Advantage: Underdogs

As became evident in the NCAA Tournament this year, the most talented teams and individuals do not always win. Indeed, one might argue that favored teams are at a distinct disadvantage.

We humans are emotional creatures and our teens and young adults are especially sensitive to the expectations of peers, friends, family and the public at large. Pressured by the fear of disappointing them, the athletes strive to succeed and, should they falter along the way, their self confidence quickly erodes. Underdogs, on the other hand, are not burdened by the internal or external pressure to meet lofty expectations; they are free to focus on winning rather than playing not to lose.

In the modern era, when victory is tied so closely to financial rewards and colletive self-esteem, fans and institutions exacerbate the pressure that comes with a high ranking and, as we have seen, upsets often result. Parents and coaches who understand the relationship between confidence and success learn to foster a positive attitude while maintaining reasonable expectations; instilling the unbridled enthusiam of an underdog is a worthy endeavor.