Mind Over Sports

Archive for February 2013

It’s often said that some coaches are great motivators. In fact, after some NFL and College coaches retire they are able to earn a substantial amount of money traveling around the country speaking to large groups, presenting themselves as “motivational speakers.” But this is actually a hoax. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one can motivate another person. Inspire, yes. But true motivation can only come from within and I’ve found that the higher an individual’s feelings of self worth (or self-esteem) the greater his or her motivation. There’s no way a coach can motivate an athlete who is harboring ill feelings about himself or herself, and these “feelings” could be because of unresolved issues going on in the athlete’s personal life. Those retired coaches who are speaking to groups around the country should be identifying themselves as “Inspirational speakers” not “motivational speakers.” I’ve heard some great inspirational speakers. But the problem with inspirational speakers is it really doesn’t last long. Within 24 hours I am seldom able to remember what they said.

Do athletes make their coaches successful or do coaches make their athletes successful? Probably a little of each. As a Missouri University graduate I received my monthly copy of Mizzou Magazine today and found an interesting article about Chelsea Thomas who pitches for the Missouri University Women’s Softball Team. When Mizzou softball coach Ehren Earleywine received a rather grainy video from Chelsea’s father when she was a senior in high school, he really couldn’t tell that much about her so he decided to take his radar gun and visit Chelsea’s hometown of Pleasantville, Iowa, and see for himself. According to Mizzou Magazine: “During the pitching session the 18-year-old’s first three tosses registered 70, 71 and 68 mph before Earleywine politely excused himself to fix what had to be an equipment malfunction. A typical women’s college fastball zips in at 60 to 65 mph. ‘I’m banging this calibrator against a tree, which is what you’re supposed to do to get it to vibrate, then I went back and said: “Go ahead and cut loose,” Earleywine says. ‘The next pitch was 73 mph. I knew right then I had a chance to be a pretty good coach.”

Anyone who follows racing now knows: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is dating Danica Patrick. Last month, they revealed their relationship, not long after Patrick separated from her husband. More than likely they’ve had a relationship for quite some time which means that up until now she has been living a lie. This is very common among many pro athletes, especially in the NFL and NBA, and I’ve always maintained that any athlete who is having an extra-marital affair (assuming that was the case with Danica) will not perform anywhere near his or her skill level. Keeping a relationship hidden and away from the media can be detrimental to an athlete’s self-esteem and performance. But now that Patrick has left her husband and she and Stenhouse have gone public, their relationship has become a non-issue and we should see both of them winning races during the coming NASCAR season. And if they get married, and have a baby, their ability to win will be even greater. Athletes who are happy and whose lives are in harmony perform at a higher level than those whose lives are in disharmony.  According to an interview in the Boston Globe, Stenhouse said, “Well, we are happy and that is good, right? I feel like what I’ve learned in my career in racing is that any time you are happy off the racetrack, it tends to show up on the racetrack.  That is one good thing that we have going. We are both happy, we are focused on racing and having fun.’’

 

 

USA Today recently reported that Derrick Rose hasn’t played a game since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in April during the opener of the 2012 NBA playoffs, but I predict he’ll be back stronger and better than ever. I’ve made this prediction not only because of all the hard work he is putting into his rehabilitation but also because of an event that took place in his life last October 9th, 2012: The birth of his new son, Derrick Rose, Jr. “Everything stopped when he was born,” Rose said, “I try to spoil him as much as possible, not only with material stuff but just being around him with love and support – letting him I know that I will always be there.” When he returns to the game, Derrick will be happy and his life will definitely be in harmony. That’s why I believe he will perform at a level higher than ever before.

When Billy Gillispie was fired as head coach of the Texas Tech men’s basketball team, it came to light (according to a report in USA Today) that he demeaned his players and created a team environment that was so severe there was a belief that players’ mental health might have been in jeopardy. Interviews with players, academic counselors, coaches and athletic trainers revealed players were told daily they: suck, are terrible, aren’t smart, are morons, idiots, etc. If true, it’s obvious that Coach Gillispie doesn’t understand how expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. Players who are told they aren’t smart, and that they are morons and idiots will, before long, begin to exhibit that behavior. We often see this in dysfunctional families where parents treat their children in a similar manner, and then are surprised when their children get into trouble. The most successful coaches are those who create a loving, caring team environment.

Children can be involved in too many sports teams and activities, such as football, basketball, baseball and soccer, without any free time for themselves.
Research has shown that children who lead structured lives, that is, going from practice to practice to practice to practice, without “down time” for themselves, are deprived of the opportunity to develop their creative talents. I’m a big believer in sports participation, but like anything else, it should be in moderation. Children need to have time alone; they need to be left to their own devices so they can experience different challenges in their own personal lives and come up with their own creative solutions. The more free time they have for themselves, the more they will be able to experience innovative ways of doing things. And by the way, I wouldn’t only apply this to sports, but also to excessively playing computer games and watching television.

It’s difficult for an athlete to maintain focus when being bombarded by the press, especially if you’re a world class downhill skier. Regardless of whether the rumors are true, I believe it’s quite possible all the media attention Lindsey Vonn was receiving could have caused her to lose focus. Her sport requires grit and daring qualities, and I feel certain Tiger Woods finds her appealing since he himself has taken limited training with the Navy Seals. If the rumors are true, Lindsey will have the next twelve months while recuperating for the Winter Olympics to determine if she wants to have a relationship with Tiger. But one thing is certain: A relationship with Lindsey will definitely help Tiger’s golf game.


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