By Ashley Walls
Richard Sherman may have made the game-winning interception with a quick bat of his hand to send his team to the Super Bowl on Jan. 19, but it was what came out of his mouth a few minutes later that made the 25-year-old cornerback from the Seattle Seahawks instantly infamous.
Trash talk. Blunt, harsh trash talk against San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree that made ESPN reporter Erin Andrews’ eyebrows spring up in shock as she listened to Sherman’s daring choice of words.
But Sherman’s trash talking may have done more than just insult a fellow football player. The psychology department at John Carroll University in Ohio did a study on the effects of trash talking among college athletes and found that the reason behind putting down an opponent wasn’t always to mess with their opponent’s minds. In the study, 37 percent of students who engaged in trash talk did so to pump themselves up, rather than to obstruct their opponent’s performance.
Regardless of a player’s motivation to hurl insults at his competition’s face, it works; the psychology department at John Carroll University found that the strategy of putting down an opponent was effective in hindering their performance in 17.3 percent of the 419 athletes involved in the questionnaire.
But these insults do more than just affect a player’s performance.
Asbury women’s soccer player Bre Smith has seen her share of what smack talking can do during her time playing NAIA varsity soccer. “It’s negative,” Smith said. “It can instill a wrong motivation to compete against, which may lead to overly aggressive play which could lead to violence—for example, pulling a girls’ pony tail or throwing a punch.”
Smith says that not engaging in trash talking at all is a smart thing for any athlete to do, but especially ones attending Asbury.
“It is important to play with class,” Smith said. “To represent yourself and more importantly, Asbury, in a way that is Christ-like to other teams. Many people think the NAIA are all ‘Christian’ schools. That is totally wrong. So it is a great way to minister to those teams through our actions.”
Whatever you believe when it comes to smack talk, the effects are clear. So please, be wise, and don’t be another Sherman.