Saturday, June 3

Sports Psychology

How much of sports is mental? Do Kobe, Dirk, Steve have an amazing advantage over the rest of the world in basketball, in particular, because of their great physical talents or because of some mental edge? Or both? I just watched a total mental breakdown by the Phoenix Suns. How can a team, who is dominating to the point of being 18 points ahead, completely lose focus or drive or motivation to enter the final minutes of the game looking as if there had never been any hope?

Individuals can definitely have an issue with this. I think Rasheed is one of those guys who can be an amazing player, but in the moment when the pressure is greatest, he can't hold up mentally for some reason. He did it the other night against Miami - unable to get anything to drop at the point in the game that was the make-it-or-break-it for his team. He had done the same thing at the last game of The Blazers, in May, 2000. That was a total team effort, though.

In game seven we were up by 15 with 10 minutes left in play. And then that mental break happened. Rasheed missed six in a row. Steve Smith missed the next four. Scottie Pippen threw away his shares of missed shots as well. We were outscored 25 to four in the last nine minutes. What on earth could cause such a total meltdown?

Although we just saw it happen in professional basketball, I think it happens in all sports at all levels. Our volleyball team used to do this. One game or one night we're playing like the Flaming Watermelons that we were (David Letterman stunt inspired team name); then, sometimes in a moment, we looked like we could be trounced by a junior high team.

I suppose there is not one answer to this question or it wouldn't be such an issue. Teams would figure out that solution and know how to avoid such a predicament. I find it a fascinating phenomenon. Any insightful thoughts?


Sarah Megan said...

Well, I have played volleyball for FOREVER. And there are so many things that take over in situations like that...

1. You realize in a series that you have more making up to do and it would be easier to quit
2. Conflict in the team or with the coach (happened to my team in playoffs last year...angered me a lot)
3. Ready for a break, since it is at the end of season
4. The mental issue of all of the abovev gets in the way and you cant concentrate on the physical aspect
5. You just lose focus because of all the hype and hassle put into the game, which depends on YOU

hmmm, thats all I really thought about when I read this. Like I said, we lost our first game in district because at least one of our girls had one of the above problems. And some, like me, had a lsight case of them all, but not enough to through away the game....but end up losing anyways....

See you in like, 5 days?

Davis Family said...

I wholeheartedly agree that life is primarily a mental event, no matter in what field you play. On the score boards or the board room, the energy and confidence that you put out there will often determine the outcome. Even if you don't get the win, the commentators will talk about athletes with "heart" and America will be cheering loudly (probably even more so than if you won, because we LOVE underdogs that come from behind). Not to sound too trite, but I have seen that those who believe themselves to winners, win.

I guess that would make the Anthony Robbins-types of the world just a placebo, giving people confidence to do what they were already capable of and could have "started" on their own. Maybe I should rent the Rose Garden and start recording my own line of motivational tapes!

Jason Hill said...

I’m glad to see that you are still tormented by that game 7 from a few years ago. I think all the candle lighting may be rewarded soon. I see T Porter in the distance mounting his white horse…

Flaming Melons? You must have Allan dig up the old logo and put it with this post! I remember those up and down games with fondness. If I remember correctly the team was made up of 2 sets of newlyweds and I believe that played role in our inconsistency. What a crazy way to find out how your new spouse deals with pressure, and how they communicate shortcomings and encouragement to the one they love.(I always thought it was a bit cheesy that Tony and Rebecca would kiss after each of his kills [blech]).