Dealing With Jealousy

Jealousy is an innate human trait. It lives and breathes in every gym and can be quite destructive if left un-managed.

Wikipedia states: Jealousy is an emotion, and the word typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something of great personal value, particularly in reference to a human connection. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness and disgust. In its original meaning, jealousy is distinct from envy, though the two terms have popularly become synonymous in the English language with jealousy now taking on the definition originally used for envy.

In using this as the base of reasoning we can start with the person responsible for the “envy” or causing the jealousy. In a team situation these people are often times considered the leaders or in more troubled atmospheres “the favorites”. In either case they are normally being envied due to their individual talents or the attention they are receiving because of it. If it is the talent and related success that is being envied (causing jealousy) then the lesson needs to be one of respect. Respect the talent, respect what it took to achieve success and model a chosen path that will produce similar results. Obviously the envied athlete needs to display humility and compassion for their teammates. A brash, boastful or abrasive attitude will only serve to alienate. BUT if this athlete encourages and assists his or her teammates with their development, the envy then can be transformed into respect.

Greater issues arise when envy and jealousy are the product of perceived favoritism or special attention. Perception is the key word here as it has been my experience that those receiving attention are those who crave it, earn it, deserve it through their consistent actions. But in the minds of humans, perception is reality and coaches need to learn to deal with this as they would with any other legitimate concern. With this being said however, I do feel this is a great situation to TEACH a valuable lesson which is, if you feel you are not getting the attention/feedback you desire then as an athlete you need to create a situation where you get what you want. Ask for help, pay attention to corrections, take extra turns, work harder and look your coach in the eye so as to deliver the message that you want to improve, you want to learn and that you are 100% coachable.

There will always be parents and athletes that base their level of importance on what those around them are doing. This is a normal human reaction. In sports, however, athletes of the same age will have different physical and mental abilities (cognitive and motivational understandings) that dictate progress. Trust in the coaching staff and the gymnastics program itself is vital when decisions are made to progress athletes at different paces. Some perceive this as favoritism and this of course causes jealousy or hard feelings.

With trust and open lines of communication that stamp “the child’s best long term interest” on the foreheads of those that doubt your intentions, these situation can be avoided or at least tempered. Advancing athletes is not an exact science. Sometimes it is merely a coaches instinct thing but when at all possible the use of a specific set criterion (skill, score or combination of both) will help provide a visual illustration of your standards. Although meeting a set criterion might still have a few snags, it gives coaches something concrete to base their “yes” or “No” decisions.

Good coaches will note the tell tale signs when members of a group or team are feeling slighted. Body language, attitude, emotional outbursts, frustrations and parent complaints or comments should raise the proverbial “red flag” and create a need for a solution based approach. Perhaps this means going a bit out of your way to give that child a little extra attention that week. Perhaps it is a one on one meeting where you reassure the athlete that you are there to do everything in your power to help them succeed. Perhaps you outline the lesson explain in the previous paragraph i.e if you want more attention … seek it/earn it.

In actuality jealousy and envy are strong motivational factors when channeled in the proper manner. It is jealousy and envy that create many goals. I want to be like so and so, I want to have a house like the Smiths, I want a car like John’s, I want to tumble like xxx. To be envious of something can serve to set a target to shoot for. This is a good thing.


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