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  • Personalities in Various Sports

    My son recently has been trying out for his high school soccer team. And, while the coach acknowledges he has very good speed and among the best skills his "attitude" needs to be changed. This caught me by surprise because my son has always been very studious and quiet. He takes instruction very well and is humble. All his club coaches have enjoyed him because he works hard at every practice and is very coachable.

    When I asked the coach if he was misbehaving or not doing as asked the coach said tht is was the opposite. He is too quiet on and off the field.

    Having observed soccer for many years in Southern California and looking at some of the initial team selections at the high school, it looks as though many local coaches want kids to be cocky (even in excess of their abilities) and loud (on and off the field). My son's current club coach has labeled these personalities "soccer punks". Often these kids play very aggressive brutish soccer without much skill or team work and have a tendancy to foul frequently.

    Having coached distance runners I always encouraged my athletes to talk with their abilities not their mouths. Be humble in victory and confident in having given your best in defeat. Distance runners, are more often a quieter group of kids.

    This got me thinking about the different personality traits in different sports and different events in T&F. Of course we know the personality of most 100m guys is much different than that of most 5k guys. But, what about other sports?
    Is it an individual sport vs. team sport thing? Or am I looking at a local phenomenon in Southern Califonia where many soccer players walk around like they are God's gift and are rewarded for this attitude?

  • #2
    This has some similarities with the comparison between competitive (distance) runners and cyclists. The cyclist tend to be more aggressive, and to have more of a risk-taking personality than runners of similar ability.

    As for the soccer, sports in school are "supposed" to enhance teaching. What these guys are teaching is not what I want my kids and other kids that I am helping pay for (taxes) learn. A complaint to the principal and the school board is appropriate for school personnel not fulfilling their duties. Save the Lombardy stuff for the pros.

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    • #3
      As a soccer coach, I always looked for cockiness and aggressiveness in my players. It's not something that can be taught (confidence can be 'bolstered' and 'competitiveness' can be fostered, however.)

      A cocky, aggressive player will take on opponents and challenge them anywhere, anytime. Those are very important attributes in soccer (and US football). You WANT forwards who have an inflated view of themselves because they will attempt more than the others, and soccer offense is hard enough (do the term nil-nil ring a bell?) without having technically sound, but unaggressive players up front. You WANT defenders who protect their turf with a 'bad attitude'.

      NONE of this has ANYTHING to do with bad sportsmanship, which is ENTIRELY unacceptable.

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      • #4
        TAFNUT- Very interesting take. My son is an outside mid who works the full 90 as a full team player but he will take the ball in when the opportunity presents itself. But, he has fantastic passing touch and feeds his cub team forwards wonderful balls often being rewarded for his efforts by a cross when he makes a diagonal run to goal.

        So while he is confident on the field he is not by any stretch of the imagination cocky. H plays controlled and is very modest off the field. I don't think it is possible to change his personality....he comes from a introspective T&F parents.

        My association with top distance runners has always been that they were confident athletes but didn't boast. They let their abilities speak for them...I guess this isn't so in soccer.

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        • #5
          Cyril, I've been coaching tennis for quite a few years and find that brashness and cockiness are mistaken for confidence and competitiveness. Tennis is full of fist pumpers and screamers but I've taught my students to see cockiness as a sign of weakness that can be exploited. Some of the most brutally vicious and resourceful competitors I've coached or faced on the field of play are the quiet ones.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by cullman
            Cyril, I've been coaching tennis for quite a few years and find that brashness and cockiness are mistaken for confidence and competitiveness. Tennis is full of fist pumpers and screamers but I've taught my students to see cockiness as a sign of weakness that can be exploited. Some of the most brutally vicious and resourceful competitors I've coached or faced on the field of play are the quiet ones.
            This has been my experience as well. Confidence and focus trump bravado especially at the higher levels. But many soccer coaches, apparently TAFNUT being one, want the outwardly cocky kids. Maybe it is the nature of soccer. But I have found these kids play very low-skill, low control, low tactics and hurried. They foul because of lack of skill and understanding of team tactics. They usually see one option - forward to goal and lack the multim-dimensional creative contolled play required to move to another level. Perhaps this is why the sport has stagnated in the US.

