Mind Over Sports

Even though golf great Phil Mickelson lost his bid to become the first male golfer in 437 major championships to shoot that mythical score of 62 when his 16-foot birdie putt didn’t fall on the 18th hole at Royal Troon in the British Open, he still shot a fantastic 63!
One has to wonder what might be going on in Mickelson’s personal life that helped his mental game. When athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony they perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. When they’re not happy and their lives are not in harmony, they don’t. So Mickelson must have been mighty happy when he shot that sixty-three. Perhaps he received some good news about his legal problems.

One of the most important characteristics of a successful coach, which Pat Summitt possessed, was a high sense of inner-self, or self-worth. When coaches feel good about themselves, it not only shows up in how they interact with their players, but it also shows up in the won-lost column.

Successful coaches care about their athletes as human beings first, and then as athletic performers. This includes helping them with their personal issues and problems and having an open-door policy. Here are other characteristics:

Successful coaches know that athletes do not perform well if they fear the wrath of their coach.
Successful coaches know that when they get angry they give away their power. They do not yell and get in the faces of their athletes.
Successful coaches are aware their behavior in their own personal lives affects how they interact with their teams.
Successful coaches know that what takes place away from the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition.
Successful coaches encourage their athletes not to “withhold” their feelings and emotions since withholding is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem; as a result of withholding, athletes will take fewer risks in interpersonal relationships and create psychological baggage for themselves that affects their ability to focus and process information.
Successful coaches hold weekly team meetings and encourage, when necessary, that their athletes sometimes participate in “players only” meetings so they will feel free to discuss team related problems and issues in a support group environment, issues they may not feel comfortable discussing with their coach present.
Successful coaches know they cannot motivate their players but can create a environment allowing their players to discuss their personal issues and problems; and as they discuss their personal issues and problems, they will then feel better about themselves and will automatically become more motivated.
Successful coaches are constantly aware of their players’ eye contact since they know that poor eye contact is an indication that players are withholding and have unresolved issues in their personal lives.
Successful coaches encourage their players to use visualization techniques, including the use of video tape sequences accompanied by a music track with meaningful lyrics.

In 1948, Robert Merton published a paper in which he stated: “The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true. The specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the beginning.”

In other words, a prophecy (or strongly held belief) declared as truth when it is actually false may sufficiently influence people, either through fear or logical confusion, so that their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false belief.
Example: When a woman falsely believes her marriage will fail, her fears of such failure actually cause the marriage to fail.

Example: When athletes falsely fear they will not perform up to their capabilities in an upcoming game, their fear of such failure actually causes them to fail.
But I believe the opposite is also true. That is, when a coach praises an athlete and tells him or her how successful they are expected to be in their next game (even creates goals for them) and, assuming the athlete possesses the skill level to achieve those goals, there is a high probability the athlete will be successful.  But in order to do so, the athlete must not be withholding feelings and emotions, or have unresolved issues in his or her personal life.

If a parent constantly praises a child and reminds that child of what high goals he or she is capable of achieving, then there is a great probability he or she will achieve high goals, assuming the child possesses the skill levels to achieve the goals and is not withholding feelings and emotions, or has unresolved issues in his or her personal life.

If a child is being reared in a loving, nurturing home environment and has a high sense of inner-self (self-esteem), and a teacher belittles that child and creates a negative expectation, it will be like water off a ducks back because of how that child feels about himself or herself. But if the child comes from a dysfunctional home environment and has a low sense of inner-self (self-esteem) and a teacher belittles the child, the teacher’s actions will re-enforce the negative beliefs the child may already possess about himself or herself.

We hear a lot about how certain speakers are able to motivate members of their audience or that a particular coach is a great motivator, but the fact of the matter is, no one can motivate another person. Inspire, yes. But not motivate. Motivation must come from within and over the years I’ve found the higher an individual’s feelings of self-worth (self-esteem) the more motivated they become…automatically.

