older players had said that he cannot be as good as them because he is younger.

The older players then go on to say that they were right since John’s bad playing has proven their statement.

There are many Johns out there and your child could be one of them.

You see, in the world of sports there are two main reasons people play. Some people play to win and others play for fun. The self-fulfilling prophecy syndrome mainly affects the competitive setting. This is because, in games played for fun it does not matter whether you are actually a good or a bad player. All that matters is that you have fun. No pressure.

However, for the competitive settings, coaches are under pressure to win as many games as possible. They want to be the best. They become the older kids who tell John that he can’t play a certain position/ sport/ game because they think that John being young/ tiny/ came from an inferior team is reason enough.

This becomes a serious problem because of the many effects it can cause. Young children are very impressionable and all it takes is one shred of doubt concerning their abilities from people that they consider more experienced than them to make them poor performers.

The self-fulfilling prophecy may make a child question his or her abilities in certain fields. This second-guessing of oneself may pose more problems in later life when they need to make critical decisions that are based on their abilities. It may be what career they would like to pursue or maybe whether or not they should work somewhere. Either way, self-doubt will hamper their judgment and may lead them into making much worse decisions than they would if they had self-confidence.

Another negative impact of this syndrome is that it may cause your child to have awkward social interactions. Maybe he used to be a great player but ever since he was told that he isn’t anymore, he may no longer associate with his teammates or he may even avoid his friends since he feels ashamed. These feelings of lower self-worth sometimes lead to depression as what we are good at forms a big part of us. It makes us who we are. Without it, we have no identity and we may feel worthless.

The purpose of this article is to inform you on the possibility that your son’s or daughter’s coach may be suffering from this self-fulfilling prophecy syndrome.

Did you even know that such a thing existed?

If you did, what are you doing to protect your child against its effects?

As parents, we all have a responsibility to protect our children and to make sure that they grow up to be well-adjusted adults.

One way of doing this is acknowledging the existence of this syndrome and finding ways to protect our children against it, especially in the school setting as this is where most competitive sports occur. We should ask the administrators of the schools our children go to; are your coaches professionally trained to handle the psychological needs of our children? How do the coaches interact with our children during games? Do they show favoritism to some players? Do they have a superiority complex?

Some coaches may want to show their players that they are the ones in charge and that they know what is best for the team. Essentially, there is nothing wrong with this but at times they do this in a wrong manner which leads to this syndrome coming into play and so on.

After positing all these questions and scenarios to the relevant people at the school, we should all work together to make changes and implement new ideas that will ensure that only qualified coaches interact with our children.

For example, schools should hire coaches who are qualified to handle young children as they are very impressionable. Another way would be to train the coaches in the basics of child psychology so that they can better handle situations such as when a child has low self-esteem as this may lead to the coach devising the syndrome as an easy way out of the situation.

Parents should also be made aware of the many psychological issues that their children may face when participating in sports. We should all know how to recognize certain symptoms of psychological issues and also know how to handle them appropriately.

With all this being said, it is my sincere hope that more parents will take more seriously the fact that our children need us to be very observant and understanding. All the Johns out there may feel that they are alone but they shouldn’t. Acknowledging a problem, no matter how small it is, is the first step to solving it. Let us then unite against the self-fulfilling prophecy syndrome and all other psychological issues that may trouble our children.

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