Crabs. I never thought that I’d find crabs in the sports world.

They can be found on the court, field and pool, but even more so in the bleachers, stands, and mezzanine. There are those individuals who have the crab mentality and the higher one athlete achieves high-performance, surrounding crabs reveal themselves.

“If I can’t achieve it, have it, experience it, get it, neither should you” captures the crab mentality. Crabs-in-a-bucket is a metaphor for what happens within a pot of crabs. One crab could easily escape from a basket or pot, climbing to freedom, but when more are put together, one will grab another in a continuously futile king-of-the-hill battle ensuring the collective demise of all. When athletes and parents exhibit it, they’ll pull down, negate or diminish the importance of another teammate or other athlete who achieves success beyond another out of jealousy or competitive feelings. If their resentment boils, they can scrap more intensely by discrediting and dismantling more than just a performance but aim to damage the person and can stoop to pretty low means depending on the level of desperation. Tanya Harding….enough said. They can seek to damage someone physically, emotionally or socially. [1]

The crab mentality is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than unified, long-term constructive mentality. Dr. Marshall Mintz, a consultant of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) and listed on the US Olympic Committee Sport Psychology Registry, stated that those who don’t achieve the level of success they want and blame others show a lack of emotional maturity to focus on themselves and take responsibility for their level of performance. They lack the ability to acknowledge the true reasons they are not achieving the success they want and find excuses that place the cause on others. “They get all the attention of the coaches. If the coach would pay more attention to me/my child, they’d be just as good”.

I am being reminded, once again, that crabs are nasty and hurtful after receiving an off-handed negative comment from a parent after a set of spectacular wins by my daughter at a highly competitive meet this past weekend. Apparently it didn’t stop there and it is suspect that the same parent has stirred up trouble that could seriously impact the life of her coach. In talking with parents of high-performance athletes on other teams, I’ve found the plague of crabs has affected them as well. In one case, false accusations led to catastrophic personal and team results. In the other, reputations are on the line because of unfounded gossip. I find it baffling that there are those, mostly parents, who are so wrapped up in the success of their children, that they fixate on the performances of others and live and breathe the crab mentality. I wonder constantly what gain their destructive words and actions provide for them? How will undermining the achievements and lives of others make their child better, faster, stronger? Will tearing another down, raise them up?

What if each of us could focus on our own lives, our own children?
What if we acknowledged our individual strengths and maximized them?
What if we supported and celebrated every other athlete and parent for doing the best they can with what they have and believe in their potential?

Doesn’t a rising tide raise all ships?

If you are the parent of a high-performance athlete:
• know that the crabs will be there and demonstrate the crab mentality. Know that not everyone will be thrilled with the success of your child.
• Prepare yourself and your children for how to maturely handle those who will say and do mean things. Don’t stoop to the same level, but be an emotional champion in how you respond.

If you are a crab:
• Understand the futility in being negative and mean-spirited when you say detrimental things, gossip, and defame others. The derogatory comments you make and possibly the harmful actions you take will not make your child any better as an athlete or a human being. In fact, it will be their demise and yours as well.
• Understand your off-handed comments and negative actions can have serious repercussions. If you damage someone else’s life, are you ready to take responsibility for your actions? Is the success of your child that important to you that you’re willing to harm someone else in an attempt to climb to the top of the heap?
• If you are a parent, find your personal strengths and do something to maximize them. Create your own goals and pursue them to take the pressure off your own child to succeed to meet your personal needs.
• Focus on helping your child to become the best they can be instead of sizing them up against the successes and failures of others.
• Be realistic and take responsibility for your child’s level of achievement acknowledging the true reasons why your child may/may not be accomplishing what they’d/you’d hoped in that particular sport. Make choices for what’s best for your child. Maybe a coach is legitimately not meeting your child’s needs. Maybe your child’s strengths would be better applied in another sport. Instead a blaming, simply choose to find a better situation. This is far more productive and beneficial for helping your child reach their maximum potential.
• Often, your behavior will come back to bite you as more and more see and hear your negative, non-productive thoughts and actions. Your reputation and social standing will be the one that suffers and so will that of your child.

Share your experience with crabs below.



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