Mind Over Sports

I was pretty disappointed in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Play Calling against Green Bay this past week when they decided to punt on fourth-and-3, down 31-24, with 5:13 to play in the fourth quarter. It’s true they had Matt Moore at quarterback instead of MVP Patrick Mahomes, but that’s no reason not to go for it. I mean, we’re only talking about three yards. It was pretty obvious to most tv viewers such as myself that if the Chiefs punted there was a strong possibility they would not see the ball again on offense. And that’s exactly what happened. If there was ever a time to take a risk, that was it. And had the Chiefs decided to go for it, who knows? They might have won the game.

But what was even more disconcerting is why head coach Andy Reid, who handles the play-calling and normally is not adverse to taking risks, would back off of this one. It’s possible (and this is only an assumption on my part) that Andy is having some kind of problem in his personal life and the problem is showing up in his play-calling.

Myth #1: Some Coaches are Great Motivators.

Contrary to most beliefs, you really can’t motivate another person. Inspire, yes. But true motivation must come from within and over the past 30 years I’ve found that the higher a person’s feelings of self-worth (self-esteem) the more motivated he or she will become. If I were speaking to a group of people in a room and my job was to motivate them, the first thing I would do would be to organize them into a support group so they could talk about personal issues they may be keeping bottled inside themselves and as they talk about their issues and vent their feelings, they’ll start to feel better about themselves and will automatically become more motivated. The most successful coaches are those who provide an internal mechanism for players to communicate with their teammates and discuss their issues together. And once they do, their performance levels will increase.

Which brings me to a discussion of a book entitled: “The Motivational Breakthrough: 6 Secrets for Turning On the Tuned-Out Child.” But unfortunately, I couldn’t disagree with the author more. He maintains that if you want to motivate children in school, you need to use the six P’s: Praise, Power, Projects, People, Prizes and Prestige. From my perspective, if you want to motivate children in school, especially those who are highly unmotivated, you need to do what I’ve described above as applied to sports teams. That is, put them into support groups and allow them to talk about issues in their personal lives and what is going on at home. Once they open up and discuss their feelings and emotions in a support group setting with their peers, they will enhance their own feelings of self-worth and will automatically become more motivated. There’s a correlation between High Self-Esteem and High Motivation and Low Self-Esteem and Low Motivation. You have to work from the inside out, not the outside in. And the same goes for so-called “Motivational Speakers” who I believe are a hoax. They should be called “Inspirational Speakers.”

Myth #2: The More We Believe We’re Part of a Team the More Successful We’ll Become.

I call this “The Myth of the Team,” and here’s how it works: The more we believe we’re part of a team, the less productive we become. I want to repeat that because it’s so important. The more we believe we’re part of a team, the less productive we become. The general belief is that the opposite is true – but it’s not. You see it very clearly on a team where one player is superior to others. The players who perceive themselves as less superior allow the more talented player to take over and lead the group. In the case of a basketball team, they allow the one player to rebound, to shoot, and to, in effect, be the team. As a result, their individual performances are inhibited. To counteract this, I always encourage coaches to take each player into their office and privately tell that player what he – the coach – expects of him or her in the coming game. Twenty points, ten rebounds, and so on. This sends a message to each player that he or she is perceived as an “individual” and has goals to achieve as an individual, rather than letting someone else take over his or her function. It also establishes expectations.

Myth #3: Positive Affirmations Always Work.

I once read a book that espoused a theory concerning positive affirmations. This particular book, written by a sport psychologist, maintained that if you say the phrase over and over again “I am a courageous, risk-taking warrior” that you can overcome your fear of taking a risk. This may work fine with people who have high self-esteem, but for those with a low sense of self-worth you’re speaking on deaf ears because risk-takers they are not. There is no affirmation in the world yet devised that can get them to take a risk, until they deal with whatever issues they have in their lives that are affecting how they feel about themselves. Then, the higher their self-esteem, the more likely they are to risk.

Athletes who want to begin feeling good about themselves must identify and begin resolving important issues in their lives before the results of being happy will surface. Relying on positive affirmations is like wagging the tail of a dog and expecting the dog to be happy. The dog must be happy first, and then its tail will wag…automatically.

Myth #4: Visualization Always Works.

