Posts Tagged ‘newsday’

Do Midseason Coaching Changes Work?

Newsday – November 17, 2010 – John Jeansonne – Years of scholarly research and psychological interpretation can assure Islanders fans that this week’s reboot – firing of coach Scott Gordon and replacing him with AHL call-up Jack Capuano – may work. Or may not.

“I think back to the New York Yankees and Billy Martin,” said sports psychologist John Murray, who has worked with coaches and athletes in all professional sports, “and the brief effects of the incredible passion he would bring. He’d win a while, then they’d start losing and he was gone, then he’d come back and they’d start winning again.”

A 2007 article in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching – “The Effect of Mid-Season Coach Turnover on Team Performance: The Case of the National Hockey League (1989-2003)” – found that teams that resorted to such methods boosted their point totals from .35 to .45, a slight improvement, during their transition season, and continued to improve to .51 the following year.

But the same study indicated, similar to the Billy Martin anecdote, that the change was relatively short-term.

As far back as 1963, an analysis by Oscar Grusky – examining managerial changes in baseball – demonstrated a “negative correlation” between replacing the team’s skipper and its won-lost record. Grusky’s interpretation, cited in a 1995 Journal of Sport Behavior paper, was that the manager/coach replacement process for a struggling team “is also disruptive to the organization. The uncertainty associated with a new leader with a different agenda and new ideas may result in ever poorer sport team performance.”

That hardly is encouraging news for the Islanders’ rescue plan, with the team on a 10-game winless streak and the season in danger of slipping away altogether.

The same Journal article, however, offered opposing fact-finding by Gamson and Scotch, published in the mid-1960s, arguing that Grusky had not given sufficient credit to the “meaningful impact” of coaches and managers on team performance. Gamson and Scotch contended that “a change in leadership provides fresh ideas, new perspectives, and a rejuvenated atmosphere. …”

Murray agreed. “Novelty in human behavior is something that is extremely salient,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s like, if you want your dog to come, you use a different tone of voice. It may be questionable how effective it can be early in the season. It’s difficult to predict. But it might be an effective psychological
ploy.”

Not surprisingly, these mid-season searches for a master locksmith – attempting to free what possibilities might not have been realized on a stumbling team – have become increasingly common. According to a researcher named Dodd, the rate of turnover among managers and coaches in professional sports in North America jumped from 15.3 to 20.6 percent from the mid-80s to mid-90s, with coaching tenures dropping from an average of 2.48 to 2.44 years.

With any disappointing team – the Islanders and Dallas Cowboys being the most obvious current examples – there clearly are factors beyond any coach’s command. Player talent. Injuries. Deteriorating confidence. Still, the time-honored coaching shake-up, often presented as a call for accountability, can fall on deaf ears if read by players as holding only the coach accountable.

“I do believe there are benefits to novelty,” Murray said. “But you can’t substitute quality. I would think, that unless it’s an extreme, extreme case, you can always improve a team with good mentoring. Take anybody: There’s a range of behavior from good to bad. A good coach can inspire his players; that’s what I do for a living. You try to get the maximum out of each person.”

So, the Islanders’ sacrifice of Scott Gordon may work. But only if expectations are based in reality.

“You don’t control the outcome in sports,” Murray said. “You control performance. Don’t think about winning. Don’t think about statistics. Think about performance. Don’t think about outcome.”

Don’t think about the Stanley Cup just yet.

I hope you enjoyed this article from the world of sports psychology.

Hall of Fame NFL QB Warren Moon: Psychology Helped Me Achieve Greatness

Sports psychology – Newsday – Bob Glauber – September 7, 2009 – Ex-Vikings QB Moon says therapy helped him cope – In his upcoming book, the Hall of Famer credited secret therapy sessions in Minneapolis for finding the root of his unhappiness.

Warren Moon would wait until the end of the day before sneaking into the back entrance to the office building. Twice each week, the Minneapolis psychologist would give Moon the last appointment so no one would discover that an NFL quarterback was in therapy.

But it was during those sessions that Moon, who was playing for the Vikings at the time, would begin to unravel the reasons behind his unhappiness.

“I’d go Tuesday and Fridays, and I’d always go at the end of the day so no one would see me in the stairway,” Moon recalled during a recent interview. “Confidentiality was a big thing with me, but once I got past that, I was able to open up and talk about myself.”

And it was then that he discovered how much had built up inside him through the years.

There was the overwhelming feelings of responsibility for his mother and six sisters after his father died of liver disease when Moon was only 7.

