Sports Commentary and it’s Effect on Athlete Performance

Does the past always influence the future based on fact, or is it all psychology?

When economists forecast the rise and fall of financial trends or when political commentators predict the swings in government – and get it right – are they just clever predictions based on past events and cold statistics, or is there more to it? Could they be psychologically influencing our decisions and future choices unwittingly with the words they use?

If we take the same parallel with sport, sporting commentators speculate on the outcome of a game based on past results of the player or team.

Again is this just the sum total of interesting statistics, relevant information and probable mathematics, or does their suggestibility hold a more subconscious influence over the players and impact on the potential outcome of the game.

In the same way people are influenced into believing and blindly following social, economic, health and even fashion trends, covert use of targeted language can also heavily influence our athletes into following performance trends.

This could result in either psychologically winning or losing a competition before they ever step onto the pitch – all based on the expert’s analysis.

Most sporting commentators are past or current players, coaches or influential people within their sporting community and often hold a great deal of respect from within that code.

So clearly their opinions and predictions matter to those who they are commentating on!

If the commentators believe a particular team is certain to lose and they publically verbalise these beliefs, boosting their point of view with statistics, history and plays as proof then the self-belief of the players on the potentially losing team will diminish – thus becoming a self fulfilling prophecy instigated from the commentary box.

Humans are socially and psychologically pack animals, guided by the community, socially driven to assimilate and conditioned to believe and follow our leaders – especially those we emotionally adorn. So it stands to reason when a well respected social influencer tells you you’re destined to lose, the doubt enters your mind and becomes a focus point now giving you the option to lose – as it is expected.

The same outcome is achieved when statistics are highlighted as a probable outcome of the future such as ‘the last time these teams met they lost by 100 points’ or ‘this team have never won at this venue before!’ All these factors and the social expectation weigh heavily on their minds and performance.

So has our thirst for up to the minute knowledge, opinions and statistics and the medias willingness to supply that information begun to influence how an athlete physically and mentally performs? Athletes will tell you ‘No!’ They will say the media plays little part in their preparation or performance – they say this because they are told to say it not necessarily because they believe it.

So as a coach or commentator we have a duty and responsibility to understand that what we say could have an impact on the outcome and psychology of an athlete.

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