I’m a strong believer in the theory that what takes place away from the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition. When athletes are encumbered with psychological baggage (issues and problems) visualization and other mental techniques will be ineffective. As a Performance Enhancement Trainer/Consultant I’m able to help athletes with their persona problems and issues and can also teach them visualization techniques. And I’ve found that when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony, what they visualize will actually be created during competition.

Marvin Fremerman is a sport psychology consultant who lives in Springfield, Missouri. He works with athletes and sports teams and may be contacted at marv.fremerman2@gmail.com or 417-773-2695.

In the world of business, a focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. The first focus groups were created by psychologist and marketing expert Ernest Dichter.

But focus groups can also be an effective tool as a first phase when working with sports teams, providing team members with an opportunity to express opinions. The second phase is when the team transitions into becoming a support group and teammates begin to share their personal issues and problems with each other. But it’s important to remember that these groups are successful only after participants know that their comments and observations will be kept in strict confidence and will not leave the room. Also, they are only successful as long as there is no authority figure in attendance, someone who can bench them or cut them from the team for being honest. That’s why the services of an outside facilitator are so important. If there is someone in the room who they believe might punish them for being honest, it diminishes and completely eliminates honest interaction among teammates. But when support groups are effective, teammates will begin to feel better about themselves resulting in their enhanced performance.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ phenom quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been dating his high school sweetheart, Brittany Matthews, for seven years, at the time of this writing. And I know this might sound strange, but much of his success can be attributed to his relationship with her since it’s a known fact that when male athletes have a significant other in their lives, and their lives are happy and in harmony, they perform at a higher level than they might otherwise. But if that relationship goes sour, then you can look for the male athlete’s performance level to drop considerably.

So with this background in mind, let’s look into a crystal ball and try to predict what might be ahead for them in their lives. And I hope this doesn’t happen, but it does very often happen in the lives of so many famous male athletes.

Let’s assume that Patrick and Brittany decide to tie the knot and get married. At first, it will have a powerful positive affect on Patrick’s game. Then, let’s assume they decide to have a family and suddenly they find themselves the parents of two small children, a boy and a girl, and everything is wonderful until…the “mommy-daddy syndrome” sets in and creates a problem in the marriage. What is the “mommy-daddy syndrome?” It’s when a married couple has small children and suddenly one day she begins to see her husband as her “daddy” and he begins to see his wife as his “mommy” – and as everyone knows, you don’t have wickedly sexual activities with your mommy or daddy, and suddenly the relationship begins to lose its luster. And before long, the male is looking outside the marriage for a young sexy partner with whom he can have sex without feeling as if he’s having sex with his mother. And soon after, the marriage ends in divorce.

As I stated before, I hope this doesn’t happen with Patrick and Brittany, but it’s very often the situation and is one of the primary reasons there are so many divorces in the country.

I’m just watching the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game on television and it is definitely booooring. And I’m a big fan of St. Louis AND Pittsburgh. No wonder young people today are losing interest in major league baseball and turning to other sports such as basketball and football. The folks who run MLB need to do something to stimulate interest. Especially something that will generate interest among young viewers. Part of the problem is the announcers, who seem obligated to fill air time with baseball trivia and mind-dumbing statistics. I grew up listening to Harry Carey broadcasting Cardinal games, especially when I was in college and Harry knew how to excite a radio audience and keep them interested. One idea I’ve had to create more excitement for young audiences is to make a live baseball game similar to a computer game with live participation by young people in the stands who match wits with the managers on their Iphones. I’ve run it by a couple of teams and they don’t seem to get it. Too bad. It could become a great stimulant to audience interest and attendance. Maybe I’m just ahead of my time and twenty years from now they’ll be doing it. But for now. Nada.

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.

Frank Robinson’s passing reminded me of a time back in 1988 when he was in Kansas City and manager of Baltimore. His team was 0-20 and about to play the Royals. As a sport psychology consultant I called him and asked for a meeting. He agreed and when I walked into the room at Royals stadium where he was flanked by two of his assistant coaches, I explained my program to him and everything went well until I mentioned a part of the program where players were to hug each other and when I made that statement he held up his hand and said “Hold it. This meeting is over.” “Why?” I asked. And he replied “There’s no way in hell you’re gonna get Major League Baseball players to hug each other.” On my way home I thought about what I should have said: “Hey, what about Tommy Lasorda? He hugged everybody.” 😊 Soon after they won their first game of the season.

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

Learn how to visualize, resulting in increased performance.

CONTACT MARV FREMERMAN
PHONE: 417-773-2695

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