Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘New York Giants

Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended for six games and joins other NFL players who have also been suspended in the past for physically abusing their wives and girlfriends. This group includes Baltimore running back Ray Rice, Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa, and former Giants kicker Josh Brown.

Though I haven’t seen the research I would bet they all have a number of things in common: When they were growing up and began showing extraordinary talent, coaches looked the other way when they got into trouble rather than disciplining them. The result was they developed a feeling of entitlement. They seldom shared their emotions and problems with others preferring to keep them bottled up inside themselves. They seldom cried because they were taught at an early age that it’s not “manly” to cry. Later in life when these young men developed relationships with young women and became frustrated they were unable to control their emotions, resulting in physical abuse. And this is why the NFL often requires them to take courses in anger management.

I’m not sure what these courses involve but I’ve learned from experience when you put these young men in support group environments and allow them to talk about their personal issues and problems with their peers, it’s much more effective than one-on-one counseling. You diffuse their anger resulting in much healthier athletes, psychologically. The result is they are less likely to physically abuse their wives and girlfriends.

If I had been a sports reporter attending the post game press conference with New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin last Monday night I would have raised my hand and asked:

Me: “Coach, do you believe it’s true that what takes place away from the football field affects what takes place on the football field?”
Coach: “Well, yes, I believe that.”
Me: “Then why aren’t you talking about the possibility that Dave Wilson may have fumbled twice during your Monday Night Football game because he has some personal issues that are affecting his ability to focus?”
Coach: “Well, I, er..ah…you make a good point.”

Most NFL head coaches and team owners don’t like to hear that type of talk since many of them believe that if you pay an athlete what Dave Wilson is being paid that he darn well ought to be able to hold onto the football and not fumble it. But NFL football players are human beings first and then athletic performers. And they, just like us other mortal beings, often encounter personal problems and issues in their lives that must be dealt with. If not, their issues and problems can negatively affect performance. These could be issues with girlfriends, wives, teammates, coaches, and even financial. But if they keep them bottled-up it’s going to show up in fumbles, dropped passes, missed blocks, missed tackles, and if you’re a quarterback, throwing interceptions.

That’s why coaches should put into place programs that become vehicles for teams to become support groups (offensive, defensive, special teams) allowing players to share their personal issues with their teammates in a controlled environment. This not only enhances the players’ ability to focus and perform at a higher level, but also has a positive effect on team chemistry and team bonding.

I read in today’s USA TODAY that Bill Parcells is going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I think it’s a big mistake.  Here’s a column I wrote some time ago and I think it bears repeating again:

By way of background, one of the biggest complaints NFL players have about coaches is that they feel some really don’t care about players’ personal problems and issues and are only interested in exploiting them to win games. Which seems to have been the case when you look at Bill Parcells’ treatment of Lawrence Taylor when Taylor was a New York Giant and Parcells was head coach. As we now know, Parcells looked the other way and allowed Taylor to continue to use illegal drugs and cheat on his urine tests, and to constantly violate team curfew hours, all in the name of winning. Parcels did not do Taylor any favors since he (Taylor) later tearfully admitted on national television (60 Minutes) that he was an addict. When this happened, it didn’t sit well with some of his Dallas Cowboys’ players who Parcells was then coaching in his first year as their head coach. And I don’t believe it was a coincidence that the Cowboys lost two out of their next three games and were eliminated from the playoffs. Parcells should not be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but rather the Hall of Shame.

When the NY Giants meet the Baltimore Ravens today I predict that WR Victor Cruz will have his best game of the season, and the reason for this prediction is based on his highly emotional visit with the family of Jack Pinto, a six-year-old slain in the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, who was also one of Victor’s biggest fans. According to USA Today, Cruz visited their home and spent an hour consoling the family and handing out autographed Giants memorabilia. When Cruz was asked about the visit and the family’s decision to bury their child in his jersey, his eyes grew misty. “You never go through circumstance like this. This was definitely the toughest by far.” His visit with the Pinto family and his memory of six-year-old Jack will be with him when he plays today, and probably for the rest of his life. I often refer to this as “excelling for a higher order” and this is an excellent example.

When one of the NFL’s top wide receivers drops a pass in a single game it could be written off as just a mental error. But when he drops two, a little light goes off. And when he drops three, you figure there’s gotta be a reason. Some of the media pundits are saying that “his off-season celebrity has affected his performance” and there could be some truth to that. But more than likely there was something that took place in Cruz’s personal life the night before the game that affected his focus. Something he bottled-up and didn’t tell anyone about. Perhaps it had something to do with his infant daughter Kennedy or his long-time girlfriend, Elaina Watley.  Whatever the reason, it’s another example of how what takes place away from the football field affects what takes place on the football field. If in Cruz’s next game against Tampa Bay he reverts back to his old reliable self, we’ll know that he resolved whatever mental issue or issues he had that may have been hovering above him like a dark cloud.


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