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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Missed communication

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OFTEN in sports, we hear the words “mentally tough” thrown in more so when the competition is intense.

I have heard some coaches associate mental toughness with age or experience. I don’t agree.

It certainly doesn’t follow that if one is older, he is wiser and tougher, hence, stronger. It is a complete fallacy in thinking.

In the last couple of years, I have done a few team building sessions for a couple of college and a few professional teams. I have to point out though that the professional teams feature mostly young adult players of the age of 25 to 27.

In all these sessions, I have heard coaches tell me that aside from poor skills of many that they are also mentally weak. And I have to wonder how their coaches work with them. What was their foundation? Is the coaching and teaching inadequate? Or are these players just not getting it? Or is it both?

I have seen a coach instruct a national team player to literally walk through step-by-step his teammate through a play. Not once, but multiple times. And when the latter was called in to play, he didn’t see too many minutes. And I felt bad for this kid.

On the other hand, I have seen a coach turn an inadequate player into a very good one.

So where is the problem?

Is it in the medium and methodology of instruction? Is it the language? The mental acumen? The socio-economic background? How they were raised?

It’s could be combinations or all of the above.

Based on interviews with many players, I would also say that their background plays a large part of it. Many come from difficult backgrounds. Now the latter can either make a person strong or weak.

I am not a psychologist or a high-level coach. But I think in serving as a mentor, teacher, confidant, or a friend to many an athlete, lost in the shuffle is the communication aspect, the teaching, and the understanding.

Case in point, this high school player who never got the ball as his coach favored another teammate. He was thought to not fulfilling his potential.

Working with this frustrated player, we told him to concentrate on rebounding and defense, to study on how to stop the player matched up with him, and how to help make his team better. We did physical workouts and drills (extra work) early in the morning and once or twice a week.

We laid out mental game plans and a simple formula—four points and four rebounds per quarter—that’s a double-double by the end of the game.

And we prepared him with this match-up with a perennial all-star player. We devised a way to stop him and sure enough, he did. He even blocked three of his first four shots.

He did achieve that and more…he was named to the best five selection at the end of the tournament. Furthermore, he helped his team make a deep run into the playoffs.

Now working with this team of volleyball players, they are now looking at aspects of the game, their preparation, and their outlook in life differently…for now. Of course, they need to do that consistently because that new-found strength will be put to the test when the crap hits the fan.

I wonder though, what is lost in translation en route to making these athletes better? I don’t hold all the answers. I will say this though…the personal communication part, as well as building on their mental faculties does help.

More to come on this.

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