“You can say a lot without saying anything at all” is an age old adage echoing amongst coaches since the beginning of time about the one thing that drives them up the wall.
No matter where you travel to play, coaches will blurt out the saying because they hate how it controls an athlete, hate everything that it stands for, and everything that it represents. This character flaw does not only effect your performance, but the performance of everyone around you as well. It is so powerful that opposing players try to pounce on you when they see it happening like sharks in the water. It can suck the life right out of your teammates, your coaches, and even your fans can feed off of it.
It’s Poor Body Language (PBL), and its projected by too many athletes. In order to put everything in perspective, we need to get one thing straight…. Body Language is HUGE. Body language is so relevant that it can be attributed to why people are hired for jobs and receive promotions in the business world. Players that project good body language get picked for teams and receive scholarships while those on the other side wonder why they don’t reach the next level. Coaches can’t stand PBL because it projects that you aren’t on the same page as your team, which can cause friction and be the reason why your team doesn’t have any success. There isn’t a scientific consensus on the exact percentage of how much body language makes up your communication, but studies show that body language matters more than you think.
Back in the 2010 season, Mark Sanchez’s body language became so bad in practice that the New York Jets fined him every time that he hung his head after a bad throw or trudged around when he made a mistake. It was a light-hearted system put in place by Sanchez and backup quarterback Mark Brunell to try and fix his bad characteristics. The Milwaukee Bucks even went to the point of hiring a facial coding expert in Dan Hill, to analyze the facial expressions of prospective players to decide if they had the correct emotional characteristics to help the team.
IT AFFECTS THE ENTIRE TEAM’S PERFORMANCE
“I’m just mad I didn’t make the throw/I’m pissed because I didn’t pick that guy up coming through the middle/I’m frustrated because I am not fixing my mistake”. Have you ever heard those excuses when your teammate has thrown a fit? It happens all of the time. The problem with that mentality is that the athlete is making excuses for their bad habits. However, today’s society excuses the childish behavior of professional and amateur athletes around the world by masking their immaturity with “they are showing a passion for their craft”. Nobody wants to raise a voice and correct the “take my ball and go home” behavior which allows it run rampant in sports today all the way up to the highest level.
However, every athlete knows when they are projecting an attitude of being frustrated and defeated by acting like a primma donna. Players need to remember that teams win championships while players only win games. Instead of making excuses, athletes should realize the bad messages that they are projecting and hold themselves accountable for fixing their poor body language. It’s never cool when players throw fits, its actually down right pathetic.
Whenever coaches see a player with terrible body language, they automatically attribute it to one character flaw: selfishness. Selfishness is the reason why players don’t get picked on teams and college coaches will be the first to tell you that selfish players don’t receive scholarship opportunities. Coaches don’t want to be around someone for an entire year that only cares about their path and does not want to buy in to being a good teammate. Selfish players are known at the higher levels as cancers to a team’s progress, and guess what the initial tipper is? You guessed it… poor body language. Redskins Coach Jay Gruden attributed his team’s performance in 2014 to their poor body language at the time that their team was 3-9, and in 2015 former Super Bowl Champion Tony Siragusa pointed it out a year later when he said that the team had “no energy”.
If you think it doesn’t have an impact on your teammates, you couldn’t be more wrong. Body language is an auctioneer on a podium with a loudspeaker in an aluminum building… It doesn’t talk, it screams to your teammates and coaches.
ITS THE PROJECTION OF A BAD TEAMMATE
Bad body language projects a selfish message of “I don’t care about anything else, I am going to throw my tantrum or act how I want to and there is nothing you can do about it”. That’s a big problem. It takes out of context the respect that you have for the program that you are playing in. Moping, outbursts, and other defiant behavior send a much bigger message to your teammates. It says that you don’t have respect for the program that you play in. You may SAY that you do, but actions speak louder than words. It says that the effort put forward by players that built the program before you doesn’t matter to you. You’re not acting by the code of integrity, respect, and “team first before self” mantra that all coaches and players respect.
Below is some pictures of Bronco’s player Brock Osweiler sulking after being pulled from a game against the San Diego Chargers this past NFL season. With the world of modern technology, his attitude and demeanor were picked up almost instantly and the world we know as the “Twittersphere” dished out their opinions on his actions. Now, at the time this was occurring Brock may have had a totally different mindset with “I don’t want to be a distraction so I will stand over here” or “I’m not happy with how I let my team down, so this is the way I show that”. But, that was not what he was projecting.
A majority of the public would take his actions as: “This sucks, I should be the guy in there right now. That’s MY position. Whatever. This sucks anyways.”
Brock Osweiler looking mighty salty on the sidelines pic.twitter.com/fifpn0qawl
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 3, 2016
However, it gets even worse for Brock when he decides to isolate himself and sulk at the end of the sidelines away from all of his teammates in the picture below.
Down all by himself on the left side of the screen …. Brock Osweiler pic.twitter.com/i37iFIcfDV
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 3, 2016
Remember: It may not be close to what you truly feel, but bad body language projects that you are putting yourself before the program. Just change it.
