Mind Over Sports

The following recently appeared on the Internet: “It’s a breakout season, yet it still feels like the 28-year-old has another gear we haven’t quite seen yet. Still, it’s fun to watch a player grow up and begin playing near his potential on the field. It’s also cool to watch them grow up and become men off the field. In that vein, Cain and wife Jenny recently welcomed a baby boy, Cameron Cain, to the world.”

As I’ve always maintained, when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony their performance level will rise dramatically. And Kansas City Royals’ Lorenzo Cain is a perfect example. When Lorenzo’s new son recently arrived on the scene, his performance level began to skyrocket. The Kansas City Star quoted one of his teammates: “And now he’s a new dad, so he’s got more of a purpose now. That’s what kids do to you, they just drive you up to become a better man.”

Should a coach demand perfection or excellence? Let’s take a look at what happens when you as a coach (or a parent) demand perfection versus demanding excellence, not only from other people, but from your self as well. When we demand perfection, everything has to be right. Otherwise we experience anxiety, the anxiety turns to anger and, to make sure everything is just right, we exercise control. It’s a must. Then, judgments are made, and you begin taking from a relationship – and there is no journey, only the destination. On the other hand, when you demand excellence, you are willing to be wrong – and you are automatically willing to risk. You become more spontaneous – there’s more “aliveness,” more passion, and instead of judgments, you’re more open. And you are giving to a relationship. There’s a journey – relating to each other – and a destination.

When you demand excellence of yourself or another, you provide yourself or the other person with the opportunity to “fail” – and to learn. This process, which requires changing your demands, will help enhance your feelings of self-worth. And as you feel better about yourself, you’ll begin to set higher goals for yourself and actually achieve them.


Since 1986 I’ve been a Sport Psychology Consultant working with athletes and sports teams, most of them African-American, and I’ve found something that really is quite unique to that segment of our society.  That is, and this could be a cultural thing, many African-American parents actually encourage their male children to keep their feelings and emotions bottled up since it’s not “manly.”  In one instance, I even watched a mother discouraging her two year old son from crying and kept admonishing him for doing so.  Again, I could be wrong about this (that it’s cultural) and certainly there are many African-American parents who are loving and nurturing and encourage their male children to talk openly about their feelings and emotions, and these are the athletes I’ve found to be most well-adjusted and least likely to be involved in a domestic violence situation with a spouse.  Also, since some of these young men often make it to the NFL, I don’t understand why the NFL doesn’t require ALL teams to conduct group therapy sessions in the privacy of their own facilities allowing team members to openly discuss their personal problems (and feelings) with each other rather than keeping them bottled-up.  If they did, I think you would find the number of domestic violence cases in the NFL to be greatly diminished

I’m a big believer that relationships in sports can have a positive or negative effect on performance. When the relationship is good, the results in competition are good. But when the relationship is bad, it can be devastating to performance.

That’s why I believe it’s no coincidence that Caroline Wozniacki experienced a three year drought on the tennis courts during her relationship with PGA golfer Rory McIlroy. According to USA TODAY the breakup came about after a phone call from McIlroy after the wedding invitations were printed…”At 25, he’s clearly playing better without her. At 24, she’s clearly playing better without him.” I wouldn’t be surprised if she won the U.S. Open.

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged publicly that he had made a mistake in suspending Ray Rice for just two games for his involvement in a domestic violence case, he also announced that in the future, for a first domestic violence offense the suspension would be six months and for a second domestic violence offense, banishment from the league with the possibility of reinstatement after a year.

That’s great, but am I missing something? What type of “preventive measures” is he insisting NFL teams implement to head off potential domestic violence in the future? I’ve been advocating for years that that the NFL should require every team to create an internal support group system allowing players to share with each other problems they’re experiencing in their personal lives that could result in misdirected anger and how they interact with not only their wives or girlfriends, but also how they interact with their teammates. Many of these players have been taught at an early age not to talk about their feelings because it’s not macho and is a sign of weakness. That’s really too bad, but it’s never too late to be what you might have been. And here’s a secondary benefit: Once they let go of whatever issues they’re withholding and bottling-up, they’re going to feel better about themselves and their performance on the field with be enhanced considerably, not to mention the positive effect the sessions will have on team chemistry.


I’ve been going to Physical Therapists off and on for many years due to severe back surgery and have had to literally live with pain. Especially pain down my right leg. But a few months ago, a friend introduced me to a Physical Therapist who works here in Springfield, Missouri and after just the first session, much of the pain disappeared like magic. Susan Grimshaw has a national and international reputation and has worked on many athletes, including professional athletes such as Kurt Thomas of the NBA.   He credits Susan with saving his career. I won’t go into what it is she does but she has a unique method of not only treating soft tissue injuries, but also treating the whole body and many different conditions. Her patients often get relief after just one session, as I did. If you’d like to contact Susan her office phone number is (417) 889-4800 and her e-mail address is susan@advantagetherapyonline.com. I highly recommend her! You might want to check her out at www.youtube.com/ssgrimshaw.

A number of years ago, Missouri University’s football team was playing Oklahoma University and Oklahoma was a huge favorite since they had an All-American quarterback. With just a few minutes to go in the first half, Oklahoma was winning 21-0. But on the last play of the first half, Oklahoma’s All-American quarterback was injured and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher and was out for the rest of the game. When the second half started, Missouri seemed to have a different mindset. Even though they were still competing against the same Oklahoma defense that held them scoreless in the first half, they were able to score three times in the second half but eventually lost the game by a point, 21-20. What made the difference? Their “belief” they could win once the Oklahoma quarterback was out of the game. And the Oklahoma team more than likely believed that with their quarterback out of the game, they could lose…and they almost did.  Bottom line: What you believe to be true is true for you, no matter how it plays out in the real world.  Which is why placebos are often so effective.

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Marv Fremerman
Mind Over Sports
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