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  • Many athletes seem to have picked up a sense, as they have moved up the athletic ladder, that frowning and showing anguish indicates that they are tough competitors who hate to lose…

    Frowns aren’t just down-turned facial muscles. They are devices that destroy teams, tear down positive atmospheres, and create ill feeling. Scientifically, frowns are supposed to use a lot of extra muscles and energy and perhaps even bring about the flow of some kinds of harmful chemicals in the body. I don’t doubt it, because they bring about toxic thoughts and situations all the time.

    You may find this strange but when I am coaching I prohibit frowns on my team. Frowns are simply banned. You want to frown? Put a towel over your face. Go into the locker room. Put your face under the shower. Just don’t do it out here where the rest of us can see it. Frowns mess up people and teams. We don’t need them.

    You may think I’m overdoing it, but I don’t think so. See for yourself, try an experiment. The next time you feel like frowning in some athletic situation, don’t. Replace it with a fist.

    Do you know what a fist exchange is? It’s what good athletes do when the going gets tough, when they have just messed up, when the other team has just gone ahead or just scored again.

    A fist exchange. Two athletes looking each other in the eye and offering each other a fist and a “c’mon, let’s go,” which means “Let’s turn this around, let’s refuse to accept this, let’s give even more effort, let’s work together and make miracles happen.” Do you know the power of a fist exchange between two athletes, when things are going bad? Have you ever felt that power? I have never seen that power generated via frowns.

    Frowns are intensely personal, selfish, and destructive. They don’t encourage. In fact, they are signs of defeat, of anguish. Perhaps sometimes, amidst giant frustrations, they are unavoidable among competitive athletes. Perhaps. But usually they are simply bad habits, poor responses, and lost opportunities. They are what took place instead of the fist exchange that could have lifted performance out of the doldrums. I’ve never seen a player lifted by a teammate’s frown, but I’ve seen hundreds lifted and encouraged by a teammate’s fist, a simple yet determined gesture that reminds each other that they are athletes, that they have worked hard for this opportunity, that they have shared much, and that they have no plans to let these moments pass with a feeling of defeat.

    Many athletes seem to have picked up a sense, as they have moved up the athletic ladder, that frowning and showing anguish indicates that they are tough competitors who hate to lose. But I don’t think their frowns and displays of anguish indicate anything other than that they are good at frowning and displaying anguish.

    Do you want to show off what a tough competitor you are? Beat people. Overcome adversity. Smash through obstacles. Be encouraging when everyone around you has lost hope. Summon energy when you have a right to be exhausted. Need any more? Replace your frowns with more constructive actions. Try fist exchanges. They work wonders. They make even the bad times part of the joy of sports.

    THINK THE GAME

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