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Research Shows How Badly Criticism From Fans & Media Can Hurt An Athlete's Performance

Imagine you are watching the Indian cricket team play an ICC World Cup knockout match. With the game on the line, one of the Indian players drops a catch which leads to the team losing the match and the opportunity to win the title for the next four years. 

You are furious at the player. You pick up your phone, go to Twitter and cuss the hell out of him and vent your frustration out. But you are not alone. There are thousands of people who are simultaneously doing the same. 

Come on guys give him some time.He is still young and very talented. He is gonna be ace card in future just wait and watch. #RishabhPant pic.twitter.com/CWQhgWNr7I

— Harshit saini (@Harshit20850130) November 4, 2019

That one player on the other hand is the focal point of all the negative comments and it is physically impossible for him to reply to each and everyone of your comments. What kind of impact will that have on the cricketer? What if something like that is happening to that athlete on a daily basis? Can he forget all the hate the next time he is in the middle of the ground and focus on the match? 

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” said the 26th US President Theodore Roosevelt in his iconic 'The Man In The Arena' speech in 1910.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory or defeat.” 

THE MAN IN THE ARENA â¬ï¸ â¬ï¸ â¬ï¸ pic.twitter.com/VnU69CPprg

— Martin Wood (@systemldr) November 9, 2019

According to a 2008 research paper by The Sport Journal, the distraction caused by destructive criticism and hate mails lead to “negative mood responses, detrimental arousal and anxiety levels, and stress, thus resulting in the consumption of mental energy.”

Mental energy is arguably the most important aspect behind an athlete's ability to pay attention to the minute details of the game that leads to what we call a “good performance”. Noticing the swing in the ball, judging the kind of shot that needs to be played on a particular delivery, gauging your position to catch the ball meteoring towards the ground, everything requires mental energy, regardless of how great a player you are. 

“It comes down to who's better on the day, who's in a better mental place, who's got more energy left, who's tougher when it really comes to the crunch. In tennis, there's always somebody who's going to be a little bit better because there are no draws in our sport." #Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/w80XQZgTuR

— ATP Tour (@atptour) July 14, 2019

It is a well known fact that there are certain athletes media publications prefer to write more about because they draw greater readership as compared to someone lesser known. It is also a well known fact that human beings love to criticise others and love to read about each others' failures. 

Hence these athletes are targeted and regardless of their team winning or losing, they will be criticised and compared to other players. While whispering their achievements, highlight their weaknesses and give their readers the opportunity to do the same. 

Throughout history, we have seen athletes falling prey to unwarranted media criticism and rapid downfall and even moving away from their sport because of it. 

NFL player, Ricky Williams was an exceptional athlete, who played the game on a level higher than the rest of the people on the field during his college days. But having suffered from debilitating social anxiety disorder and extreme shyness, excessive media attention made him give up the game he was great at. Before quitting, Williams had confessed to dreading interviews could be seen wearing eye shades inside his helmet to avoid eye contact. 

Remember when Ricky Williams talked about using weed as a self-medication method for treating anxiety and possibly early onset CTE symptoms and he was banned from the league https://t.co/oPUtltwY1p

— coleman (@MrColeWorld) February 18, 2019

Cases of being convicted for raping Miss Black America and biting off his opponent, Evander Holyfield's ear made boxer Mike Tyson an easy target to the media to get inside his personal space and write about every single thing he did. Having won almost every title there was to win for the ruthless American, the decline was as quick as he ascend to the top when his personal life used to be laid out on the front page of the tabloids almost every single day. 

A day before Tyson got knocked out in the fourth round against Danny Williams, which signaled the end of his professional career, he was asked if all the media attention affected his performance and Tyson said: “It's my job to beat people and win fights…and it's their job to sell papers. Everything that could've been said about Mike Tyson has already been said. I don't take it personally like I use to.”

Even sisters Serena and Venus Williams have been criticised for being “unskilled players” who have dominated women's tennis only because they were “hard hitters”. 

A similar case which is taking massive prominence in India in the modern era is that of the current Indian wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant, who has been criticised for the smallest of mistakes on a national and sometimes even international level.


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