Mind Over Sports

HOW EXPECTATIONS BECOME SELF-FULFILLING PROPHESIES. DEVIN HESTER: A MODERN DAY JIM THORPE!

Posted on: August 12, 2011

If you’re a coach, you have at your disposal one of the most powerful performance enhancement mechanisms that any coach could wish for. That is, the expectation of high performance from one or more of your athletes. Because an expectation (assuming the athlete has the skill level to elevate his or her performance to a higher level) will almost always become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Case in point: When former Detroit Lions head coach, Rod Marinelli, joined the Chicago Bears in January 2009, he presented his former NFC North tormentor, Devin Hester, a DVD tribute. According to the August 12th, 2011 issue of USA TODAY, “I gave Devin the movie ‘Jim Thorpe’ to show him the tradition, history, a guy Devin can identify with,” Marinelli said. “Devin’s a great athlete, just like Jim Thorpe.” Hester was intrigued. “Coach Marinelli handed me the movie and said ‘You’re the modern-day Jim Thorpe,’” Hester said. Hester wasn’t familiar with Thorpe’s legendary athleticism as a Football Hall of Famer and 1912 Olympic pentathlon-decathlon gold medalist. “I learned how great Jim Thorpe was at everything,” he said. And Devin’s performance on the field has reflected the expectation made of him by Coach Marinelli. Will Devin make it to the NFL Football Hall of Fame? Coach Lovie Smith says he’ll get there if he continues channeling his inner Thorpe. “There will be a place for the greatest returner of all time in the Hall of Fame one day,” he said. How’s that for a powerful positive expectation!

But keep in mind, while a positive expectation will produce a positive result (like a placebo), a negative expectation will produce a negative result (often referred to as a nocebo.)

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