This summer I took a job working for What Not To Yell (WNTY) Inc. to support the company with their research in understanding spectator styles, the various behaviours and emotional triggers demonstrated by adults in youth sports.  Initially, when being asked to write this blog, I thought “Yes for sure, very easy. I just have to write my memories down”.  I did not realize that writing about my past experience in sports as an athlete would initiate such deep self-reflection, and bring me to an understanding of what my emotions may have been back then. Writing this blog about my journey with sport has allowed me to discover where some of my behaviours may be derived from, what some of my emotional reactions are and potential triggers, that cause me to act the ways that I have while in sport.

As a young girl Figure Skating was my chosen sport. I loved it but I became aware very early of a darker side- Politics. I was a good athlete with promise but found it difficult to make the cut on teams I wanted to join. My perception was the other girls were getting chosen over me because their parents had an “in” with the Club Director. The result was frustration and anger. But there was a good side- my perception of inequality only drove me to work harder and push myself beyond my limits to get the success I craved.  This mindset still sticks with me to this day. At WNTY, one of the key messages is“S#!@T” happens, its how you experience the

“S#!@T” that matters”. Coming to terms with both sides- the good and the bad of my experience was definitely important for my own development and ability to cope with the pressures of life.

In later years my next passion was Soccer. But there to was a darker side- Yelling. Not the positive and uplifting kind but the negative, soul destroying verbal barrage that so many young people in sports have to deal with. This came from all sides- the verbal abuse from officials, racial slurs and put downs from other players and the relentless mocking from parents. Again the emotions of frustration and anger became the norm as well as playing dirty for revenge followed ensuing burnout. All this definitely inhibited my playing abilities and my emotional state to the point where I had to quit for a while. Upon reflection now the experience made me understand the impact external voices had on me, and therefore the way that I would play.

Writing this blog has allowed me closure with soccer, the negative emotions and the feeling of burnout. When writing about it, I am able to see the sequence of events that occurred to lead me to such a dark place, and understand how I was able to get out of it. Being able to admit that I did go through such a phase has allowed me to determine how not to fall back into that pit again.

All in all, writing this blog on my athletic journey has enabled me to reflect on both the negative and positive impacts that external forces have had on me, and was able to determine how each one has shaped me into the athlete that I am today.  At WNTY we are working towards building a Spectator Behavioural Questionnaire to help adults reflect on their own behaviour, and start to understand the impact and implications of their behaviours. We don’t always realize how the various stakeholders (parents, coaches, officials, and volunteers), can influence the performance of the athletes for better and for worse. We are all striving for the same thing. Higher performance and healthy competition. You can have a critical role in elevating an athlete’s performance both emotionally and mentally. Don’t underestimate the power you have and take the time to reflect on your own performance. I did. What a great trip!

Erica Weigand is a Queen’s University Environmental Studies student, applying her research skills and sports experience for What To Yell Inc.