Mind Over Sports

Archive for November 2015

When Dallas Cowboy Greg Hardy battered and bruised his former girlfriend, Nicole Holder, it brought to mind a little known fact that most sports pundits are unaware of. That is, how some young men like Hardy (and notice I said “some”) are reared in a cultural environment that encourages them to withhold their feelings because it’s not considered macho. It’s not considered macho to cry, for example. The result is they have been programmed since early childhood to keep everything inside themselves and it often explodes in public in the form of misdirected anger, which, as young adults, they often direct toward members of the opposite sex. When you combine this cultural characteristic with the fact that many of them, since their high school years, have lived a life of entitlement and are treated special, you are creating a potentially explosive situation. Coaches often look the other way or are always there to bail them out of a problem because of their massive amount of talent and ability. But when they come face to face with reality, it can have a devastating effect on their lives and the lives of others.

We’ve all had that image of the little old lady sitting on her front porch in a rocking chair, holding her bible, often described as being cantankerous. That is, difficult to deal with and speaks her mind. But the fact is, these are characteristics of someone with high self-esteem. They don’t keep their feelings bottled-up. They generally have strong religious beliefs. And it’s not uncommon for them to live into their 90’s.

And you often find these same characteristics in successful athletes.

And how does it all start? There is no doubt that genetics has considerable influence, but the one common denominator is that at some time in their lives, often when they were small children, they received unconditional love resulting in their having a high sense of inner-self, or self-esteem.

Very often this love came from one or both parents. But if their parents were not there for them, it was often the love of a grandparent. Sometimes even a professor or a coach. Being loved as a small child lays the foundation for a successful and happy life, because children who are loved grow up to love themselves.

And if you’re a coach recruiting an athlete, how can you tell in advance that the athlete will be successful? Just check his or her eye contact. Good eye contact means high self-esteem. Poor eye contact, low self-esteem. And those with low self-esteem are generally bottling-up their feelings and emotions, which makes them prone to mental errors during competition.

I know this may sound ridiculous, but during the fourth game of the World Series, when the Royals were behind, my cat, Apple, jumped up on the sofa and curled up next to me. I began petting her and stroking her tail and before you could say “Holy Cow!” Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy made an error on Eric Hosmer’s grounder in the eighth inning that keyed a Royals comeback and a win. Then last night, the score was tied as game five headed into extra innings. I looked around and sure enough there was Apple, again curled up next to me. And again I began petting her and stroking her tail and then all of a sudden, well, you know what happened. Christian Colon singled home the tie-breaking run in the 12th and the Royals rallied one more time to beat the Mets. And win the World Series. So I’m thinking maybe next time I visit my daughter in Kansas City I’ll take Apple with me and visit the Royals’ executive offices to find out if they’d like to hire her for next season.

There’s no way to know for sure, but it seems odd to me that someone with Yoenis Cespedes’ talent should perform so poorly in the World Series. He got caught off first base on a double play ball to end Game 4. He batted poorly, and accidentally kicked the ball twice in the outfield. Not to mention hitting himself in his kneecap with his final at bat. One has to wonder if he is having problems with his girlfriend (who is also the mother of his young son) both of whom, as far as I know, still live in Cuba. But if my Psycho Self-Imagery theory is correct, that we create what happens to us, both good and bad, based on our own feelings of self-worth, then perhaps what happened to Cespedes was no accident. But I guess we’ll never know.


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