Derrick Rose appears to be a rare breed of superstar athlete who prefers to play his sport rather than allowing it to play him. At a time when even marginal players are inundated by media and other public appearances while they must watch every step they make in those appearances and in social media for the sake of protecting their brands, there’s certainly a refreshing side to the fact that the player known as “Pooh” to his family is uncomfortable about being viewed as a celebrity in his old neighborhood.
In a December 30, 2011 Yahoo! Sports article written by Marc J. Spears, the author explained, “Rose has accepted his fame, and he’s worked the past two seasons to show more of his personality to the public. But . . . the only time he seems comfortable opening up is around his family and long-time friends.” What Spears was referring to was Rose’s remarks about his emotional reaction to being treated differently than when he wasn’t a Chicago Bulls superstar. Rose explained, “The worst part is the attention. I hate attention like that.”
Rose went further in describing his feelings about the dramatic changes in the way basketball fans started treating him once he became an NBA star, saying, “I can’t even go outside to eat at places without having a hood on or walking with my head down. I’m not used to that. It’s weird, but hopefully it’s something I can get through.”
The refreshing part of all this is that Rose is demonstrating a willingness to keep from letting fame and fortune turn him into an arrogant celebrity snob. And if he can successfully complete his adjustments to the social requirements of being a celebrity athlete, he’ll have accomplished something that many of his colleagues could not.
On the other hand, however, there’s another – less refreshing – side of this story that almost literally shouts for attention from human relations experts. That other side is the need to reduce communication anxiety for people who feel higher-than-average levels of insecurity in social situations, as Rose seems to be expressing.
In a way, Rose appears to be caught in a vice. On one hand, because he loves to play ball so much and is so good at it, his talents overshadow his extreme distaste for public attention. On the other hand, however, because sports fanaticism is so deeply embedded in the collective psyche of a large segment of the American public, it’s impossible to play a major professional sport that well, and for that much money, without becoming the object of sports fans’ constant fantasies and speculations.
In that light, no pro athlete can afford to step onto such a large stage without proper preparation for what’ll happen off the court (or field). So I asked preeminent health & wellness coach, clinical sports psychologist, and Access Athletes expert advisor E. Patrick Miller to share his considerable insights about how star athletes like Rose get shocked into experiencing the social demands of their profession as such a potentially overwhelming struggle.
“Derrick Rose, who is a humble man and thinks of himself as just a regular guy, relates well with people he grew up with in the neighborhood,” Miller told Access Athletes, with his focus first on Rose. But shifting to a more general picture of the phenomenon of extreme social discomfort among young pro athletes, Miller added that in numerous cases, the athletes’ difficulty with adjusting to fame happens “because (sticking with the old familiar crowd) appears to be safe and they feel protected.
“Like most athletes who are ‘discovered’ to have something unique between 11 to 15 years of age,” Miller continued, “they are shielded from society at large, which in some cases works very well in the short term. It allows them to take more time in learning how to adapt to the ever changing and swirling environment and appreciate the moment.
“However, (the shielding) can work against them if they don't grow with the times. Their social development becomes stymied and regressive, and at times, stunted, because ‘the familiar feels safe.’ Their developmental sequences of life become problematic, and they shut down emotionally, regarding (their) social adaptation, as their lives evolve and become more complex.”
Miller went on to say that most of the athletes who suffer from extreme social anxiety can be helped to develop a high level of confidence and adaptability to other people’s behavior changes by teaching the athletes – step by step – how to adapt to life’s unpredictability “on the fly.” That means that the prognosis is good for Rose (as well as for other athletes with similar social anxiety), if his determination to reduce his social fears to a manageable level is as strong as he seemed to indicate in Spears' Yahoo! Sports article.
At any rate, we at Access Athletes are cheering for Rose to win a championship in the public communication arena!