Monday, October 13, 2008

Feeling Fear, and Acting on It

As long as a team is winning, everything is great, right? Who wants to change a system or work on player dynamics or adjust defensive assignments when the squad is rolling? But then, somehow, the team loses. Bad luck? Too cocky? Not focused? Just a bad night? Whatever the case, there may be some blaming -- especially if the unit isn't truly tight. Sometimes, negativity subtly breathes underneath winning -- and then, when the moment seems right for it to pop its head out -- whoop. There it is.

The pointed finger, the belligerent, "I told you so", the "Why wasn't my number called?"... and suddenly, all of those wins don't mean too much. According to an article in the New York Times, people want to change things at the first itch of a downward spiral.
“With negative emotions we tend to have a desire to change the situation,” said Ellen Peters, a senior scientist at Decision Research in Eugene, Ore. But “when things are good there is not much desire to change.”

This quote actually references the recent fearful outcomes of the stock market and state of the economy. People are scared, and the accompanying anxious feelings make them run -- as in the flight part of the famous fight or flight theory. Bad times straight ahead? Well then... sell. Bad night of ball? Simple answer... the offense stinks. Throw out the playbook.

When the Chicago Bulls won all of those championships, programs wanted to run the Triangle Offense. Now, what do coaches at all levels want to learn? The Dribble Drive Motion -- because if Memphis can get to the NCAA final using it, then it is the best thing since sliced bread. I suppose more coaches would be knocking on Pete Carril's door for his Princeton sets -- if he lived adjacent to John Calipari's estate.

The point -- when wins (and money) accumulate, it's working and it's all good. Lose? Many immediately run.

From the same NYT:

Scientists who have studied the brain function have found that the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls fear, responds faster than the parts of the brain that handle cognitive functions...

If cerebral matter senses trepidation, "See ya!" Human instinct forces panic. Fortunately -- or unfortunately -- it is how one deals with that emotion that can overpower him or make him stronger.

Stay in there. Believe in the team and the system. Support each other. Physical talent doesn't always get it done (remember Pippen's Portland Trail Blazers?). And, if one is mentally tough enough, fear can act as a catapult for awareness and development rather than a degenerative factor that leads to worry and breakup.


Leona Raisin said...

Amygdala sounds like an anagram of something, perhaps: A Glad Yam

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