You may want to consider adding defensive mental skills training for athletes to proactively counter the negative influence of verbal insults.

Karen C.P. McDermott wrote her doctoral dissertation at the University of Connecticut on “Emotional Manipulation and Cognitive Distraction as a Strategy: The Effects of Verbal Insults on Motivation and Performance in a Competitive Setting.” Her research showed that verbal insults often cause people to experience shame and anger and lead to distraction from competitive performance.

She noted: “We practice defensive skills all the time on the courts, but you don’t practice defensive mental drills. Part of the reason I think they don’t do that is because there hasn’t been enough study about trash talk to be able to formulate a defense against it.” To hear McDermott discuss her study results, go to