Sports Psychology and the Jewish People


A number of years ago in the movie "Airport" a passenger asks for a little light reading at which point the stewardess hands him a one page leaflet of "Jewish-American Sports heroes". Everyone laughed. And, yet, that is reality.

I'm an anomaly. I'm Jewish. I like to think of myself as reasonably successful and well educated. I'm Jewish. But I also ran track and played football in high school. I'm Jewish? And I was All-Pacific Coast as a defensive tackle in college. I'm Jewish?? And I was a P.E. teacher and the head football and swimming coach at a local high school. He needed help with his Jewish identity. But the effects must still be there because in addition to regular clinical work, he does sports psychology."

Let's go back a few years and stereotype. There you are at the end of junior high or the beginning of high school. You're a chubby little kid who does reasonably or terrifically well in school and has gotten used to being pushed around a little bit. No big deal. Your emphasis was on education. You made everyone very proud at your Bar Mitzvah. But you were intimidated by all the jocks at school, so you either avoided them, or hung on as a wannabe, or dabbled in sports a bit. Maybe you were the tall, gangly kid who looked like, in today's terms, a "geek." Your parents rewarded you for academic or creative or business endeavors. Tom Kowalski's parents, Juan Gonzalez's parents, William Jackson's parents rewarded those boys, in one way or another, for being tough and macho and physical, for going out for sports and succeeding. But Irving Goldsteins's parents, when questioned by the coach as to why they would not allow Irving to go out for football, even though he was 6'1", 200 lbs. Let de uders beat each uder up. Mine sohn vill be a dawkter and has no time for dat! Gut bye!!" So you grew up being at least a little intimidated by physical prowess because our culture and religion preaches that education is next to Godliness, and it leaves little time for any physical endeavors- "Nicht mit der handt!". And even if you were considered tough among the Jewish kids, you were still no match for the "real" tough guys. So you exerted your force through student council, or the debate club, and gravitated to others like yourself.

This grated on you for a very long time. And whether you consciously knew it or not, you had to make up for it in some way. In psychological terms you developed a reaction formation. You compensated for this feeling of inadequacy. A liability became an asset. So you became a) a hard-nosed negotiator, feared and revered in business circles or b) an entrepreneur so that you could use your bravado or c) a doctor or lawyer or some other self-employed professional so that you were automatically at the top and didn't have to fight for respect or d) a top notch salesman so that you could use your finely honed verbal skills or e) some other position that insulated you from what you were ultimately still afraid of. Some of you avoided sports completely, some dabbled; all the while blaming other if you did not make it. Some turned to material things to prove themselves, like the big thick gold chains with the enlarged chai to prove yourself and all other Jewish males. And many of you made it vicariously through your children, some, unfortunately, becoming the ultimate "little league parent."

Yet even with a de-emphasis on the physical aspects of Jewish life in this country, we love to hear about "Little Israel" kicking someone's hindquarters all over the Middle East. "There!! That'll teach you to mess with a Jew!!

As a people we've become afraid of physical pursuits. Why? Are the mind and body separate? Can't the two be compatible, and isn't that the healthiest situation? Allow me to discuss not merely the informative aspects of sports psychology, but the benefits to our children. Judaism teaches that we are to pass down our teachings to our children. Why not pass down something new that we have learned?

Sports psychology actually deals with two issues. One is that of a person with problems that have detracted from his or her performance, whether that be poor concentration or the inability to cope with stress. The other is that of the individual who utilizes yet another tool toward an increased performance. This individual does not have a problem. He or she only seeks to improve the psychological aspects since sport has been labeled "90 % mental and 10% physical."

Today we recognize that social life is always in the process of change and development. Relationships are ever-changing as people move in and out of the lives of others. Prior psychologies dealt more with the isolated person, and the recent focus has illuminated the idea that the self rests within the larger circle of society. What we see and do in the world, as well as within ourselves, is shaped by the interactions with the many people in our lives.
Sports Psychology and the Jewish People Sports Psychology and the Jewish People Reviewed by MOSTAFA on 02:32 Rating: 5

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