Mind Over Sports

Archive for May 2016

I’ve met Mike Singletary and he is a really excellent person of high moral character…and is also a loving husband and loving father. But if he’s selected to take over the Baylor football team to replace Coach Art Briles, he must learn from the past. And that is, make certain his players are not afraid of him. In my opinion, that is what happened when Mike was head coach of the 49ers. When a player is afraid of the possible wrath of his head coach, he’ll lack focus and will be constantly worried that he might make an error. And it’s this very lack of focusing that causes turnovers and mental errors during competition. But here’s the good news. Mike genuinely cares about his players but for some reason that didn’t come across when he was the 49er’s head coach. When players know their head coach loves them and cares about them they’ll play their hearts out for him. So that would be Mike’s primary mission. To make certain his players know he loves them. And to keep his anger under control.

There’s no question about it. LeBron James is in charge of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s true, Tyronn Lue is the titular head coach, but LeBron is in charge. When he wanted former head coach David Blatt fired, David Blatt was fired. Even though the Cavs had a winning record at the time. Fast forward to the current playoffs. LeBron doesn’t believe the Cavs should rely on the 3-point shot. J. R. Smith, one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA, disagrees. So the question is, does J. R. resent LeBron calling the shots even though Lue is head coach. All you have to do is look at his performance when the Cavs lost games 3 and 4 and he went 10-for-28. That’s how it works. When an NBA athlete is teed off at a teammate and doesn’t say anything, it affects his focus. In counseling circles, it’s called “baggage.” But it’s possible that J. R. and LeBron have since made up and resolved the issue, and LeBron has given J. R. permission to shoot away. And if yes, it will show up, not only in J. R.’s performance but will have a positive effect on the entire team’s performance.

As of today, May 14th, 2016, The Kansas City Royals are struggling, off to a 16-18 start and 6 ½ games behind the American League Central-leading Chicago White Sox. And in a USA TODAY interview with Royals’ manager Ned Yost he mentioned factors that affect “how he motivates his team.” But can he really motivate his team? I don’t think so. Inspire, yes. But true motivation must come from within. And over the years I’ve found the better an athlete feels about himself or herself (and I’m referring to their self-esteem) the greater their motivation. Take the case of Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who defected from Cuba in 2004. Today he’s batting .194 while he should be batting much higher. Could the problem be he’s not motivated? Possibly. And his lack of motivation could be related to his 6-year old daughter, Andrea, who he left behind in Cuba. Now this is only speculation on my part since I’m not privy to inside information, but if Andrea is having personal problems in her life, and he’s not there in Cuba to help her, and he doesn’t discuss it with anyone but rather keeps it bottled up inside himself, that’s a form of lying. And lying demeans him and lowers his self-esteem creating psychological baggage that negatively affects his ability to focus. If what I’ve written is true, and Morales is experiencing some form of depression, manager Yost should not be trying to motivate him but rather get him help by obtaining therapeutic counseling to address his depression. Once Morales begins talking about his problem or problems, whatever they might be, and becomes less depressed, the result will be an immediate increase in his performance on the field.

When Yeonis Cespedes defected from Cuba in 2011, he left behind his two-year old son and the mother of his son. On February 13, 2012, he signed a 4-year $36 million contract with the Oakland Athletics, but I predicted at the time that unless Oakland figures out a way to either bring his son and his son’s mother to America, or to assure Cespedes that his son would be safe in Cuba, he wouldn’t perform up to his skill level. Think about it. How hard would it be to hit a 90-mile-an-hour fastball if your mind is somewhere else…such as Cuba? Oakland never brought his son to America, and in 2014 he was traded to Boston and then traded to Detroit. But on July 31, 2015, Cespedes was acquired by the Mets. Today, his six-year old son, Yeonis, Jr., is still in Cuba, and though Cespedes hasn’t seen him in four years, he knows that, because of Obama improving relations with Cuba, that his son is safe. And that has resulted, as of today, in his leading the National League in Runs Batted In (30). Just another example of: What takes place away from the baseball diamond affects what takes place on the baseball diamond. When the time finally comes and his son arrives in America and is reunited with his father, watch for Cespedes’ numbers to climb even higher. In almost every category.

Tyreek Hill was fortunate that Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is a compassionate man who, himself, has been through some rough times with his own children. That compassion triggered his decision to give Hill a second chance. There are some pundits who believe that Reid is taking a huge risk, but he’s not. And here’s why: Not only has Tyreek Hill admitted the errors of his ways, and has promised that he’s going to come back as a “better man, be a better citizen.” Tyreek is also receiving: Counseling. That’s right, counseling. Now there are some who will look at that and say “so what?” – but history has proven that when athletes receive counseling, and are encouraged to confront their demons that they may have been carrying around since childhood, those athletes will elevate their performance to a new level. This is a result of their enhancing their feelings of self worth and also becoming more focused. Watch for Hill to not only be good at his job, but I predict, because of his counseling, he will be even better than before.


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