More on Self-Esteem


Last week during our panel discussion on Human Performance at Kenyon College the issue of Self Esteem came up, as it seems to do a lot lately. I was a bit surprised at the opinion of the panel which included two sport psychologists. The consensus seemed to be that we have sold our kids short with the emphasis on self esteem to the exclusion of responsibility. Along the same line today when I was driving to workout I saw five different cars with bumper stickers that proclaimed their kids honor students at various local elementary schools. Simply everyone cannot be an honor student, where are the C students? Somebody has to be average. The problem is that we have elevated mediocrity under the guise of raising self esteem. I see it every where. Our athletes are praised for their effort, like showing up for practice. Pros get bonuses for playing a certain number of games, isn’t that their job? That does not merit praise that is what you are supposed to do. What message are we sending? We need to think about accountability, responsibility and realistic expectations based on realistic evaluation. Psychologist Roy Baumeister was commissioned to survey the literature on self-esteem by the American Psychological Society. His work was published in the Winter 2006 issue of the Stanford Innovation Review “These studies show not only that self-esteem fails to accomplish what we had hoped, but also that it can backfire and contribute to some of the very problems it was thought to thwart.” Among his findings: Self-esteem does not make people popular or altruistic; does not keep children from indulging in sex, drugs, and alcohol; and is a result, not a cause, of good schoolwork. Enhancing self-esteem is therefore a waste of time in the pursuit of health and well-being, Baumeister writes. Instead, he suggests the most promising human strength is self-control. “Although the research on self-control is newer, the evidence already looks much better than the case for self-esteem … [and]interventions that boost self-control have shown remarkable and sweeping benefits.” We all need to think about this. As coaches and teachers it is our responsibility to correct deficiencies and set a high level of expectation. I firmly believe that your level of expectation determines your level of achievement. Let’s raise the bar! We must challenge our young people, for that matter we must challenge ourselves. I am reminded of a story from my good friend Dr. Joe Vigil, who coaches Deena Drossen ( Deena just won the London Marathon Sunday in American record time) She had just won her first National championships in Cross Country. After the race she came over to Joe and expected to be congratulated. Instead he challenged her. He said that when she won an Olympic medal he would congratulate her. Harsh,maybe? But Joe was doing his job he saw the potential that she possessed and was determined to help he achieve that potential. Eight years later in Athens she medaled in the Marathon!

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
RT @GreatestQuotes: Your aspirations are your possibilities. - Samuel Johnson - 4 years ago
Vern Gambetta

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