The Canadians call it “chirping.” The Americans call it “trash-talking.” We can assume it is called something different in other countries. The question is – is there a place for it in youth sports?
First of all, trash-talking occurs in almost every sport and at every level. It’s certainly not limited to the players as you’ll hear the spectators too and they have plenty to say. Plenty of parents may worry about the effects that trash-talking opponents and even people in the stands will have on their children. They may even worry that their own kids are the ones doing the trash-talking.
While we’re not endorsing trash-talking particularly at a very young age, we’d like to explore the psychology of trash-talking and why it exists in sports today. And cruel as it may sometimes feel for parents of young athletes, why no one has really stood up against it.
Dealing with Distraction
Playing sports requires physical skill and mental strength. Athletes don’t choose their opponents. They have to be emotionally ready for an opponent who, without knowing anything about them personally, may say things to their face about their town, school, teammates, team stats, and skills – all to get inside their head.
A player who learns how to deal with trash-talking is developing the vital skills of managing distraction, ignoring the nonsense, and focusing on their performance. They learn how to keep their cool and avoid frustration.
These are all great skills that they can use in life, well after they leave the field and the sport, should they choose. Dealing with trash-talking requires patience, confidence, a sense-of-humor, and an understanding of the unspoken rules of sports.
Sharpening More Than Just Athletic Skills
While there are those who silently play the game and let their skills be their voice, there are some athletes whose trash-talking is an essential part of their strategy. Some might say that trash-talking is a skill in itself. Effective trash-talking is both funny and mean that aims to push the right buttons.
It takes a certain amount of wit to trash-talk, in fact. Trash-talkers have done their homework and know enough about their opponent to know what to say to rattle them. It also shows their deep love for their team that they go to these extents of trash-talking just to win.
Know the Limits
However, as a parent or coach, know that there are limits. Some things can be said that are below-the-belt and are outright inappropriate. If they must trash-talk, be smart about it. Be funny, a little insulting, maybe – but never cruel.
Professional athletes have an unwritten rule when it comes to trash-talking. What happens on the court, stays on the court.
“Trash-talking is part of the game,” says Golden State Warriors guard, Stephen Curry.
“You have to give it. You have to be able to take it. It’s just that you don’t want to see it ever cross the line and become personal, because the game of basketball is never that serious in regards to disrespecting people. So you have to leave it on the floor.”
While experiences will always be a coaches best teacher, some lessons can be learned from books from experts and seasoned coaches that prove to be valuable for every coach at any level of their career.
Coaching means dealing with different personalities, team dynamics, relationships, demanding players, and other challenges. Through books, coaches can learn how to think creatively, gain coaching insight and inspiration, and even learn a few tricks and strategies.
Here are the top 5 books that all sports coaches should read:
The Winner Within by Pat Riley
Pat Riley is arguably one America’s greatest coaches. The Winner Within is his game plan for team players in all of life—not just on the court but in business, at home, and in personal achievement.
In this book, Riley shares his winning strategies that inspire change, motivate teamwork, and reveal the winner within us all.
Leading with Heart by Mike Krzyzewski
In Leading with the Heart, Coach K talks about leadership and how it is earned and practiced. He shares how you use it to move your organization to the top. He talks about the importance of trust, communication, and pride and the commitment a leader must make to his team.
This book aims to inspire anyone who loves college basketball or anyone who simply wants to compete in today’s challenging environment.
You Win in the Locker Room First by Jon Gordon & Mike Smith
In You Win in the Locker Room First, the authors outline a step-by-step strategy for building a thriving organization.
They provide a practical framework that gives leaders the tools they need to create an amazing culture, lead with the right mindset, promote healthy relationships, enhance teamwork, perform at a higher level, and avoid the pitfalls that have sabotaged leaders and organizations in the past.
Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden
In Wooden on Leadership explains step-by-step how he pursued and accomplished this goal. The book focuses on Wooden’s 12 Lessons in Leadership and his acclaimed Pyramid of Success. It outlines the mental, emotional, and physical qualities that are essential to building a winning organization.
