Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘NFL Coaches

It’s often said that some coaches are great motivators. In fact, after some NFL and College coaches retire they are able to earn a substantial amount of money traveling around the country speaking to large groups, presenting themselves as “motivational speakers.” But this is actually a hoax. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one can motivate another person. Inspire, yes. But true motivation can only come from within and I’ve found that the higher an individual’s feelings of self worth (or self-esteem) the greater his or her motivation. There’s no way a coach can motivate an athlete who is harboring ill feelings about himself or herself, and these “feelings” could be because of unresolved issues going on in the athlete’s personal life. Those retired coaches who are speaking to groups around the country should be identifying themselves as “Inspirational speakers” not “motivational speakers.” I’ve heard some great inspirational speakers. But the problem with inspirational speakers is it really doesn’t last long. Within 24 hours I am seldom able to remember what they said.

For the past 26 years I’ve been advocating that athletic teams become support groups, allowing athletes to share their personal issues with each other in a support group environment. This allows them to discuss and diffuse problems they might be experiencing in their personal lives. The result is they become healthier psychologically and develop enhanced feelings of self-worth (self-esteem) which also enhances their performance in their sport. Unfortunately, many coaches (especially in the NFL) believe this is “sissy stuff” and refuse to set up these types of group sessions. And some owners are under the misconception that if you pay a player enough money he will perform, without even considering what might be going on in his personal life. I believe that if the Kansas City Chiefs had had a support group program in effect, there’s a good possibility Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins might still be alive.

I know NFL head football coaches are supposed to be highly intelligent and thoroughly understand the game, but based on some of their post game comments, it appears the are completely oblivious as to what causes fumbles, turnovers, intercepted passes, and off-side penalties. They keep saying they shot themselves in the foot and are working on ways to control the turnover ratio. But the truth is, they can solve their problems with relative ease once they come to grips with the causes and begin applying solutions that many of them abhor and often refer to as being “touchy feely.” What they don’t quite get is that athletes are human beings just like us mortals and have personal problems in their lives and need a safe environment where they can share their problems with teammates without anyone being judgmental. But very often they have issues with coaches and these issues tend to be swept under the rug and kept bottled up since they know if they speak their true feelings they risk being benched or even cut from the team. How often I’ve heard, when suggesting an athlete discuss his issues with a specific coach: “I’m not going to do that. He isn’t going to change,” not realizing that if he discusses an issue with a coach, he’s doing to for himself, not the coach. He can’t change the coach or anybody else. All he’s doing is “coming to completion” so he can move on with his life. Here’s a reminder to coaches everywhere: What takes place away from the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition.

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.

I’ve always been of the opinion that there’s not a great deal of difference between the talent of NFL veterans and the young rookies coming up through the ranks. And yet when a team embarks on what they perceive to be a “Re-Building Year” and they announce it to the media and their fans, they are actually providing their players with a justification for losing. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This negative expectation is sometimes referred to as the “Nocebo Effect” not to be confused with its counterpart, the “Placebo Effect.” Smart coaches and General Managers will never use the phrase “Re-Building Year” because this mentality will show up in the won-lost column. Every year the team goal should be the Super Bowl, regardless of circumstances.

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