Professional Sports and The Pressure of Social Facilitation

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play professional sports? Sure it would be nice to make potentially millions playing a game you love, but how would you face the pressure of the fans and the media? Professional athletes face this dilemma in two ways, the first is using that pressure to make them perform better, which is known as social facilitation. Tim Tebow has been upfront about the media pressure he faced, such as not being good enough to play in the NFL, and he made a video out of it that showed how reacted to it.
For some athletes, they can't face this pressure which makes them perform worse, and maybe makes them lose their job. A good example of this is former NFL QB Todd Marinovich. He was the center of attention in football for a while, since he was raised by his father to be the most "superior" athlete. In his situation, he was expected to be one of the best players in the NFL, and it caused him to not perform at what he was capable of, which lead to a whole bunch of other issues.
For both of these athletes, these different situations caused them to act a certain way, which lead to very different results in their legacies. Most potential professional athletes face situations very similar to both of these, which brings me back to my original question. How do you think you would you react to the media?


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This is definitely one thing I always think about at the conclusion of a big sporting event. As the player of the game begins his post game interview I always wonder what it would be like to be in their shoes with all the pressure of saying the wrong thing or sounding stuck up. I think as a rookie I would not respond nearly as well as a veteran like Kobe Bryant would during the game and after.

Playing under pressure is definitely difficult to do. When my high school volleyball team made our run to the state tournament, our inexperience showed. I'm from a town of around 5,000 people, and our gym capacity was around 1,000 people. Our team was used to playing in front of that many people, and we did really well. When we made it to the Resch Center in Green Bay for state, our inexperience definitely showed, as the 10,500 seat-arena was a new experience to us. Long story short, we played pretty poorly under pressure, proving that sometimes social facilitation makes us perform worse.

I feel I would not preform well at all. With playing high school sports, it was always about the rivalry home game, or senior night, homecoming, and the more fans came with the feeling of being nervous. I cannot imagine being in a World Series game, stepping up to the plate with runners in scoring position, and have 60,000 fans glaring at you. Strikeout and become hated, but if you get that hit you are loved and living the dream. It is crazy how well some of these athletes preform under certain circumstances.

I think I would be very nervous when I first step onto the field/rink/court with thousands of fans watching me and my teammates. I think the main thing to keep in mind is it's a game and you're out there to have fun and do something you enjoy. I think I would probably be okay facing the media in press conferences, always trying to be optimistic and put a positive spin on things. Being able to perform well under pressure is truly a difficult mental skill to master.

For the most part, people can get a feel for this type of thing through high school sports/activities. Even though not all activities draw in the same amount of fans or publicity there is still the sense that people are watching you and will see anything you may do wrong. I can't imagine what it would be like to have an entire nation of fans constantly talking about your skills. If I were under such scrutiny I would probably not produce the best results possible.

I agree with what the article is saying as far as the two courses that people take in addressing the media attention and fan pressure. There are a number of examples of people choking under pressure of a big game in front of thousands of fans and even in high school sports. An example that I came up with was Rory McIlroy in last year’s Masters golf tournament. He was leading going into the final round and complete collapsed under the pressure that the media was putting on him to win such an important tournament. However, it seems as though there is a select few that can overcome this pressure. In my opinion, it seems that those that are more confident and are highly personable handle the pressure better. Cam Newton and Tim Tebow come to mind when I think of this. Cam Newton is very confident and outspoken about his abilities and handled the enormous pressure of starting as a rookie and set various records along the way. Tim Tebow is very personable and people like him because he is willing to speak with everyone. All in all, sports and pressure go hand-in-hand, but it seems as though some athletes can handle the pressure and others break down under it.

I completely agree that the media can cause a player to either play worse or better. But I feel that many professional football, or other professional athletes have experienced some sort of pressure when playing their sports throughout their career. The pressure may be a little more intense in professional sports compared to college or high school sports, but it is nothing that they most likely have not experienced at least once in their lifetime.

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This page contains a single entry by wagen057 published on April 22, 2012 6:31 PM.

The Bystander Effect: Why Do We Stand By? was the previous entry in this blog.

Conforming to Society is the next entry in this blog.

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