If I were speaking to a group of people in a room and my job was to motivate them, the first thing I would do would be to organize them into support groups so they could talk about personal issues they may be keeping bottled inside themselves. I call this withholding and withholding is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem, creating psychological baggage that negatively affects their ability to focus and process information. As they talk about their issues and release them, they’ll start to feel better about themselves and their missions in life. The most successful coaches are those who provide an internal mechanism for players to talk abut their issues with their teammates. Everything that takes place in that room is kept in complete confidence and no one will be benched or kicked off the team for sharing. And once they share their issues with their teammates, the result will be improved team chemistry and improved performance.

This same premise applies to school children who witness horrific problems at home but tell no one about them. They come to school and attend class, even though they’re not focused on schoolwork, and before long, they are making poor grades and often drop out of school. That’s why I’m an advocate of support groups in our school systems. And how can you tell if a student is withholding? Eye contact. People who withhold have poor eye contact and will break eye contact when discussing an issue they have not resolved in their personal lives.

Yesterday, June 18th, 2016, Kansas City Royals’ DH Kendrys Morales drove in five runs with four hits and tied a career high with five RBIs and also got his 200th career double. Morales, as many baseball fans know, defected from Cuba in 2004 and just a few days ago he was batting .194 while he should have been batting much higher.

Could the problem have been he wasn’t motivated? Possibly. And his lack of motivation could have been related to his 6-year old daughter, Andrea, who he left behind in Cuba. Now this is only speculation on my part since I’m not privy to inside information, but if Andrea was having personal problems in her life, and he’s wasn’t there in Cuba to help her, and he didn’t discuss it with anyone but rather kept it bottled up inside himself, that’s a form of lying. And lying demeans an athlete and lowers his or her self-esteem creating psychological baggage that negatively affects his or her ability to focus.

If what I’ve written is true, and Morales was experiencing some form of depression, manager Yost should not have been trying to motivate him (as he stated in an interview) but rather get him help by obtaining therapeutic counseling to address his depression. It’s possible Morales began talking about his problem or problems, whatever they might have been, and became less depressed, the result showing up in his performance.

Now there are many who might say that Morales is a professional athlete and those types of problems shouldn’t affect him. But professional athletes are human beings just like the rest of us mortals and they have personal issues away from the field of competition.

If I were a coach and had to choose between having a team with excellent talent and very little team chemistry, or a team with a huge amount of team chemistry and only moderate talent, I’ll take the latter.

When it comes to being successful, team chemistry wins out every time. And how do you build good team chemistry?  By transforming your team into a support group.  But let’s be clear. I’m not referring to “team meetings” – where not much generally happens, but rather creating an environment that is closed off from the public where players are encouraged to air their grievances, not only with each other but also with the coaching staff, without being punished. An environment where players are able to discuss whats going on in their personal lives; the problems they may be having with members of the opposite sex;  financial problems; parental problems at home. All of these affect performance, and if not addressed, will show up during competition as mental errors because there will be a lack of focusing.

Some of the topics that should be discussed in team support group sessions include dealing with misdirected anger, what we see in others is what we’re carrying around within ourselves, the myth of the team, expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies, the power of beliefs, and goals and intentions, just to name a few. And after players unload their personal problems and issues with their teammates, they will not only be a closer knit group, but they will then be more focused and ready for visualization, which I recommend be done to special music on video tape. I call them “Power Videos.”

So if you’re a coach, next time, don’t just have a team meeting; have a support group session. You’ll be amazed at the results.

I’ve met Mike Singletary and he is a really excellent person of high moral character…and is also a loving husband and loving father. But if he’s selected to take over the Baylor football team to replace Coach Art Briles, he must learn from the past. And that is, make certain his players are not afraid of him. In my opinion, that is what happened when Mike was head coach of the 49ers. When a player is afraid of the possible wrath of his head coach, he’ll lack focus and will be constantly worried that he might make an error. And it’s this very lack of focusing that causes turnovers and mental errors during competition. But here’s the good news. Mike genuinely cares about his players but for some reason that didn’t come across when he was the 49er’s head coach. When players know their head coach loves them and cares about them they’ll play their hearts out for him. So that would be Mike’s primary mission. To make certain his players know he loves them. And to keep his anger under control.

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

Learn how to visualize, resulting in increased performance.

CONTACT MARV FREMERMAN
PHONE: 417-773-2695

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