Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Joe Gibbs

When Jamaal Charles fumbled twice last night during the Chiefs-Broncos game, it was as much the coaching staff’s fault (and the front office’s fault) as it was Jamaal’s.

Here’s why: Jamaal is a professional athlete but even professional athletes are human beings first, and then athletic performers. They have problems just like the rest of us mortals. And I’m not talking about deep-seated psychological problems. I’m referring to problems they might be having with their wives, or girlfriends, or financial problems, problems with a coach, or problems with a teammate. If they keep their problems bottled up, if they withhold them and don’t tell anyone about what’s bothering them, it will negatively affect their game during competition. They will not be focused and are more susceptible to fumbles, dropped passes, and missed tackles.

Former NFL coach Joe Gibbs realized this late in his career when he was negotiating an athlete’s contract and figured out the athlete, even though he was making millions of dollars a year, was having financial problems. Former NFL running back Eddie George, when Tiger Woods’ issues became public, stated: “Ninety percent of all NFL athletes are having extra-marital affairs.” If true, why doesn’t the coaching staff and front office do something about it?

Much has been written about the importance of the turnover/takeaway ratio in the NFL. Few however are able explain the reasons turnovers happen.

Some say it’s because the opposing team has focused their defensive efforts on the practice of ripping the ball out of the runner’s hands, or other reasons.

While there may be some truth to these theories, my experience working with athletes and players has made it clear that when athletes are carrying around unresolved issues in their lives, they are more prone to making mistakes. When they are withholding their feelings, when they have misdirected anger at their teammates or coaches, or when they’ve had an argument with their wives or girlfriends (or both) they are prone to fumbling the ball, or dropping a pass that hits them in the numbers, or jumping off sides, or, if the player is a quarterback, throwing multiple interceptions in a game.

The reason is simple: They are not focused.

And it all starts with the coaches and assistant coaches (and the front office) and how they interact with their players, how they listen to their players issues and personal problems, and the type of feedback program they have created internally that allows players to air their grievances (both personal and team related) without being punished.

It’s no coincidence that the NFL teams with the best turnover/takeaway ratio are successful, while those with the worst are not.

Let’s face it. Athletes are human just like the rest of us mortal beings. They have issues in their personal lives that can affect their performance. Especially if they are withholding; that is, keeping their feelings and emotions about those issues bottled up inside themselves. Withholding is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem, creating psychological baggage that affects their ability to focus and process information. Right after the Tiger Woods debacle, former NFL running back Eddie George was asked what percentage of NFL players he thought were having extra-marital affairs. His response: 90%. If this is true, then that means 90% of all NFL players are not performing up to their skill levels and are prone to making mental errors during competition, such as dropped passes, missed tackles, thrown interceptions, fumbles and excessive penalties.

Another major issue for NFL players involves their finances. In the June 27, 2011 issue of USA Today, ex-NFL coach Joe Gibbs said he witnessed the following scene too many times: “A player would be upset with his contract (and) we’d be in serious discussions…and during the conversation it dawns on you, ‘Are you in financial trouble?’ That happens over and over again…it plays out a lot.” Gibbs also said: “I definitely feel like anybody that’s worried about their finances, it’ll affect every part of your life…Certainly your career and your focus…it’s an awful feeling to have a financial mess. It carries over to every part of your life.”

Athletes also have girlfriend and boyfriend problems. Having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex can be positive or negative, depending on that relationship. Other issues may involve members of their family, a teammate or even a coach.

Let’s face it. NFL players are human just like the rest of us mortal beings. They have issues in their personal lives and issues at work that can affect their performance on the job. Especially if they are withholding; that is, keeping their feelings and emotions about those issues bottled up inside themselves. Withholding is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem, creating psychological baggage that affects their ability to focus and process information. Right after the Tiger Woods debacle, former NFL running back Eddie George was asked what percentage of NFL players he thought were having extra-marital affairs. His response: 90%. If this is true, then that means 90% of all NFL players are not performing up to their skill levels and are prone to making mental errors during competition, such as dropped passes, missed tackles, thrown interceptions, fumbles and excessive penalties.

Another major issue for NFL players involves their finances. In the June 27, 2011 issue of USA Today, ex-NFL coach Joe Gibbs said he witnessed the following scene too many times: “A player would be upset with his contract (and) we’d be in serious discussions…and during the conversation it dawns on you, ‘Are you in financial trouble?’ That happens over and over again…it plays out a lot.” Gibbs also said: “I definitely feel like anybody that’s worried about their finances, it’ll affect every part of your life…Certainly your career and your focus…it’s an awful feeling to have a financial mess. It carries over to every part of your life.”

NFL players also have girlfriend problems. Having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex can be positive or negative, depending on that relationship. Other issues may involve members of their family, a teammate or even a coach.

In the June 27, 2011 issue of USA Today, ex-NFL coach Joe Gibbs said he witnessed the following scene too many times: “A player would be upset with his contract (and) we’d be in serious discussions…and during the conversation it dawns on you, ‘Are you in financial trouble?’ That happens over and over again…it plays out a lot.” Gibbs also said: “I definitely feel like anybody that’s worried about their finances, it’ll affect every part of your life…Certainly your career and your focus…it’s an awful feeling to have a financial mess. It carries over to every part of your life.”

Including, how you perform on the field. For those of you who are familiar with my column, you know that I’ve always maintained that what takes place off the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition. I’ve used many examples in the past and a physician friend of mine, who is quite knowledgeable about the field of medicine, said: “Yes, Marvin, but it’s strictly anecdotal.” And he’s right. There really isn’t any research to back up my theory that I’ve been espousing for the past 25 years.

A good example is George Brett. Few people realize that George had a secret weapon when he came to bat. His brother, Bobby, handled all his finances and made sure that the money was put away for safe keeping. Today, they are both millionaires and own a couple of baseball franchises in the northwest part of the country.

And so, you have to ask: If a financial mess can negatively affect an athlete’s performance, what about a divorce, or an extra-marital affair, or drugs. There’s no question that Casey Stengel was right when he said: “Most ball games are lost, not won.”


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