How many more “shocking’ news stories coming out of our sports locker rooms do we need for owners to take a new look at solving these issues?
Jonathon Martin, offensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins, is another story brewing about a high profile athlete or team that shows dysfunction within the locker room. Athletes and pro teams are in the public eye on a daily basis. Many a fan looks up to our star athletes, and our host city personalities are shaped by their team’s win/loss record.
So why do pro teams and college teams not take the culture within their locker rooms as being as important as winning? When in fact a positive and supportive locker room leads to a winning program. And ultimately leads to more revenues for the team, excitement in the city for that team, and the overall support from their fans.
Did you know that the Miami Dolphins has a team psychologist on staff? But these issues still exist. Sports psychology and mental performance perception is all out of whack. Anyone who has ever been an elite athlete knows that a big part of success both on and off the field is the mental side of the game. Many athletes do a great job on the ability to focus on the field, but off the field is a different story. They don’t always know how to stay in their game while living their everyday lives.
Successful businesses are way ahead of the game in this regard. They know they can benefit from the best outside consultants and speakers; experts who are trained in personal development and team building. And they are willing to hire them and do what it takes to have a winning business. Then again these businesses are in it to win. You might be thinking, shouldn’t that be the goal of every sport team franchise?
It is, but they go about it the wrong way.
In Miami’s case, there is a psychologist who comes in twice a month. In reality all this person is able to do is handle issues and problems (and prescribe meds). No mental enhancement opportunities for true advancements. We train and warm-up our bodies why don’t we train and warm up our brains?
There are simple techniques to do this, but it is seldom done. To change the culture of a locker room, whoever is brought in has to be on the same playing level as these pros, or the players won’t listen and buy into it. This professional needs to know how to communicate to the athlete in their language so the players respect and trust the process. I don’t know anything about the psychologist for the Miami Dolphins personally. I don’t know if this person is qualified to meet these mental performance demands. What I do know is that a college degree does not ensure real life success.
Businesses go after the most qualified person for the job – at least successful ones do. They look at a person’s tract record in achieving results, with or without a degree. They bring in the best person with a proven track record who gets the results they are looking for. This ensures that they have a healthy environment and winning culture to achieve their business goals. Sport teams are multimillion-dollar businesses. So why don’t they take the same approach?
Two reasons. One, they don’t have a clue about “mental performance” and the value that a solid program can create. And two, their legal departments tell them a license is more important than real world success, because the fear of being sued is front and center. With that sort or mentality, pretty soon we will require every coach to have a mental health care license! Or perhaps the lawyers will be the only ones allowed to coach.
Just do the research and see what a team sports psychologist is paid, and you will know the true value they put on building a winning team culture and utilizing a strong mental performance program to get the most from the team and their investment.
A head football coach is under a lot of pressure to perform and captain their ship to victory. Yet the team expects the head coach to do it all. Yes, a head coach knows a lot about the line, yet he brings in a specialized position coach to focus on just the line. Every element of the team has a position coach to focus on that area of expertise. So where is the “mental performance” position coaches?
The head coach needs to oversee it all, much like a CEO does in business. Yet, in today’s world, the head coach is also supposed to be the motivator and mental performance coach as well. Many coaches are good motivators, but a good mental performance coach goes layers beyond just being a great motivator.
I know for me, when years ago I was an offensive coordinator at the high school level, my mental performance skills were only partially utilized, because I couldn’t just focus on that alone. I needed to make sure I was being the best offensive coordinator I could be, and there is a lot that goes into that aspect alone.
The following year I asked the head coach if I could just focus on being the mental performance coach for the team. He agreed and you know what happened? The team went undefeated for the first time in their 77-year history. Was it all me? No. But it was every aspect of a team stepping up and every player and coach focused on each of their own responsibilities. It was the sum of the whole.
And mental performance coaching makes a big difference.
Ultimately the franchise and owners pay a bigger price (and the bottom line suffers), when they allow this “mental performance” element to take a back seat to all the other aspects of the teams needs. They suffer both financially and in the eyes of their fans and supporters.
This is ultimately because of all the issues that arise when there isn’t a mental performance coach in place to focus on team culture and mental health; they are not living up to their team’s full potential.
We don’t need more sports psychologists who are only allowed to come in two times per month and try to manage the problems and prescribe drugs. Sports teams need a “mental performance” program that elevates each player’s performance and the team as a whole: enabling it to be a winning program.
Team owners should take a lesson from highly successful businesses. Hire the best consultants and coaches who have a proven track record of elevated success in mental performance.
If they incorporate what I am suggesting here, their profits will increase and their problems will decrease. The bottom line is: You must create your conditions to support excellence, rather than reacting to your conditions, which only promotes chaos.
Dave Austin is a former professional athlete, best-selling author, sought after mental performance coach and founder of Extreme Focus, Nelson Radio co-host of the “Be A Beast” radio show, and co-creator of the “Be A Beast” training program.