Mind Over Sports

Archive for May 2019

A number of years ago I received a letter from an upset mother who wanted me to meet with her daughter’s high school soccer team. It seems her daughter didn’t get along with her teammates and her mother wanted me to straighten out the situation by meeting with her teammates and getting them to change. After evaluating the situation, it was obvious that it was the daughter who needed changing. And I recommended her daughter meet with a professional therapist. She had what I would identify as low self-esteem and was seeing everything and everyone around her from a negative perspective. That’s when I applied a phrase I had once read that “We see things as we are. Not as they are, but as we are.” Athletes who feel bad about themselves generally will interact negatively with their teammates and have a disrupting influence on team chemistry. When I pointed this out to her mother as gently as possible, she didn’t agree. I never heard from her again.

What reminded me of this episode was the other day when I was lying on my back in a lounge chair in my backyard enjoying the sun and clouds above. As the clouds passed slowly overhead I saw, in them, a duck’s head with its mouth slightly open, a huge white whale, a fox with a big smile on its face, a man running straight up to the sky away from earth, and an opossum sniffing something floating by the end of its nose. It was much like taking a Rorschach Test, the famous test created by Swiss Psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach. Had he been present he probably would have told me that he was happy I didn’t see a knife with blood dripping from it or a dead corpse floating with a sheet over it or other ghastly images. And then it dawned on me: I was seeing my own thoughts in those clouds. And I said to myself: “God, that Rorschach was one smart guy.”

But was he? Or did he steal the idea from someone else? Like Rabbi Shmuel ben Nachmani in the Talmud. Rabbi Nachmani was born in Babylonia and lived during the last years of the third century. It was the good rabbi who came up with the observation that “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

If you’re a coach, and you have a player who is negative in his (or her) thinking, then you can help that player by providing him (or her) with a forum to unload any thoughts and feelings he (or she) may be having that are affecting his (or her) relationship with teammates. In other words, create a support group environment so that your team can share their problems and issues with each other in confidence. The result will be strong team bonding and enhanced team chemistry.


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Mind Over Sports
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