IF YOUR COACHES POINT IT OUT:
Don’t be a drama queen about it. Coach isn’t picking on you. They are letting you know that your body language needs to change because it is affecting the performance of you and your team. If you don’t notice it, ask them to show you clips of your body language so that you know what it looks like. If you can have someone close to you film you at practices and games, as long as the coaches allow it, you could open yourself up to seeing what your body language actually looks like to everyone else. Trust me, you will notice it.
If there is something bothering you outside of your sport, make a point to talk with your coach. Your coach is there to help guide you in the short period of time that they get to have you under their supervision. Coaches don’t have ESP (aka they cannot “read your mind”), so don’t expect them to read your mind. Most of the time they are taking you at face value, which means that they are thinking “what you see is what you get”. However, if something more is bothering you in your personal life, you need to let them know so that they know where you are coming from.
Don’t take it personal. It’s always easy to take something personal when someone you look up to is pointing out a flaw that everyone can see. You need to remember that coaches aren’t pointing it out because they want to pick on you, they are pointing it out because they care about you. They know that poor body language is a terrible trait to have in any walk of life. You cannot be successful in life and mope around with bad body language, it just doesn’t happen. Just remember, “It’s not personal, it’s professional”. Coach isn’t pointing out your bad behavior to take a dig at your character, he’s pointing it out because he cares about you and wants you to fix it.
Make an effort to be a supportive and energetic teammate for the next practice, game, or play. The great thing about body language is that it’s completely learnable. All it takes is a mentality of positivity and that the adversity you are facing mentally now is just a challenge for you to overcome. All of the bad or dropped passes, the botched ground balls, the missed free throws, the streaks without making any saves are not going to determine how you act. It’s not bad luck, it’s the game testing you… Don’t let it pass the test and determine how you act.
HOW TO FIX POOR BODY LANGUAGE
“Power Pose” for two minutes. Think about the pose that runners when they cross the finish line finishing in first place. Everyone knows the runners victory pose of throwing their hands up in the air and expressing their gratitude for what they just accomplished. Studies have shown that putting yourself in a two minute pose of celebration (throwing your hands up) or position of confidence (hands clasped behind your head or hands on your waist with your chest puffed up like a peacock) makes you more likely to attack challenges with excitement, feel less anxious or stressed out, and have more focus than you would. Body Language expert Amy Cuddy from Harvard University found that if you adopt one of these powerful poses for a minute or two, it changes the way you feel, the way that you think, and makes you more optimistic and risk tolerant. It forces you to be in the moment instead of worrying about the outcome. During competition, a great time to power pose would be with your hands on your hips (Wonder Woman) while you are on the sidelines trying to recover or waiting for your chance to get back into the game.
You can watch Amy’s TEDtalk on Body Language that was featured in our earlier blog post “Faking It Until You Make It”. Watch it – it’s worth the time to know the importance of good body language and how to create it.
Smiles, high fives, and pats on the helmet mean more than you think they do. When we smile, it shows that we are feeling happiness. Even if you are not experiencing happiness at the moment, Cardiff University research shows that smiling increases activity in the brain and releases emotions of happiness. You can still be intense in between snaps and throw a smile out. When you smile for your teammates, it shows that you are actually enjoying the process and everything that goes with it. All gestures of approval such as high fives, pats on the back, and helmet taps are huge for your teammates. It’s not the actual act of the high five that causes the bond to occur, its the fact that you were able to get off of your butt and tell your teammate that they did a good job that builds the bond. It shows your teammate that you actually care about them enough to pay attention to their play and praise them when they execute.
You need to celebrate the accomplishments of your teammates more than your own accomplishments. The quickest way to show that you are there for the team is to celebrate and be truly happy for the accomplishments of your own teammates. When you celebrate your teammates achievements, you are projecting to everyone that you care for the other players on your team and not just yourself. You don’t have to be a cheerleader and shake your pom-poms – A high five, pat on the back or the helmet with a smile, or a verbal affirmation to your teammate is enough to build that camaraderie. Even if you are competing against someone on your team for your spot, you can still show appreciation and happiness for great plays that they make. It doesn’t mean that you are weak and that you don’t want the position, it means that you are excited to be a part of a team that is improving in all aspects.
Show that you’re trying to change it. Everybody in the world exhibits poor language and it can get the best of the best at the worst of times. However, the best teammates and athletes in the world are subconscious of projecting poor body language and try to correct it when they project it to their teammates. How do you stop it? You have to practice it just like you would practice any other skill, because that is what it is – a skill. Once you show that you are working on it and trying to minimize it, you are sending the message to your teammates that you are working on yourself for the betterment of the team. It brings a level of humility to other people’s perception of you and makes them revisit their position on who you are as a person and as an athlete. It reminds them that you are human and that you make mistakes. It also reminds them that life not about making mistakes, but it is about how you fix them to better yourself.
The great thing about body language is that you can change it and make it go away with the flick of a switch. As an athlete, you just have to decide that you’re tired of sitting in the dark and turn on the light.