While lack of emotional expression is a cornerstone of masculinity, research shows that this type of behavior is actually toxic.
According to one study by the American Psychological Association (APA), men are significantly less likely to seek help because they feel that they have to conform to masculine standards. That means men with mental health issues fail to get the assistance they need and deserve. That means boys grow up thinking it’s bad to cry. That means men spend years — even entire lifetimes — living stressful, inauthentic, draining lives.
Dr. Wizdom Powell of the APA even found that increased mental and emotional strain due to suppression could contribute to why men often die younger than women.
And in his own way, University of Houston football coach Tom Herman is working to combat those harmful stereotypes.
Although a little tough love is necessary sometimes, this isn’t a coach who gets things done by belittling his team, nor is he one to encourage that type of behavior among players. Instead, they choose to hug (and kiss) it out.
Before every game, these tough guys get a peck on the cheek from their coach. Obviously, more than a few people find it odd. Among those people are not, however, his appreciative players.
As safety Garrett Davis explained to the New York Times, “A kiss on the cheek is when he shows his love for us. No one here is thinking, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t let him kiss me.'”
For Herman, it’s about making every single person on his team feel like they’re an important part of something bigger than themselves, and that they can always find support and love in their jersey-clad family.
In a recent interview, the unconventional coach asked, “How do you motivate a human being to do things against his own nature?” His answer was simple. “There’s two things: love and fear. And to me, love wins every time.”
If these players need to let it out, they can. If that mean they have to yell, so be it. If that means they have to cry, Herman will always have a free shoulder. The team was ranked eighth in the nation last year. Something about their atypical system is working.
As Marc Tracy points out in his New York Times piece, “The kisses are part of a larger message of brotherhood that Herman has made the core of his coaching style.”
And perhaps we could all learn something from Coach Tom Herman’s untraditional methods. In order for men to seek help when they need it, we need to create an environment that makes them feel secure enough to do so.
(h/t New York Times)
Shoving men into some hyper-masculine box is not the way. To learn more about the relationship between masculinity and mental health, check this out.
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