This is Your Brain on Sports – book review

Brain on sport psychology

“We’ve spent the preceding chapters trying to make the case that there are rational underpinnings for all the supposed craziness and unusual behavior that sports seem to trigger. That is, that “your brain on sports” is really just your regular brain acting as it does in other contexts.”

Sound interesting?  This is how Wertheim and Sommers sum up their latest book, This is Your Brain on Sports. From a sport psychology perspective, it’s a great book in the same vein as classics like “Freakonomics” or “Outliers.”   The authors take common ideas and phenomena in sports and put them under the sociological and psychological research microscope to explain certain peculiar behaviors and that are common not only in sports, but in life in general.

Each chapter explores a unique idea from sports, examines the research, and relates it to real life.  Beginning by promising answers to Why questions: “Why Hockey Goons Would Rather Fight at Home” to “Why We Need Rivals” to “Why Our Moral Compass is More Flexible than an Olympic Gymnast” these chapters offer excellent insights into how the mind works, how people relate to each other through the prism of sports, and uncovers why things that seem bizarre are actually quite common..  The conclusion is that sports isn’t so much different than life.  Although, they do go on to explain:  “…sports and athletic competition are fertile ground for scientists across disciplines to test their hypotheses about basic aspects of human nature.”

There’s a lot in here to relate to sport psychology and the mental game.  For instance, popular theory says that sport psychology was founded in 1898 by Norman Triplett, who noticed that he rode his bicycle faster when he was with other people.  In the chapter “Why We Need Rivals,” the authors explain how Triplett created a “competition machine” to test in a lab setting if people did in fact ride faster against someone else as opposed to against the clock. His theory proved to be true, and was used in further studies by other psychologists on how athletes compete against rivals – something that seems to make sense, but now backed by research.

One of my favorites was the chapter that was in essence about goal setting.  “Why Running on a Treadmill is Like Running a Business.”  In it the authors talk about “the power of the finish line” and how very important to performance setting milestones is.  In my experience at SPINw, one of the reasons goal setting fails is that there are not enough measurable milestones on the way to a long term goal.  There is some compelling anecdotes and evidence here explaining why this is the case.  This chapter, like many others, should prove to be a powerful tool for athletes and especially coaches, to use goal setting for motivation and increased effort.

Overall, there is something for everyone in this book, whether you are an athlete, a coach, a sports fan, or even someone who is just interested in psychology and how the mind works.

Click here to check it out on Amazon.


Sport Psychology is about Fun

Continuing our 5 Things You Need to Know About Sport Psychology…
#1 – Sport Psychology is not “psychology”
#2 – Sport Psychology is as much proactive measure as it is a reactive one

we now bring you #3 – Sport Psychology is about Fun

The reason that people play sports, coach sports, watch sports, and get their kids involved in sports boils down to one thing:  having fun.  Sure, there are other very valuable reasons – to be active, to meet new people, to be part of something bigger than yourself, to compete, to learn – but what is the common denominator for all these reasons?  Because it’s fun.

Whether you are a young athlete, a professional athlete, a coach, or a sports parent, keeping this in mind is crucial to the athlete’s performance and success.

DSC_0441 copy

Young Athletes
In study after study, survey after survey, fun is one of the top reason kids give for participating in youth sports is fun. But what is fun?  According to a George Washington University study:

“The 11 fun factors lie within the fundamental tenets and include Being a good sport, Trying hard, Positive coaching, Learning and improving, Game time support, Games, Practices, Team friendships, Mental bonuses, Team rituals, and Swag.”

Professional Athletes

But is sports supposed to be ‘fun’ for the pros?  Isn’t it their job? Sometimes hard work isn’t fun, right?  Well, let’s let a couple of professional athletes have to say about their participation in sports.

Derek Jeter:  “The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward.”

Derek Jeter

Lionel Messi: “Football is a game. I’m trying to have fun on the pitch, always just to play. That’s why I do it. The day I stop having fun is the day I retire.”



For coaches, it’s very important that you keep fun in mind to get the most out of your athletes. That doesn’t mean to lower your expectations, or not ask your athletes to sacrifice, work hard, deal with pressure, face adversity, and push themselves to do things they may not want to do. It comes down to perspective.

Here’s how much legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith (RIP) thought about his players having fun:

“He would tell us in those tight games, ