How To Handle Racism In Sport

One of our performance psychologists, David, chats to Rod and Ian (ABC radio) about the tricky issue of how to handle racism in elite sport.

Radio Interview:

Full Transcription:

Rod:                                            Adam Good’s issue, I guess, what to have people saying are we overdoing it, and this is what I said at the outset, you know, I wonder if we are. Yet I thought the other side of this program is really to, it’s a review program, it’s a weekend review. So that’s possibly what we’re trying to do here rather than percolate it along a bit further. I don’t know if we’re succeeding in that.

Ian:                                             Well I want to see, well first off I wanted to look at the sort of car crash that was the event, but also to see what the … where now. And perhaps our next guest might be able to throw some logs on that. Rod?

Rod:                                            Yeah. David Barracosa, whose Performance Psychologist from the Condor Performance Center I think it is, and he’s with his son via phone. David, good morning.

David Barracosa:              Good morning, thank you for having me.

Rod:                                            Now I don’t … thank you. Now I don’t know if you’ve been listening so far to our conversation?

David Barracosa:              Yeah David I’ve Been listening to certain parts of it, yes.

Rod:                                            The parts you like, you mean?

Ian:                                             Now David … I’m curious now, how would Adam Goods be feelings today when he saw the outpouring of support from clubs across Australia and also principally from his own club?

David Barracosa:              I think mainly the feelings that he would have would be around support and I think feeling, I suppose a sense of community? Like what the teams have done, the arm bands, the banners, the indigenous rounds doing decent work put on by rich, and I think it’s overwhelming feelings of support, I think would be his main experience today I think.

Rod:                                            What is it … that obviously would make him feel much better, I should imagine. But was it a conscious effort to try and make him feel better?

David Barracosa:              I think maybe it’s not necessarily just for Adam Good, but I think you hear about the impact it’s having on players beyond him as well. In the game, especially with him doing things like that. I think it was more looking at how do we um unite regarding this issue and how do kind of want to get it hence that sense of community. I don’t necessarily know what was specifically designed, like with certain things obviously the wearing of the number thirty-seven [inaudible 00:02:13]. One minute standing ovation but I think also it’s just looking at how do we intro everyone, feel supported regarding this issue.

Rod:                                            Yeah it’s amazing it’s such a dichotomy really because, I mean even in the AFL general season there is a indigenous round to celebrate the indigenous players and there is quite a few of them-

David Barracosa:              Mark legend rugby league.

Rod:                                            That’s right yeah, of course.

Ian:                                             So how would he feel do you think presumably he comes back next week and he comes out of the tunnel what do you think his mind set would be at that stage.

David Barracosa:              Well I think that’s an important thing and I think one of the big things that listening to all this and of the sport and performance psychology perspective. I think you need the biggest thing for Adam Goodwin would be what he is focused on, what his concentration is on and I think part of the support staff. One of the things they have to really work on is preparing him for football rather than preparing him for crowd reaction. Because crowd reaction and things like that are I suppose in a way um not necessarily things that we can control but one of the things we can is how do we focus ourselves on things like our effort the part of football we want to be playing. And I think you see more walking out of the tunnel with that type of mind set he is in a good position to I think play with like playing the way we have seen him play in the past

Rod:                                            Sorry mate could I, could I just focus in on just one thing as a psychologist yourself a performance psychologist put yourself in John Long mire’s shoes today and as you go into another week and maybe the match next weekend with Goods playing what would you as John Longmire be saying to him.

David Barracosa:              I think, well one of the biggest things I’ve been talking to him about is where his head is at with all of this. And I think only Adam Good would really know what he’s feeling and what he’s experiencing in regards to this so as his coach as one of the arcane member of the support staff I’d be wanting to know where are you at, what are you feeling at the moment, what’s going through your mind regarding-

Rod:                                            So you’d be listening, you’d be listening rather than talking.

David Barracosa:              Yeah I think initially definitely, I think initially with when it comes to issues, I mean it’s not this particular issue, but any kinda player welfare issue. I would wanna know where my player is at with that, what is going on for them and then how do I, how do I support them.

Speaker 4:                              Isn’t a part of the problem now, let’s take it as red that next Saturday he runs out onto the field with in effect everyone in the crowd at least at one level or another really wanting him to succeed. I mean obviously half the crowd won’t want him to succeed In the sense of losing. But they certainly don’t want to see him humiliated, or put down, or anything like that. But then we get to another imponderable, which is his capacity, his performance, what the opposition is like all of those other things. Now I know what’s in your head is vitally important I’m not disputing that but its also a game in which there a whole oust of imponderables. And if not everything is in sink, ya know if the other side doesn’t surrender immediately to the power and charm of the Sidney Swans, what happens then.

David Barracosa:              Well I don’t think failure is how you define that. Like for us one of the big things, and I think its on of the things we work with almost all of our athletes on is a lot of the problem we talk about expectations and weight of the expectations is very much focused on [inaudible 00:05:53] result the amount of disposal, the amount of goals we keep, the amount of scores and swears. One thing that I would like to talk to him about is, let’s try and create expectations regarding how you play the game rather than your output. And I know that the rest of the crowd, and the rest of the media, won’t look at it that way but for these guys that’s gonna be something that I think [inaudible 00:06:15] play the way that he is able to, and try to not count how many times he gets involved or how many goals did he keep, which is everyone else’s. So once again he cannot control that.

Speaker 4:                              David thee, I um agree with that, but there is an incredible propensity on the part of Australians that to think if we lost the cricket badly this week and a Michael Clark didn’t perform well then he is a bad person, then rather he didn’t perform well or something like that. We judge people by results, it’s a very competitive thing out. In that sort of sense the Adam Good story won’t end until we decide at the end of his sporting career whether he was a fabulous hero-

Ian:                                             But he’s not being moved cause he’s a loser. You cannot imagine a more winning individual in that sport.

Rod:                                            And that’s where it’s so contradictory really isn’t. It is.

Ian:                                             That’s the bewildering thing I mean do you bewilder by it David.

David Barracosa:              Yeah I think um, it’s something from my perspective like you kind of watch and you listen to it, and it does kinda leave you scratching your head from time to time. Because you look at the credentials of the man, you look at what he’s done to the AFL community, and the community in a border sense as well. Yeah I think, I think naturally I’m scratching my head kind of wondering-

Ian:                                             Does this dilemma have an effect on the rest of the team, can players be agnostic about what’s happening to their teammates around them or are they affected by it.

Speaker 4:                              Your confidence is affected by whether Don Bradman is playing with you or not.

Rod:                                            That’s David.

David Barracosa:              Yeah I think, I think definitely the other team you do, especially when a leader of your team, is impacted in a way or is affected in the way that he has been. I Think you do I suppose listen to that, and you are aware of that. And I think one of the big things, and I think there are two things that need to be really aware of here and its that, the support staff needs to not only support Adam Good but needs to support the rest of the team. I think it’s important that they also have their time to be able to debrief you saw kind of Louis Getter pay tribute you saw the guys kinda of um, they’re thinking about it and you wanna make sure that thinking about it doesn’t turn into a massive distraction on the field they got away with a good performance yesterday but you don’t want to carry you on and eventually them in any way.

Rod:                                            Alright great to talk to you David, and thanks so much for your time on a Sunday morning we really appreciate it.

David Barracosa:              Well thanks for having me again.

Rod:                                            Yeah thank you. David Barracosa who’s a performance psychologist from Condor Performance.