Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Wade Boggs

It’s pretty common knowledge to baseball fans that former Red Sox all-star Wade Boggs consumed chicken at 2pm on game days throughout his 18-year career. When he was inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, he thanked his elderly father who was sitting in the front row, but shouldn’t he have also thanked Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Swedish great Bjorn Borg never shaved during the Wimbledon fortnight, which he won from 1976-80. Tennis star James Blake wore the same Nike baseball cap without washing it for three weeks in a 14-match winning streak.

In baseball, no one speaks to a pitcher who is in the midst of a no-hitter and often they won’t even mention it to a teammate.

I once began working with a NCAA Division I men’s basketball team halfway through their season. They had a dismal 3-15 record and their coach allowed me to take them into a room where they proceeded to “unload” all their issues in the privacy of a team meeting, which was followed by visualization exercises. They won 8 out of their final 10 games and the coach thought it was because he wore the same under shorts every day, without laundering them once.

Some athletes believe a particular number on their jersey is important to success. If they have the number, they have extra confidence that enhances performance. If the team manager assigns a different number, the player loses confidence and that loss is reflected in performance. A wise coach takes advantage of his or her athletes’ beliefs, no matter how crazy they may seem to be, in order to build a team’s strength.

The athlete’s belief system controls performance, not the coach’s. If athletes believe that being sexually active the night before a big game will make them more relaxed and that they will therefore perform better, they will – regardless of what their coach believes. Coaches often try to force their own belief systems on their athletes and it just doesn’t work. The best coaches, the most successful ones, are those who instinctively tap into the belief systems of their players and use those beliefs to the team’s advantage.

If a basketball player believes that watching a video of himself making three point shots will enhance his ability to make three point shots, it will. (Providing of course he has the skill level.)

A number of years ago, Missouri University’s football team was playing Oklahoma University and Oklahoma was a huge favorite since they had an All-American quarterback. With just a few minutes to go in the first half, Oklahoma was winning 21-0. But on the last play of the first half, Oklahoma’s All-American quarterback was injured and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher and was out for the rest of the game. When the second half started, Missouri seemed to have a different mindset. Even though they were still competing against the same Oklahoma defense that held them scoreless in the first half, they were able to score three times in the second half but eventually lost the game by a point, 21-20. What made the difference? Their “belief” they could win once the Oklahoma quarterback was out of the game. And the Oklahoma team more than likely believed that with their quarterback out of the game, they could lose…and they almost did.

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In an article that appeared in the May 27, 2005 issue of USA Today, it was pointed out that baseball player Wade Boggs consumed chicken at 2pm on game days throughout his 18-year career. (When he was inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, he thanked his elderly father who was sitting in the front row, but shouldn’t he have also thanked Kentucky Fried Chicken?)

Swedish great Bjorn Borg never shaved during the Wimbledon fortnight, which he won from 1976-80. Tennis star James Blake wore the same Nike baseball cap without washing it for three weeks in a 14-match winning streak.

An article in The New Yorker Magazine explained how Chinese parents are superstitious to the point where they hesitate to praise their children, because they believe pride brings on misfortune. One has to wonder if former NBA star Yao Ming was ever praised by his parents while growing up in China?

In baseball, no one speaks to a pitcher who is in the midst of a no-hitter and often they won’t even mention it to a teammate.

I once began working with a NCAA Division I men’s basketball team halfway through their season. They had a dismal 3-15 record and their coach allowed me to take them into a room where they proceeded to “unload” all their issues in the privacy of a team meeting, which was followed by visualization exercises. They won 8 out of their final 10 games and the coach thought it was because he wore the same under shorts every day, without laundering them once.

Some athletes believe a particular number on their jersey is important to success. If they have the number, they have extra confidence that enhances performance. If the team manager assigns a different number, the player loses confidence and that loss is reflected in performance. A wise coach takes advantage of his or her athletes’ beliefs, no matter how crazy they may seem to be, in order to build a team’s strength.

