Mind Over Sports

Archive for December 2012

A good example might be an NCAA Division I mens basketball team. Let’s assume their head coach is having marital problems at home and is taking it out on his team. He’s short-tempered and treats his team badly. He’s not open to suggestions and has created a negative team environment. Team members would like to tell him how they feel but fear they might be benched or worse yet, cut from the team and lose their scholarships. And it is this “withholding” that affects their performance. “Withholding” is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem, creating psychological baggage that negatively affects their performance. That’s why I’m a strong advocate of team support groups, allowing team members to meet without any coaches present. As the team discusses their feelings and emotions in a protected team environment, they begin to feel better about themselves and their performance levels will increase. And the results of these meetings will show up in the team’s won/lost column. Athletic Directors who are responsible for selecting head coaches generally are hesitant to criticize them (since they were responsible for hiring them in the first place) and often stand by and wont take action unless pressured to do so by fan and media criticism.

When the NY Giants meet the Baltimore Ravens today I predict that WR Victor Cruz will have his best game of the season, and the reason for this prediction is based on his highly emotional visit with the family of Jack Pinto, a six-year-old slain in the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, who was also one of Victor’s biggest fans. According to USA Today, Cruz visited their home and spent an hour consoling the family and handing out autographed Giants memorabilia. When Cruz was asked about the visit and the family’s decision to bury their child in his jersey, his eyes grew misty. “You never go through circumstance like this. This was definitely the toughest by far.” His visit with the Pinto family and his memory of six-year-old Jack will be with him when he plays today, and probably for the rest of his life. I often refer to this as “excelling for a higher order” and this is an excellent example.

If you’re a coach, you should be very cautious when making statements to the media that your players will be reading and hearing. Many coaches believe they are just being honest, without realizing they could be creating negative expectations for their athletes. And negative expectations often become self-fulfilling prophecies. Here are just a few examples: “We’re not going to be a team that outscores people. We have to have better possessions and probe a little bit more. Don’t take quick 3s.” “We’re a young team and I don’t expect us to do well.” “We’re in a re-building year so it’s going to take a while for us to reach our potential and I doubt it will happen this year.” If a team is not expected to do well, they won’t. Same goes for coaches who run onto a basketball court yelling and screaming at the referees. These coaches generally don’t feel very good about themselves not realizing that by verbally attacking the referees they are providing their teams with a justification for losing. The best coaches are those who have a high sense of inner-self and allow their players to use their God-given talents without trying to micromanage their players.

For the past 26 years I’ve been advocating that athletic teams become support groups, allowing athletes to share their personal issues with each other in a support group environment. This allows them to discuss and diffuse problems they might be experiencing in their personal lives. The result is they become healthier psychologically and develop enhanced feelings of self-worth (self-esteem) which also enhances their performance in their sport. Unfortunately, many coaches (especially in the NFL) believe this is “sissy stuff” and refuse to set up these types of group sessions. And some owners are under the misconception that if you pay a player enough money he will perform, without even considering what might be going on in his personal life. I believe that if the Kansas City Chiefs had had a support group program in effect, there’s a good possibility Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins might still be alive.


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