Shaq's basketball career came to an end last week after 19 seasons in the national spotlight. Fans will remember Shaq for his overpowering size and strength, his thunderous dunks, and his Hall-of-Fame career accomplishments. But, also, the man always had fun.
Shaq's most enduring legacy is his competitiveness and desire to win—and of course, his four flashy rings. No one ever doubted Shaq's level of commitment. But Shaq also danced, made movies, rocked, rapped, tweeted and issued tongue-in-cheek challenges to professional athletes of other sports. He loved having fun.
Guess what? New research suggests that having fun can actually improve an athlete's game. Maybe Shaq knew this.
Sports psychologists at the University of Washington reported lower levels of anxiety among young athletes playing for coaches who emphasize having fun. They found that positive communication between coaches and athletes decreases anxiety and improves enjoyment. According to ScienceDaily.com, "Athletes who played under a coach trained in positive communication reported decreased levels of physical anxiety [such as queasy stomach, feeling tense and tight muscles], mental anxiety [worrying about performing poorly] and concentration problems [inability to focus on what they were supposed to do while playing]. In contrast, the level of anxiety increased for the athletes playing for the untrained coaches."
What your takeaway as an athlete? Create a positive atmosphere like Shaq. Be as competitive as you can on the court, but relax and enjoy yourself off of it. Laughter relieves stress. Be open with your coach about your game so you can continue to enjoy the sport you love.
We cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of enjoying what you do and having outlets to relieve the anxieties associated with competitive athletics.
We'll leave with one of Shaq's favorite outlets [see video below].
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock