The Power of Association

I have had review of some of my habits and have been finding them quite difficult to shift not all of these are bad habits some are just habits, one of the weirdest ones is my shopping habit.  I cannot stand big supermarkets, I don't like the way they are laid out, how busy they are, how impersonal they are and how they hold so much influence.  So every time I go to go shopping I get in the car with all good intention to not visit one of the big four supermarkets but instead spend my money elsewhere.  Once in the car, music on and mind elsewhere I am on autopilot and before I know it I am walking the aisles of Asda or Sainsburys thinking how did I get here.

I am having the same issue with my Friday night ritual, every night I am thinking I am not having that cheeky wine tonight and like the supermarket I end up watching a film with a glass of red in my hand and thinking why have I done that.  I was talking through this with one of our advisors and he mentioned the power of association and what has happened is that you now have associated your shopping habits and Friday nights with a particular behaviour and it is now very difficult to break.  

On reading further into this subject the power of association is hugely influential there have been countless studies on how association effects peoples behaviours through the subconscious.  One remarkable study showed that by simply reading out a list of words that can be associated with older people causes a decrease in pace of walking away from the classroom when compared to walking to it.

This got me thinking about the language we use when working with children and how careful we must be in our choice of communication.  There is often a discussion about the use of positions within the developmental stages of football and we as a group are strong believers that children should not be pigeon holed into positions.  When looking at when adults decide on positions for children all too often these are based on physical characteristics and not what the children actually want for example the big lads at the back and the fast players up front.  But what are the children associating with such communication, if we were to say you are a defender or you are a forward what are the children associating with the labels that adults give them?

Well we asked them and below is what they said

As you can see there are a mixture of answers but the general tone is negative, a couple of players mentioned afterwards that defenders are not as valued as forwards.  

We asked the same question of forward players:

As you can see the tone is slightly different it has a more positive slant and talks about glory and goals.

What is the long term effect of labelling children in the developmental stages, keep in mind that some children as young as six are being told you are a striker or you are a defender?  If you were to read this in connection with the Mindset work from Carol Dweck these labels could be seen as quite damaging to the mindsets of the children and their ability to reach their true potential.  It would be interesting to further study the drop out rates from sport for children that had positional specialisation from an early age and those that were free to sample all positions.  Early specialisation studies are clear that within a singular sport that Early Specialisation leads to premature drop out so it would logically follow that Positional Specialisation would be similar.

As for my own personal power of association unfortunately I am still visiting Tesco and having a wine or two on a Friday perhaps I need someone to keep telling me I am a finely tuned athlete so that my associations change.

I hope that people take this observation in the manner it is intended, it is there to make us think about our communication and help us to keep children in sport for that little bit longer.


As always all comments are more than welcomed.