Sport Psychology - The Dangers of Displaying Defeated Body Language

Sport Psychology - The Dangers of Displaying Defeated Body Language

Dick Moss, Editor, Physical Education Update

You see it all the time. A basketball player misses a shot, then mopes all the way down the court, eyes rolling, hands lifted in supplication. The defeated body language continues on defense, with the player still shaking his head in disbelief.

These players might just as well put a neon target on their forehead. Professional coaches, like George Karl of the Denver Nuggets, often select opposing players who have missed a foul as the target for their last-minute play. They are looking for the weak link in the opposing defense, and the player exhibiting defeated body language is often that weak link.

Karl's reasoning is that the player may be distracted and discouraged by the missed shot and not on top of his game -- so why not go right at him!

There are two ways you can use this information.

1. Use this tactic when designing your last-second plays. Target the opposing player who has just made a bad play and is exhibiting defeated/distracted/disgusted/depressed body language. That player's brain may not be processing information at 100% so will not react as quickly to your play.

2. Use the knowledge about coaching tendencies to discourage poor body language with your own players. If players miss a shot, get fouled, or otherwise make a bad play, stress that they must retain their composure and avoid visible signs of discouragement.

You can use the standard argument that poor body language will affect their mental outlook and that of their teammates. Or you can put it in more personal terms by telling them: "If you come back on "D" shaking your head, you can bet the opposing coach will want to run his next player right through you. George Karl does it all the time."

Players who bounce back after a bad play looking resolved and determined are less likely to be perceived as the weak link...and less likely to get picked upon by opposing coaches.

References 1. Jim Afrernow, The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive,Rodale Books, 2015. 2. Jack McCallum, The Last Shot, Sports Illustrated, April 21, 2008. © 2016, Physical Education Update,

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