When I think of athletes, I think of humans being in incredible shape, being able to use their bodies to a limit that most can’t adhere to. You see highlights of basketball players jumping to extreme heights to dunk a ball, hockey players deking out a goalie in order to get the puck in the net. We hear of players like Kobe Bryant who train non-stop in the gym. It’s all physical but that’s not all an athlete needs to succeed. What about what’s
going on in a player’s head? What about the mental side of sports?
One of the most overused clichés in sport is that 90 per cent of the game is mental. The problem is that 90 per cent of coaches and athletes spend 100 per cent of their time working on the physical and fundamental aspects related to their sport. Our minds are always going. What do I have to do today? How much homework do I have? I have to make this shot. Thinking is part of the human psyche. No athlete goes into a game with a clear head. This is why mental skills should be included in training in order to help athletes have a clearer mind.
Psychology in sports has had a huge impact for athletes in recent years. Athletes are taught mental skills by sports psychologists, including goal-setting, relaxation, visualization and self-talk, to name a few. In the NBA, rookies go through a “Rookie Transition Program.” This program helps young players adjust to the NBA lifestyle. The three-day event features interactive workshops, skits, counsel sessions on issues they will face in the NBA and guest appearances from current and former NBA players. There is a special emphasis on character, ethics and leadership, the importance of positive images as well as personal and social responsibility.
Now these types of programs will help athletes but sometimes you need to learn the hard way. On Shaquille O’Neal’s podcast The Big Podcast with Shaq, he would talk about himself spending a million dollars in one day, buying a Mercedes for his family and him and some bling for himself.
A couple of days later, he got a call from his bank manager.
“He sat me down and said, ‘I’ve been following you two or three years. Love your career. You’re probably gonna be a fabulous player and make a lot of money. But, you know a lot of you guys, when you’re done playing, don’t have anything. I don’t want you to be like that. I want you to take a look at this.’ ”
He learned the hard way and hired a business manager. O’Neal is now known for being very good with his money. Yes, he has made a lot and consistently finds income after retiring but on the podcast he also says he’s a frequent “Walmart” shopper.
Athletes need to be informed but also need to learn for themselves.
The mental side of sports has been seen as a way to get player to championships along with their skill. Committing yourself to the mental side of sports will not only improve your play, but will improve your everyday life. Remember this because it’s not just about the abs. The mind is sexy, too.
– Tre Lopushinsky, Sports Co-Editor