This book will show you how to develop the skill, confidence, and competitiveness to “be at your best when your best is needed” while teaching your organization to do the same.
Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson
In Eleven Rings, Jackson describes how he:
- Learned the secrets of mindfulness and team chemistry while playing for the champion New York Knicks in the 1970s
- Managed Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the world, and got him to embrace selflessness, even if it meant losing a scoring title
- Forged successful teams out of players of varying abilities by getting them to trust one another and perform in sync
- Inspired Dennis Rodman and other “uncoachable” personalities to devote themselves to something larger than themselves
- Transformed Kobe Bryant from a rebellious teenager into a mature leader of a championship team.
Eleven times, Jackson led his teams to the NBA championship – six times with the Chicago Bulls and five times with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Even if they make us laugh by telling their stories of head injuries, that doesn’t mean we’re taking the topic of traumatic brain injury lightly,” explained Emmy-award-winning medical journalist Dr. Max Gomez. “The power of these athletes’ messages is important to get the word out about young athletes and their coaches taking head injury seriously, even if that wasn’t the way they did it back in the old days.” Boxer Gerry Cooney confessed that today he considers himself lucky to have been passed over by promoter Don King for title fights years ago. “All the guys who got the fights got concussed, and a lot of them are not doing very well today. Some, like Muhammed Ali, even died because of it,” Cooney said. “And today, even though my teen-aged daughter has some great boxing skills and could do well in the ring, I won’t let her fight. It’s too dangerous.”
Other celebrity athletes, from America’s winningest jockey Ramon Dominguez to 12-year NFL defensive lineman Marty Lyons to Pro Bowl wide receiver Rich Caster and college and NFL veteran and youth sports injury awareness advocate John Nitti all shared their personal stories of brain injury at the NYIT Center for Sports Medicine forum. “Now that we know the impact of head injuries,” explained John Nitti, “we’re changing how young people learn to play football. How my kids practice and play the game today is a lot safer than how I played it. And that’s how we’re going to keep our kids in the game.”
In the same 1980 season when NY Islander Bobby Nystrom scored the winning overtime goal to win the Stanley Cup, Nystrom suffered one of his 6 career concussions. “It was a 2-on-1 drill in practice, and I was knocked out cold by a teammate who caught me from behind,” he remembers. “It didn’t seem that unusual at the time. Yet 37 years later, I still feel the impact.” NY Jets and New England Patriots Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin is unsure how many concussions he suffered. But he certainly remembers one more than the others. “It was when we were playing the Oakland Raiders at their home stadium, which they called ‘the black hole’ because the Raiders’ uniforms are black, and all the fans wear black too,” he explained. “I remember running, then getting hit, but I still felt like I was running. Then I went into a huddle, and everything seemed all black. That’s because it was…I was knocked so hard that I didn’t even know that I was in the Raiders huddle.” Since retiring in 2006 as the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher in NFL history, Curtis has been active in head injury awareness work with youth athletes.
When New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath won Super Bowl III in 1969, he had yet to experience all 5 of the concussions that he knows he suffered during his college and NFL careers. “But I know that back in those days, a concussion was not considered enough reason to leave a game,” he recalled as a keynote speaker at the NYIT Center for Sports Medicine Head Injury Awareness Celebrity Sports Forum. As a right-handed quarterback, Namath was struck mostly on the left side of his head, resulting in significant concussion-related symptoms later in life.
Taking part in a pilot program at Jupiter Hospital in Florida under the care of Dr. Barry Miskin, Namath’s symptoms have been largely eliminated by treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber that floods the brain with oxygen and restores blood vessel function in concussion-damaged portions of the brain. “Just like a pressure cooker cooks a chicken quickly, treatment of head injuries with high-pressure oxygen can repair bruised brains,” explained Dr. Miskin of the Joe Namath Neurological Research Center. “And just as it works for players like Joe who got injured long ago, it also works for the youth athletes we see today.” Adds Maxcine Agee whose husband Tommie was on the 1969 Miracle Mets World Series champions, “I wish treatments like this were around when Tommie was beaned by pitcher Bob Gibson.”