Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Pirates

When it was announced last night, just prior to the start of the Chicago Cubs – Pittsburgh Pirates game, that Pedro Alvarez would not be starting at first base and was being replaced by utility player Sean Rodriguez, I was amazed. It’s true that Alvarez is much more prone to making errors but it seems to me the team needed his fire power at the plate. Here’s a guy (Alvarez) whose 27 home runs led the team but whose 23 errors made him a defensive liability. Now I’m a big Clint Hurdle fan but I believe it’s possible that not starting Alvarez might have had a more important negative effect on team attitude. After all, here was one of their buddies who they played with throughout the entire season and when it came to the most important game of the year, their manager chose not to start him. But did they speak up and tell Clint how they felt. I doubt it. Because if they did, Clint would have viewed their behavior as infringing on his managerial ability to make decisions. And yet it was (in my opinion) this very “withholding” that affected their ability to focus on hitting the ball. This was especially true of Andrew McCutchen during the entire season. He must have been withholding something all season long or how else would you explain a .350 hitter batting just .300?

Very often when colleges and professional teams are looking for a new head coach they look for someone who is strong-willed, who is a take-charge type of guy and will instill the fear of G-d in his players. The Marine drill sergeant type who isn’t afraid to “kick a few butts” and will let the team know in no uncertain terms that it’s “my way or the highway.” This is the type of person a team should hire, right? Wrong!

The best head coaches are those coaches who have been through some type of adversity or tragedy in their personal lives that makes them have great empathy for their players. And that’s one of the most important characteristics a coach can have. When his players know he cares about them as human beings first and then as athletic performers, they’ll play their hearts out for him. And this is something a coach can’t fake. Either he has it, or he doesn’t. Here are three examples of coaches who have it:

Andy Reid, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2012, his oldest son Garrett, died of a heroin overdose.

Cuonzo Martin, men’s basketball coach at the University of California, is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in 1997 while playing professional basketball in an Italian League in Europe.

Clint Hurdle, manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, is a former alcoholic and has a daughter who has been diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome.

All three of these coaches have been highly successful and the primary reason is because they have great empathy for their players. They don’t want their players to fear them. But rather, they want their players to know they love them.

I was watching the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game last night on television and half way through the 14th inning the Cardinals were ahead by one run. It was a home game for Pittsburgh and the crowd was definitely rooting for their team, loudly. Here’s how Pittsburgh’s Website described what happened next: “Pittsburgh still had a chance with the middle part of their batting order coming up in the bottom of the 14th inning. Second baseman Neil Walker led off with a single to center field. All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen followed and made the crowd erupt. After falling behind in the count 1-2, McCutchen drove the next pitch to deep center field to give the Pirates a 6-5 walk-off victory. PNC Park was electric at that moment as the Pirates had brought themselves closer to the division lead.” That hit also allowed McCutchen to extend his 17-game hitting streak.

If one believes in PK (Psychokinesis) as I do, then I would say that all those people in the PNC stadium rooting for McCutchen to hit a home run, not to mention the vast television audience who was thinking “home run.” actually created that home run by willing it to happen.

According to the book, The Psychic Side of Sports written by Michael Murphy and Rhea A. White, during the 1970’s, “a number of psychics had come to public attention with claims that they could perform feats of psychokinesis (PK), that is, the power to affect objects by purely mental means…The existence of PK,” according to Murphy and White, “has been scientifically verified in many laboratories to the satisfaction of many reliable witnesses. Theoretically, PK ability can provide that extra edge which might explain some otherwise unexplainable athletic feats. But is there any evidence that PK occurs in sports?

“Most PK laboratory experiments involve influencing the throw of the dice. Subjects ‘will’ specific die faces to turn up, or to fall to the left or right. Willing is often mentioned by athletes. They often make many statements to suggest that at times they can actually ‘will’ things to happen. There are many golf stories about changing the flight of the ball through the power of the mind. Don Lauck notes that for years golf galleries had believed that Jack Nicklaus ‘could win whenever he wanted, could will the ball into the cup if he needed a birdie at the 18th.’

“John Brodie, (who formerly played for the San Francisco 49’ers) once discussed a touchdown pass he threw to 49’ers end, Gene Washington:

Murphy: When the play began it looked for a moment like the safety would make an interception. But then it seemed as if the ball went through or over his hands as he came in front of Washington.

Brodie: Pat Fischer, the cornerback, told the reporters after the game that the ball seemed to jump right over his hands as he went for it. When we studied the game films that week, it did look as if the ball kind of jumped over his hands into Gene’s. Some of them said it was the wind – and maybe it was.

Murphy: What do you mean by maybe?

Brodie: What I mean is that our sense of that pass was so clear and our intention so strong that the ball was bound to get there, come wind, cornerbacks, hell or high water.’”

The power of the mind is amazing. And even now during this 21st century I believe we’ve barely tapped into its potential. Especially in the field of sports.

There are a number of reasons why the Pittsburgh Pirates will be in (and should win) the World Series. First and foremost they have some of the best players in major league baseball, including Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Josh Harrison, Pedro Alverez, Gregory Polanco and one of baseball’s top closers in Mark Melancon. But they also have the best manager in major league baseball: Clint Hurdle. Those managers who have had adversity in their lives, as Hurdle has, have the greatest empathy for their players. Hurdle genuinely cares about his players as human beings first and then as athletic performers. And his players know it. It’s something you can’t fake. And if you combine that with his vast knowledge of baseball, plus the talented ballplayers he has on his team…you have a winning combination.

These are the coaches who have great empathy for their players and interact with them in ways that help their players deal with their own personal problems and issues. Good examples are Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid who faced a personal tragedy in 2012 when his 29-year old son was found dead in his room at the Philadelphia Eagles training camp; New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin whose 63-year old brother, John, who he was very close to, died after a freak accident in which he tripped getting out of a cab and hit his head on the ground; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle who overcame his bout with alcoholism. All three of these coaches have been highly successful and all three are known to show great empathy for their athletes’ personal problems and issues, on and off the field of competition. When athletes know their coaches care about them as human beings first and then as athletic performers, they will play their hearts out for them.


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