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Punishment Creates Fear

In my Mental Toughness programs, I hear from athletes and they tell me things they don't tell anyone else. They tell me what punishment feels like, they give me their opinion about consequences, they tell me how it feels to receive negative yelling.

Here are some things I've learned from athletes:

  • Punishment makes them fearful. They fear their coach. They feel nervous about coming to practices/games/competitions.

  • They find punishment confusing. "Sometimes my coach is really nice. Other times they punish me."

  • Many of them are afraid of what will happen when they make mistakes or mess up. This fear decreases risk taking and creativity. It's safer for them to be robots.

  • They don't like negative yelling. They stop listening. They feel attacked and that makes them protect themselves from the yeller.

  • They can't differentiate the tone/feel of negative yelling from the message. It is almost impossible for them NOT to take negative yelling personally.

  • They don't like the fact that when they are being yelled at negatively, they are expected to stand there and take it. They feel disempowered because they aren't allowed to yell back.

  • They would prefer a two way conversation rather than negative yelling.

  • Most of them are ok with reasonable consequences. They don't feel like it's punishment. It doesn't feel personal.

As part of my Mental Toughness coaching, I help athletes build a toolkit to manage these storms. I help them understand what's going on in their head and heart, and what they can do about it.

These are the "tough" skills required to manage the storms that sport always brings. Because the reality is, most of the storms are emotional, not physical.

These are the soft skills that are really hard. And they aren't just sport skills; they are life skills.


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