Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘New England Patriots

The worst example of play-calling for the Falcons came after Quarterback Matt Ryan had moved his team deep into Patriots territory. According to a report on the Internet, “Atlanta was already in field-goal position at the Patriots’ 23-yard line. An 11-point Falcons lead might have been insurmountable for New England, with fewer than four minutes left to play.”  But Atlanta’s offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan chose to pass instead of running the ball and “Ryan was sacked for a loss of 12 yards. Still, the Falcons were looking at a long but still makable field goal of about 53 yards. Shanahan opted for another pass, and on the play, a tackle, Jake Matthews, was penalized for holding. Pushed out of field-goal range entirely, the Falcons were forced to punt. On their next drive, the Patriots tied the game with another touchdown and a second 2-point conversion.” One has to wonder if the 49er’s are making a good choice when hiring Kyle Shanahan as their head coach.

I just finished reading an interesting article by sportswriter Patrick Hruby in which he makes an excellent case against the NFL applying the fairly new field of Brain Injury Science, saying that “football hits pull the brain like silly putty, stretching and shearing nerve cells.”  He points out that currently more than 3,500 former players and surviving family members are suing the NFL, essentially attempting to hold the league liable.  Some players have committed suicide and the clinical symptoms of CTE are: “Impulsivity.  Disinhibition.  Volatility.  Problems with depression and emotional control.”  I’m not saying the NFL is at fault, especially since some research shows that athletes are most susceptible to brain injury while playing high school football.  Mr. Hruby points out that “Boys and young men – whose brains are still developing – are more vulnerable to football-induced head trauma.”  So it’s possible that many injuries may have been present in some of the NFL players long before they became professionals.  Or even before they entered college.  I’m bringing all of this up since it’s also possible (and I’m only saying “possible”) that Aaron Hernandez may be suffering from CTE and not even realize it.  Certainly it’s something to think about.

 

It’s no small wonder that more professional athletes, like Aaron Hernandez, aren’t getting into trouble when you consider their background. For most of them, it all starts when they’re about 8 years old and show exceptional talent in their sport. They are fawned over by parents and fans and as they get older, coaches and others are quick to cover for them. Before long, they begin to develop a sense of entitlement and begin to believe they can do no wrong, seldom being held responsible for their actions. And many of them have anger issues, which when combined with a sense of entitlement, can be explosive and dangerous. As was the case with Hernandez. Some come from loving, nurturing home environments and they are the athletes who seldom get into trouble because of how they feel about themselves. But there are many who need help, and help could be made available to them if general managers and team owners weren’t so locked into their beliefs regarding the creation of internal support groups. Many GMs and front office executives consider support groups “sissy stuff” and believe if you pay an athlete enough money he (or she) should be able to take care of their own problems. One-on-one counseling isn’t the answer because there’s such a stigma attached to a player seeing a “team schrink.” But when team members share their personal problems and issues with their buddies, in a controlled environment, amazing things take place, including good team chemistry and team bonding…something money can’t buy.

One of the most important characteristics of people with a high sense of self-worth is that they speak their mind and don’t keep their feelings and emotions bottled up inside themselves. Such was the case when Tom Brady’s wife, Super Model Gisele Bundchen blasted Tom’s New England Patriots teammates right after the Super Bowl ended by saying (after being teased by a nearby fan who told her “Eli owns your husband,”) “My husband cannot (expletive) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.” There were four passes dropped near the end of the game, one of the most important by Wes Welker who apologized to the media after the game that he dropped a pass he should have caught. (Another characteristic of high self esteem: taking responsibility for your actions and not blaming other people.) Tom Brady is lucky to have a wife who speaks her mind and doesn’t withhold her feelings and emotions. They make the best wives. And he’s also lucky to have a teammate like Wes Welker.

Athletes who withhold (bottle-up) their feelings and emotions create psychological baggage for themselves that negatively affects their performance. For example, and I’m using this only as a hypothetical situation, let’s assume that just prior to the New England Patriots-Buffalo Bills game Monday night, September 14th, 2009, the Bills’ Leodis McKelvin had an argument with his girlfriend or a coach or his business agent but didn’t tell anyone about it. He chose to keep everything inside himself. With Buffalo leading 24-19 and just 1:58 remaining in the game, rather than taking a knee in the end zone he chose to return it instead and fumbled the ball around the 30 yard line, his second fumble of the game. New England then scored for what turned out to be the winning touchdown and won the game, 25-24. I’m not saying that McKelvin had issues, since I’m not privy to what goes on behind the scenes or in the Bills’ locker room, but his performance (two fumbles) was an indication that something was not right.leodis_mckelvin_inside
When athletes are not focused and are not thinking clearly, they are more prone to making mental errors. In the NFL this often shows up when a quarterback throws multiple interceptions (as Kurt Warner once did when his wife Brenda was having an ongoing argument with the St. Louis Rams’ then head coach Mike Martz), or a wide receiver dropping multiple passes that hit him on the numbers, or a lineman exploding in anger at the opposing player but when you scratch the surface you find that his anger had little or nothing to do with the game. A good example of this was what happened with Albert Haynesworth when he was playing for the Titians. As a result of his on-the-field behavior, he was not only fined but was also required to undergo extensive counseling and afterwards commented: “Honestly, it’s helping. I can actually talk about stuff. My wife likes it, too. I actually open up and talk about problems I have.” Today, Haynesworth is considered one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL.


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