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You’ve all seen, read, heard and perhaps used the marketing material. 

  • Top 10 reasons your child should do martial arts
  • Gain confidence, make new friends, learn discipline
  • Learn martial arts, do better in school
  • Increase self esteem
  • Boost socialisation skills
  • etc.

I’m going to talk today about just 1 little thing, and it might be the key to how training in TKD (or any sport or martial art) might be the key to the magic box of developing intelligence, character and personality. 

A study published in 2008 in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine looked at the long term effect of locus of control on the health of 7500 British adults. I’ll explain the terms in a moment, but for now let’s just think on this. A psychological trait measured at age 10 was able to indicate your likely physical and mental health at age 30. Those with a more internal locus of control were less likely to be overweight, suffering from chronic stress and had higher self esteem as adults. The opposite was true of those with an external locus of control. 

So… what’s a locus of control? It’s the degree to which we feel we can determine or influence the outcome of events in our lives, with those exhibiting an internal locus of control feeling more strongly that their actions, efforts and decisions shape the outcome of events. Those with an external locus of control feel that luck, chance, circumstance and external factors play a greater role in determining the outcome of events in their lives. Now, this isn’t particularly interesting until you come to the part where locus of control (mindset if you prefer the more recent turn of phrase) appears to be something that isn’t fixed but rather is shaped by our early experiences in life. Our economic status can influence it positively or negatively, as can the stability of your home environment, political climate etc. Very significantly though, our families, teachers, peers and yes sports coaches can also contribute in very significant ways. 

Is talent more important than effort? If you believe talent is more important, that’s tough… were you born with a fixed amount of it? Can you get more? Or are you likely to consider yourself stuck with what you have and cursing those ‘lucky’ enough to be born with more? That’s an external locus of control, a fixed mindset. But effort you can influence. You can always decide to exert yourself more, dig deeper, push harder, spend more time. If you believe effort will improve the outcome, well that’s an external locus of control, a growth mindset. We could use the same examples for intelligence, personality and character. 

 

So as a coach to impressionable young athletes with a mouldable locus of control (mindset), consider what you say when you give feedback. Reward effort more than outcome. Emphasise what the athlete can and should do to get better and stress that it’s within their control to improve. Set competition plans that focus on areas the athlete can control and not on the outcome of matches or events. Put goals in place that are process oriented and that focus on quality of inputs and not outputs. 

 

Then look to your coaching style and session design. Is there room for the athletes to self determine or do you set the parameters for success and failure globally? Create scenarios that allow multiple avenues to succeed based on a variety of skill levels, physical capacity and game intelligences. Let’s help children develop an internal locus of control, a growth mindset, the confidence that they can shape future events in their lives through their efforts, application, persistence and acceptance of challenges.

 

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