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"The Detrimental Impact of Constant Comparison on Athletes: Insights for Coaches and Mentors"




As athletes, we know that we are often compared to our peers by coaches and mentors. However, this comparison can become toxic and detrimental to our mental health and overall well-being. This blog post aims to provide insights into the negative effects of comparison and offer some research-based recommendations for coaches and mentors to help foster positive growth and development amongst athletes.


Increased anxiety and decreased motivation

A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that athletes who were constantly compared to their peers by their coaches reported higher levels of anxiety and decreased motivation to continue participating in their sport (Lundkvist, Gustafsson, & Alexanderson, 2020). This highlights the importance of avoiding constant comparisons and instead focusing on individual athlete development.


Negative effects on self-confidence and enjoyment

A survey conducted by the Positive Coaching Alliance found that 71% of high school athletes reported that they had experienced pressure from their coaches to perform better than their teammates. This can lead to negative effects such as decreased self-confidence and lower enjoyment of their sport (Positive Coaching Alliance, 2020). Coaches and mentors should avoid toxic comparisons and instead create a supportive team culture that fosters positive growth and development.


Impaired performance

Another study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that athletes who were frequently compared to their peers by their coaches experienced impaired performance due to increased anxiety and pressure (Spray & Biddle, 1997). This highlights the importance of creating a supportive environment that fosters positive growth and development rather than competition and comparison.


Psychological distress

A review of literature published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that frequent comparison amongst athletes led to psychological distress, which can have long-term effects on mental health (Weinberg & Richardson, 1994). This further emphasizes the importance of avoiding toxic comparisons and focusing on individual athlete development.


Creating a positive and supportive team culture



"The Power of Positive Coaching"

The book "The Power of Positive Coaching" by Jim Thompson highlights the importance of creating a positive and supportive team culture that focuses on individual improvement rather than comparisons to others. This includes encouraging athletes to support each other and work together towards a common goal (Thompson, 2013).


Resources for coaches and mentors

The website of the Positive Coaching Alliance – PCA – Youth Sports Training - PCA provides resources for coaches and mentors to promote positive coaching practices, including the importance of avoiding toxic comparisons and focusing on individual athlete development. Coaches and mentors should make use of these resources to ensure that they are providing a positive and supportive environment for their athletes.


In conclusion, toxic comparisons amongst athletes from coaches or mentors can have detrimental effects on athletes' mental health and performance. It is important for coaches and mentors to prioritise individual development and create a supportive team culture that fosters positive growth rather than competition and comparison. By doing so, athletes can develop a sense of self-confidence, motivation and enjoy the sport they participate in.


More resources


References:

Lundkvist, E., Gustafsson, H., & Alexanderson, K. (2020). Associations between athlete burnout and perfectionism, social support, and training load: A longitudinal study. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 42(6), 357-369.

Positive Coaching Alliance. (2020). The impact of comparison on young athletes. Retrieved from https://positivecoach.org/impact/comparison-on-young-athletes/

Thompson, J. (2013). The power of positive coaching: The mindset and techniques you need to build a winning team. Brooklyn, NY: Morgan James Publishing.

Weinberg, R. S., & Richardson, P. A. (1994). Psychology of sport: Anxiety and stress in sport. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 25(2), 191-208.

Williams, J. M., & Andersen, M. B. (1998). Psychosocial antecedents of sport injury: Review and critique of the stress and injury model. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 10(1), 5-25.

Wippert, P. M., Wippert, J., & Borys, C. (2019). To be or not to be a coach: Coach education and its impact on the stressors, burnout, and coping of coaches. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 41(4), 223-233.



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