Mind Over Sports

Archive for October 2014

We all remember that famous story about Coach Knute Rockne and the speech he made to his Notre Dame football players at half-time which many refer to today as “Remember the Gipper,” Well I think history may have repeated itself last night during the San Francisco Giants – Kansas City Royals game. According to the Associated Press report: “Pitching with the initials of late St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras on his cap, 23-year old rookie Yordano Ventura allowed three hits over seven innings for his first Series win.” The Royals’ Ventura and Taveras were good friends.  They grew up together in the Dominican Republic and Ventura had dedicated the game to his memory. I call this “Excelling for a Higher Order.” It’s when athletes acknowledge emotional issues in their lives they want to excel for. By doing so, they enhance their own feelings of self-worth and thereby enhance their performance.

If you’re a baseball manager or coach, you have at your disposal one of the most powerful performance enhancement mechanisms that any manager or coach could wish for. That is, the expectation of high performance from your athletes. 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 prophecy. However, the opposite is also true. You as a manager or coach can also create a negative expectation. Such as that created by San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy before World Series Game Six that he was “keeping (starting pitcher) Jake Peavy on a short leash.” And sure enough, his expectation fulfilled itself when Peavy was pulled from the game before the end of the second inning.

If a baseball pitcher is having a difficult time on the mound and looks over at the bullpen and sees another pitcher warming up, is that a sign that the manager is expecting him to fail. And if so, would it not be better if a partition were set up between the pitching mound and the bullpen so the pitcher can’t tell if his manager has confidence in him or not. A manager’s expectation often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The following appeared on the Internet today regarding Game #2 of the 2014 World Series:

“A two-run double by Kansas City’s Salvador Perez followed by a two-run homer from Omar Infante off Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland in the sixth had the intense rookie hurler yelling at Perez as players from both teams walked out of the dugout, poised in case a confrontation broke out.

“I think it was just frustration on his part,’ Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ‘He’s an intense kid and it got away from him a little bit. He’s a competitor. That’s one area where he’s going to have to learn to keep his poise. It’s an area he has to work on.”

Managers and head coaches often make excuses for the public behavior of one of their players but few are privy to what’s actually going on in an athlete’s personal life. This could be a classic example of misdirected anger brought on by his not confronting a problem away from the baseball diamond. If true, and had Strickland received help prior to game time, who knows? The Giants might have won Game #2.

The following recently appeared on the Internet: “It’s a breakout season, yet it still feels like the 28-year-old has another gear we haven’t quite seen yet. Still, it’s fun to watch a player grow up and begin playing near his potential on the field. It’s also cool to watch them grow up and become men off the field. In that vein, Cain and wife Jenny recently welcomed a baby boy, Cameron Cain, to the world.”

As I’ve always maintained, when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony their performance level will rise dramatically. And Kansas City Royals’ Lorenzo Cain is a perfect example. When Lorenzo’s new son recently arrived on the scene, his performance level began to skyrocket. The Kansas City Star quoted one of his teammates: “And now he’s a new dad, so he’s got more of a purpose now. That’s what kids do to you, they just drive you up to become a better man.”


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