The stress of dealing with suggestions that he was not smart enough to pursue his dreams of becoming an NFL quarterback.

The acrimonious dissolution of his first marriage.

“When my dad passed away, I took a lot of responsibility and probably matured a lot faster because I was so caught up with being the ‘man of the house’ with my sisters and my mom,” said Moon, who learned to cook, sew and clean the house to help his mother, Pat, a full-time nurse. “Football was a way for me to make it in order to take care of my family. I never really paid any attention to me, except for the kind of football player I wanted to be.”

Even after Moon became successful at every level he competed at, the personal issues still gnawed at him. But during more than a decade of soul-searching, Moon finally has come to terms with himself — not just as the first black quarterback to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also as a man.

He hopes that by sharing his experiences, he can help other pro athletes with similar struggles. Moon’s autobiography, “Never Give Up on Your Dream: My Journey,” details his experiences during a lifetime of personal and professional challenges.

“One of the things I learned from this whole experience is that you need to deal with yourself first,” said Moon, who has since remarried. “If you do that, you’ll be a better person to be around for others.”

He strongly believes therapy would be of similar help to other athletes.

“I would suggest to any player that if he can get past the confidentiality part of it, especially male athletes who try to be these stoic figures, where nothing bothers us and we can conquer the world,” Moon said. “Address your feelings. Address your emotions. It will be a much more freeing experience in life, which will help you to be better to others around you.”

Another message from the book: “Anything you do in life is going to be tough, but anybody who has been successful will go through tough times.”

Moon’s challenge was to care for his family the best way he knew how: by throwing a football. He grew up in an era in which college and professional coaches and scouts viewed black quarterbacks with skepticism, often recommending that they switch to running back or wide receiver because they weren’t considered intelligent enough to play quarterback.

Moon had to overcome those stereotypes at every level. He had to spend a year in junior college before being offered a scholarship at the University of Washington. After going undrafted by the NFL, he played in the Canadian Football League for six years, winning five championships for the Edmonton Eskimos. Finally, in 1984, he signed with the Houston Oilers and wound up playing 17 NFL seasons for the Oilers, Seahawks, Vikings and Chiefs.

He never spoke publicly about it until now.

“There were two reasons I didn’t talk about it,” Moon said. “One, it was painful. My thing was, as a quarterback and being a stoic figure, I acted like nothing bothers me. I’m bigger than that. Another reason is because I didn’t want to seem like I was using it as an excuse.”

So why talk now?

“It’s important to acknowledge it,” he said. “There are just not a whole lot of us [black quarterbacks] out there, and I knew I’d have to be better and make sure I watched any move on or off the field.

“[Former Bucs and Redskins quarterback) Doug Williams and I were able to help open doors for the next generation. We were pioneers in that. So many African-American quarterbacks are playing now because of the way we played during our time. That’s important to me.”

Moon’s message to others: Live the dream.

“My story is about a guy who didn’t come from a whole lot,” he said. “I had to live through racism and a lot of other stuff, but I was still able to accomplish my dream. People out there struggling to find theirs can do it, too.”

I hope you enjoyed this article focused on sports psychology.

TUNE IN TO YOURSELF

Newsday – May 24, 2005 – John Hanc – Heading out for some exercise? Try leaving the headsets behind for a change. You’ll be safer, and you can still get in a great workout. Here are some tips that can help you tune in during your workout without turning on the iPod:

Be sensible: Use all your senses … not just hearing. “Visually, a runner or walker can focus on their surroundings,” says sports psychologist Jack Bowman of Port Jefferson Station. A beautiful day in spring can be a sensual feast. Feel the cool breeze; listen to the waves of the ocean or the chirping of birds. Don’t stop, but do smell those roses.

Exercise your mind: “Review what is working well in your life and what you would like to change,” says sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray of West Palm Beach, Fla. “Be specific and set goals. Come up with new ideas and refine them. Invent something. Solve one or two problems.” And if all that is giving you a headache, he says, “just unwind, enjoy the process and get your body in tune with nature.”

Tune in to your own channel: Technical race director David Katz has met a lot of elite runners in his years working at the Long Island and New York City marathons. He’s learned something about mental endurance. “The really good runners tune into themselves,” Katz said. That is, instead of “disassociating” themselves from the activity through music or other distractions, they monitor their bodies during performance, tuning into the rhythm of their own breathing, heart-rate, foot strike. You can do the same no matter what your activity or proficiency.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.