The Importance of Sports

Sports are more than just fun and games. From schoolyard chants to Super Bowl championships, playful competition finds its way into nearly all aspects of culture. Fighting to win draws on cooperation, concentration, coordination, and creativity—things worth striving for in their own right.

Here we offer commentary on why we care who wins, what drives us to go for the goal, and what leads to greatness on the playing field, on the chess board, or in the office. On your marks!

Recent Posts on Sport and Competition

Building an Effective Team Culture

A strong team culture is important to success and member satisfaction. A few coaching strategies can help teams quickly and effectively foster a positive culture.

How to Develop Mentally Tough Young Athletes

Mental toughness can give kids a winning edge in sports and in other areas of life.

Purkinje Cells Burst to Life with State-Dependent Excitation

Neuroscientists have discovered that Purkinje neurons in the cerebellum toggle between a silent "down" state and a bursting "up" state depending on levels of electrical activity.

One Thousand Reasons Breaking a Sweat Is the Best Medicine

Do you hate to exercise? Would you rather take a pill that mimics the benefits of working out than actually going to the gym? A new study has identified over one thousand molecular reactions to exercise. These findings could lead to the development of a drug that imitates the health benefits of breaking a sweat.

Rampage as a Team Instinct

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on October 01, 2015 A Swim in Denial
Humans have evolved powerful social bonding that shows up in group rivalry and team spirit. In civilization, where strangers can live together, the lethal competition of warfare is safely symbolized in team sports such as football. In rampage killing, as in the Roseburg Oregon massacre, that symbolic quality breaks down.

Four Ways to Foster Ethics in College Athletics

With appropriate attention and desire, college athletics can be an excellent venue for nurturing ethical behavior and character formation. It really doesn't take that much time or money to make it happen. But will colleges make it a priority?

The Psychology of Competitiveness

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on October 01, 2015 A Sideways View
Is there good and bad competitiveness? Is being co-operative better than being competitive? Are competitive people ultimately more successful than those who favour co-operativeness

WOSPs, Fear, and Unstructured Play

By John Tauer Ph.D. on September 30, 2015 Goal Posts
"Where have all the Children Gone" - Local Playground Near You

Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

By E. Paul Zehr Ph.D. on September 29, 2015 Black Belt Brain
Ever wonder at a beautiful between the legs return in tennis, or an incredible behind the back pass in ice hockey? The sense of touch can help do that even when the athlete can't see where the racket or the stick is—they just know.

In Defense of Watching Football

By Jaime L. Kurtz Ph.D. on September 29, 2015 Happy Trails
Five benefits of tuning into America's favorite sport.

Too Much Homework from a Student/Teacher Perspective

In a given school year, many students spend hours upon hours each night working on school assignments. Add to that work, sports, and extracurricular activities and it’s no wonder we have a lot of stressed out teens.

Yogi Berra’s Mis-Quotes: Why They’re So Comically Endearing

On the advent of Yogi Berras’ passing this week at the age of 90, it seemed fitting for me to pay tribute to him here. But not so much for his being a sterling Hall of Fame catcher who helped lead his beloved Yankees to ten World Series victories, as for his wacky but so “winning” malapropisms—which over the years have delighted millions. . . .

What I Learned from Baseball and Yogi Berra

By Rita Watson MPH on September 23, 2015 With Love and Gratitude
Despite his 14 year feud with George Steinbrenner, Yogi Berra is remembered as a man who embraced friendship and compassion for his teammates.

Optimism and Anxiety Change the Structure of Your Brain

By Christopher Bergland on September 23, 2015 The Athlete's Way
Neuroscientists have identified that adults who have a larger orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) tend to be more optimistic and less anxious.

The Day I Played Against Yogi Berra, and He Let Me Win

By Bella DePaulo Ph.D. on September 23, 2015 Living Single
Many years ago, George Plimpton chose me to play on his team of fans. We took on the Mickey Mantle All-Stars in Yankee Stadium, and Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and the rest of the team let us win.

Countering Sad Athlete Syndrome

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on September 20, 2015 How To Do Life
Many athletes are plagued by worry.

WOSPs, Unstructured Play, and Intrinsic Motivation

By John Tauer Ph.D. on September 19, 2015 Goal Posts
Why don't we see children playing on playgrounds in the absence of adults?

Champion Novak Djokovic Reveals the Power of Visualization

By Aldo Civico Ph.D. on September 17, 2015 Turning Point
How world-class player Novak Djokovic trains for mental toughness using mindfulness and visualization.

You Won’t Find Athletic Success Without "The Grind"

By Jim Taylor Ph.D. on September 16, 2015 The Power of Prime
No matter how much you love your sport and no matter how much fun it is in general, you have to admit that there are many specific aspects of being an athlete that are definitely not fun, especially the physical conditioning. I’m thinking of those cold early morning runs, those workouts in the rain or in the blazing heat of summer, those multiple sets of weights.

Do Tennis Champions Reveal the Secret to Mental Toughness?

The study from Middle Tennessee State University also found that the coaches rating of their tennis players' mental toughness bore no relationship to the athletes' own assessment. The coaches seemed to be basing their assessment of mental toughness of their players on their general results and rankings — yet this may be misleading.

The Psychology of a Champion

By Ryan Anderson on September 14, 2015 The Mating Game
He may have lost the U.S. Open Final, but there are many reasons why Roger Federer is a champion.

Do You Have a Competition Mental Model?

Are you in competition with everyone else? Can you be effective leader with the Competition mental model?

The Dark Side of Mythic Quests and the Spirit of Adventure

By Christopher Bergland on September 12, 2015 The Athlete's Way
My pursuit for otherworldly peak experience through athletics was glorious but it also almost killed me. When I saw the trailer for the upcoming Everest movie, it reminded me of the importance of returning home alive after any mythic quest.

Is Heroism a 'Guy Thing?'

By Frank T McAndrew Ph.D. on September 11, 2015 Out of the Ooze
We hold heroes in such high esteem because they act in a noble and virtuous manner, setting aside any thoughts of their own well being for the good of others. Or do they? It turns out that heroism, especially in time of war, positions men (but not women) for high status and enhanced mating opportunities if they survive the heroic action.

The Sports Ethic

By Adrian Furnham Ph.D. on September 11, 2015 A Sideways View
What are the unique beliefs and values of those in competitive sport?

Will the Obama Girls Stay Up Late for Miss America 2016?

What does Vanessa Williams' return to the Miss America Pageant say about our changing society?

Developing a Science of Interrogation

The most effective interrogation techniques are those that emphasize cooperation and relationship building. Confrontation is far less effective.

Laird Hamilton and the Art of Surfing

By Michael Friedman Ph.D. on September 10, 2015 Brick by Brick
Laird Hamilton, who is often considered one of the greatest athletes in the world, shares how intrinsic motivation and sense of purpose drive him to continued achievement.

What We've Got Wrong With the K-State Marching Band Story

The Kansas State University marching band director is in hot water following this weekend’s halftime performance. However, this 3-second segment is taken out of context. With the drill in motion, the announcement, and the music it all makes sense. So who are the real losers in this story?

Why Roger Federer Is Great

By Stanton Peele on September 08, 2015 Addiction in Society
Roger Federer has remained at the very top of an individual professional sport, tennis, through his mid-thirties. What about him allows him to do this, and what can we learn from it?