The athlete’s belief system controls performance, not the coach’s. If athletes believe that being sexually active the night before a big game will make them more relaxed and that they will therefore perform better, they will – regardless of what their coach believes. Coaches often try to force their own belief systems on their athletes and it just doesn’t work. The best coaches, the most successful ones, are those who instinctively tap into the belief systems of their players and use those beliefs to the team’s advantage.

In matters of health, what a patient believes about the potency of a particular medicine or treatment is almost as important as the medicine or treatment itself.

The “Billy Goat Curse” is the granddaddy of all Major League Baseball superstitions. For those of you who may not be familiar with the curse, here’s what happened based on information gathered from the Internet:

On Oct, 6th 1945 a Greek tavern owner by the name of William “BILLY GOAT” Sianis (that was his nickname because of the goatee he always had) bought box seats for the 4th game of the World Series in Chicago against Detroit. He bought one ticket for himself and one for his goat Murphy. The Cubs had won 2 out of 3 in Detroit and were favored to win it all in Chicago. In the past Billy Goat had always been allowed to bring his goat to the games, Murphy always had his own ticket. This time, however, as Sianis walked into Wrigley Field the ushers stopped him, telling him that no goats were allowed. When Billy Goat asked for an appeal directly to owner P.K. Wrigley, P.K. told them to allow Billy Goat in but not Murphy. When Billy Goat asked why, P.K. said, “Because the goat smells!” That upset Sianis and standing in front of Wrigley Field, in retaliation, he raised both hands and said, “Cubs, they not gonna win anymore. Never again will World Series be played in Wrigley Field” Casting what has become known as the “BILLY GOAT CURSE” over the Cubs. Subsequently, the Tigers won the next 3 games and the series and the Cubs have never been back. The Cubs’ loss prompted Billy Goat to send a telegram to P.K. Wrigley asking, “Who smells now?” Perhaps when the Cubs move out of Wrigley field, the curse will disappear?

I’ve mentioned the “Billy Goat Curse” because baseball is a sport with a long history of superstition. According to Wikipedia, from the very famous “Curse of the Bambino” (see below) to some players’ refusal to wash their clothes or bodies after a win, superstition is present in all parts of baseball. Many baseball players—batters, pitchers, and fielders alike— perform elaborate, repetitive routines prior to pitches and at bats due to superstition. The desire to keep a number they have been successful with is strong in baseball. In fact anything that happens prior to something good or bad in baseball can give birth to a new superstition. Some players rely on a level of meta-superstition: by believing in superstitions they can focus their mind to perform better.
Some of the more common superstitions include purposely stepping on or avoiding stepping on the foul line when taking the field, and not talking about a no-hitter or perfect game while it is in progress, a superstition that also holds for fans and announcers. Others include routines such as tapping the bat on the plate before an at bat, and drawing in the dirt in the batter’s box before an at bat.

What an athlete believes to be true is true for him or her, regardless of whether or not it’s true in the real word. Wade Boggs believed that eating only chicken before a game helped his performance on the field, and it did. When he was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, he thanked his father, who was sitting on the front row, but it seems to be he should also have thanked Kentucky Fried Chicken. ☺

As for the “Curse of the Bambino,” the Red Sox finally ended it by beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, 4-0. But they had a little help. What most people don’t know is that immediately after the season ended the Cardinals fired their hitting coach, Mitchell Paige, and sent him on his way, encouraging him to enter an alcohol treatment center, which he did. In most situations, when a player or coach with a “drinking problem” is let go, it’s generally understood they can return once they have their addiction under control. No so with Mitchell Paige. He was flat out fired. Period. Which tells me something pretty bad had taken place behind the scenes during the series. Something that affected team chemistry and subsequently caused them to lose four straight games to the Red Sox. So much for that “curse.” Mitchell, by the way, recently passed away, March 13, 2011.


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