Flag Football



August 12, 2011

It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.
-John Wooden

It'll be hard to FOCUS without a HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE!
Today's Mental Skills Tip - Tennis Champion Jim Courier said it succintly: "It is very, very dangerous to have your self-worth riding on your results as an athlete." Unfortunately, today's athletes usually hold the distorted belief that they are a good person after a good performance and a bad one after they stink it up. Rationally, they may know better, but this is how they feel! Our society leads our beliefs astray. Money and adulation of the masses are given to those with great statistics, without regard for how they got to those outcomes. Should superior genetics or shortcuts like steroids be rewarded? No, but even role models and coaches often unwittingly reinforce this false idea that achievement in sports makes you a good person. A coach's body language clearly says, "I can't believe we didn't score in that situation." Or the star is given a free pass when discipline is called for. I've heard of many parents who pay their children cash for scoring a goal or hitting a home run. If everyone had the same genetic ability, the same environment, the same rules, and the same luck, then achievement and effort would be pretty much equal. In reality, achievement reflects effort, but it is not the same thing.
So life's not fair. We know that. What should we do about it? Rewarding achievement is a logical strategy for dealing with this fact, because it's easy to measure. Achievement does encourage many great skills including persistence, toughness, and focus. But the pitfalls are many...
A performance/self-concept link is extremely damaging to the quality of a performance. Just ask 21-yr-old Rory McIlroy in the 2011 Master's Final Round . Ask the 2007 and 2008 Mets, who collapsed at the end of the regular season to miss the playoffs. Ask anyone who's ever "choked," meaning that they played below their potential when they perceived that it was an important situation. Worry is always bad for performance, so if you're worried what others will think of you or even about what you'll think of yourself, you're going to be partially distracted from the task-at-hand. The easiest way to get locked in with a tunnel-vision focus on the task-at-hand is tocare about giving your best effort, but not care about the outcomes. That's much easier to say than to do, of course. Your value as a person does not depend on outcomes. The score simply provides one excellent source of feedback about the quality of your effort. It's not the only thing that matters, it's not the only verdict about what worked and what didn't work. Your feelings of self-worth should be much more stable than your athletic performance. In fact, self-worth is innate and immeasurable -- a birthright of humans. Self-esteem, of course, fluctuates based on behavior and environment. Controllable factors include kindness, integrity (thoughts, words, and actions are all aligned comfortably according to your values), and the effort you put forth to reach your goals.
A healthy perspective on the game defines success as John Wooden did, "the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you did your best." Failure is simply the gross negligence of this best effort, or quitting. Defining success and failure in this way makes it much easier to get lost in the process of playing the game. "What I know," says 5-time national champion baseball coach Augie Garrido, "is that getting lost in the process releases your potential as an athlete."
COACHING POINT - Players already care about the score, probably too much, so reward the positive aspects of behavior that are not rewarded on the scoreboard and be critical of the mistakes that do not directly impact the scoreboard. These rewards and criticisms can be tangible, but words and non-verbals are also critical variables for teaching a healthy perspective on the game.