Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Locus of Control and Cheerleading

Me and some of my teammates :)
I spent the weekend before last on stage covered in glitter. At my team's first cheerleading competition of the season. If you don't know anything about competitive cheerleading, the concept is really simple: you and your team spend two minutes and thirty seconds doing a whole bunch of tricks that have to be cooler than all of the other teams' tricks, and you have to look cool doing them (read: you can't fall on your face). Whoever has scored the highest (and messed up the least) wins. There is a lot of glitter involved.
That aside, it's a great place to see the theory of locus of control in action. A person's locus of control answers the question "whose fault is it if we lose?" A person with a high internal locus will place blame on themselves; they'll say that they should have practiced harder. Someone with a high external locus believes more in external forces; they might say that it was an off day or that the judges were being tough.
Cheerleaders can be a highly superstitious group, an indicator of a high external locus of control -- common rituals are having to eat the same thing both days of a two-day competition, wearing lucky socks, having to high-five the same person before walking onto the stage, or wearing large amounts of glitter spray. On the other side, some teams (mine included), have a policy that if you mess up on something, you have to do it a certain number of times the next practice so that it doesn't happen again, which caters to an internal locus of control. The girl who walks off the floor crying because her stunt fell out from under her probably is blaming herself -- even though it was a group effort. She probably has an internal locus of control.
So what does this have to do with anything? Simple -- when working with any kind of team, sports or business, it's important to know where your teammates (or employees) stand. The teammate with a high external locus might be less willing to put in extra practice hours for something they see as a fluke, while the teammate with an internal locus might feel defeated more quickly because they place all the blame on themselves. The best way to get along with people is to know where they're coming from and understand why they might act in certain ways.

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