            But, of course, I am biased -. It is my impression. I see the wonderful, focused play, and off court modesty of Federer being an ideal role model for any athlete in any sport. He is the ultimate example of a professional on and off the court.

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            • #7
              Cyril, I don't think you are biased. I am afraid that your son's coach is an idiot.
              "A beautiful theory killed by an ugly fact."
              by Thomas Henry Huxley

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Pego
                Cyril, I don't think you are biased. I am afraid that your son's coach is an idiot.
                That was the reaction of my son's club coach who incidentaly played for the US women's national team.....

                Oh, one item I forgot to mention, the high school soccer coach is a former football coach. He never played soccer but has been somewhat successful with a very direct and aggressive style at the high school.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cyril
                  But many soccer coaches, apparently TAFNUT being one, want the outwardly cocky kids. Maybe it is the nature of soccer. But I have found these kids play very low-skill, low control, low tactics and hurried. They foul because of lack of skill and understanding of team tactics. They usually see one option - forward to goal and lack the multim-dimensional creative contolled play required to move to another level. Perhaps this is why the sport has stagnated in the US.
                  What you describe here is the opposite of what my teams embodied. You can have high skill, high control players who DO NOTHING to win the GAME, but they sure look pretty playing. I call this the 'all-star syndrome': kids who have all the right moves and look great in try-outs and 3v3 training, but when the game is on the line they back down and do nothing to PENETRATE the other team's defense (or if a defender, nothing to keep the other team's strikers at bay).

                  As for 'low tactics', that's entirely the coach's fault if he allows that to happen. You sound like you're describing 'boom-ball', which is the defenders kicking (as opposed to passing) long balls up to the front in the hope that a forward will run onto it, win it and and take it to goal. That is NOT real soccer and no good coach in his right mind would advocate (or tolerate) it (unless you are completely outmatched and you CAN'T control the ball enough to string three passes together.)

                  I think Pego misinterprets the initial situation above. I have NO PLACE for a 'quiet' player. I need one who will talk to his teammates on the field, DIRECT them as necessary. In soccer we call this back-to-front: the keeper directs his backs, the backs direct the mids, the mids direct the strikers, and the strikers direct each other, either directly or indirectly (vacating an area invites a teammate to occupy that space).

                  Don't let the negatively connotated semantics of 'cocky and aggressive' fool you. I want TEAM players who will play with the highest technical and tactical skill that they are capable of. But I want players who will get 'stuck in' on their opponents, never back down to a challenge, take on opponents anytime, and will 'care' what happens in the game. At the instant of a game's end, if he loses, to be a 'sore loser', so he will use that as a motivation to improve for the next game. Then, I want him to shake the opponent's hand, congratulate him, and move on to prepare for the next game. Show me a 'good loser' and I will show you someone who is good at losing. Sportsmanaship is PARAMOUNT, but 'competitiveness' (which is what I'm calling cockiness and aggressiveness) is what makes 'winners' in the BROADEST sense of the word. Sports are pointless if you are not doing your utmost to win. Just 'playing the game' is exactly that: just playing the GAME.

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                  • #10
                    TAFNUT-

                    Thanks for the clarification. I differentiate "cockiness" from on-field aggressiveness. Cockiness as you mention above is something that many soccer coaches apparently look for. Being assertive on the field in a desire to win is different.

                    I do agree talking on the field is an important part of the game. But, off field smack-talk is something that I see frequently and is part of the game here. In the sport you can out-play an opponent and still end up on the losing side of the score board. In the developmental stage I think that is better than playing slop-shit and winning.

                    Kids and coaches who understand the game at a higher level understand that they can't win every game but they can put in full effort every time on the pitch. Playing solid, disciplined team soccer and losing is something a player can be proud of and is the sign of a "good loser" and a "good sportsman".

                    I think I disagree with you - winning isn't everything...being true to the game, true to oneself and being a good person on and off the field is much more important. These are lessons that can be learned from sport under the right coaches. I have known only a few coaches like this in soccer, many more in high school cross-country and even more in tennis, volleyball and golf.

                    It is either the personalities that gravitate to these particluar sports or the way the sports are being taught that produces the personalities. I haven't put my finger on it yet.

                    BTW- played properly there is nothing long with long-ball. This is a tactic that can be successful. And long-ball is not the same as "boom-ball". Good long-ball play requires controlled passing touch, knowledgeable fast forwards and working well with space. Done well it is a tactic that can keep a defense off balance.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Cyril
                      I think I disagree with you - winning isn't everything...being true to the game, true to oneself and being a good person on and off the field is much more important. These are lessons that can be learned from sport under the right coaches. I have known only a few coaches like this in soccer, many more in high school cross-country and even more in tennis, volleyball and golf.
                      I didn't say 'winning is everything'. (nor do I believe that)
                      But I do say: Trying to win is everything!

                      Character trumps EVERYTHING else in athletics (or life, for that matter).

                      I used to always schedule a couple of games against much bigger (and presumably better) schools, so I could test my players' character in adversity. Sometimes you just have to get your butt whipped to see where you are. You can take it like 'a man', but that doesn't mean you have to like it. I had my share of Big Wins and Big Losses. I made sure that I learned from the losses and appreciated the wins.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by tafnut
                        I didn't say 'winning is everything'. (nor do I believe that)
                        But I do say: Trying to win is everything!
                        I remember Vince Lombardi saying that he regretted that his 'winning is everything' quote was taken so literally. Lombardi wanted to clarify that it was the effort that went into excellence or trying to win that was most important...which I believe is the point that tafnut is making.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tafnut
                          I didn't say 'winning is everything'. (nor do I believe that)
                          But I do say: Trying to win is everything!

                          Character trumps EVERYTHING else in athletics (or life, for that matter).

                          I used to always schedule a couple of games against much bigger (and presumably better) schools, so I could test my players' character in adversity. Sometimes you just have to get your butt whipped to see where you are. You can take it like 'a man', but that doesn't mean you have to like it. I had my share of Big Wins and Big Losses. I made sure that I learned from the losses and appreciated the wins.
                          So we do agree. But, I don't think an athlete needs to be outwardly cocky (obnoxious) to be a competitior. To want to win, and try one's best to do so has nothing to do with being outwardly cocky. Maybe we are getting lost in semantics. I think of someone being "cocky" as being a "show-off". And, many time the most assertive, skilled and confident competitors on the field are the most humble off the pitch.

                          To get one's ass kicked by an obviously superior opponent is nothing to be ashamed of and is a great learning experience. It isn't about "liking it" or "not liking it", it is about learning one's strengths and weaknesses. As Agassi said last night on Larry King - paraphrasing - "it has never been about the 'ws' (wins) it is always about being in the moment and doing the best I can do at that particular moment. It is about the challenge and the game".

                          Matery of skill and sport is what it is about at the highest level. And, as Wooden has said - "never see the opponent as an enemy - see the opponent as a fellow competitor who you can use to bring out the best in you". Wooden had a pretty good record with this philosophy and humble players.

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                          • #14
                            I HS we had a guy who started on the football team, was an excellant wrestler, and ran the 200/ 400. He was the kind of guy who threw the freshmen in the lake a mile from school on a freezing day just for fun. When I talked with the coach about this, he replied "that's the kind of attitude that makes him a champion." To the coach, you were so sadly mistaken- he was just a bully that could not control his aggression. To Rich, you probably still are a jerk, and I quietly was happy when you got your ass kicked in a bar fight after HS.

                            Vocal with your teammates is good, overly aggressive and emotional gets you in trouble eventually. One can be quietly intense and competitive.

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                            • #15
                              Being a cocky jerk will only take you so far in life. Eventually it will be your un- doing.
                              phsstt!

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