Mind Over Sports

Archive for September 2013

These are the coaches who have great empathy for their players and interact with them in ways that help their players deal with their own personal problems and issues. Good examples are Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid who faced a personal tragedy in 2012 when his 29-year old son was found dead in his room at the Philadelphia Eagles training camp; New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin whose 63-year old brother, John, who he was very close to, died after a freak accident in which he tripped getting out of a cab and hit his head on the ground; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle who overcame his bout with alcoholism. All three of these coaches have been highly successful and all three are known to show great empathy for their athletes’ personal problems and issues, on and off the field of competition. When athletes know their coaches care about them as human beings first and then as athletic performers, they will play their hearts out for them.

If I had been a sports reporter attending the post game press conference with New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin last Monday night I would have raised my hand and asked:

Me: “Coach, do you believe it’s true that what takes place away from the football field affects what takes place on the football field?”
Coach: “Well, yes, I believe that.”
Me: “Then why aren’t you talking about the possibility that Dave Wilson may have fumbled twice during your Monday Night Football game because he has some personal issues that are affecting his ability to focus?”
Coach: “Well, I, er..ah…you make a good point.”

Most NFL head coaches and team owners don’t like to hear that type of talk since many of them believe that if you pay an athlete what Dave Wilson is being paid that he darn well ought to be able to hold onto the football and not fumble it. But NFL football players are human beings first and then athletic performers. And they, just like us other mortal beings, often encounter personal problems and issues in their lives that must be dealt with. If not, their issues and problems can negatively affect performance. These could be issues with girlfriends, wives, teammates, coaches, and even financial. But if they keep them bottled-up it’s going to show up in fumbles, dropped passes, missed blocks, missed tackles, and if you’re a quarterback, throwing interceptions.

That’s why coaches should put into place programs that become vehicles for teams to become support groups (offensive, defensive, special teams) allowing players to share their personal issues with their teammates in a controlled environment. This not only enhances the players’ ability to focus and perform at a higher level, but also has a positive effect on team chemistry and team bonding.


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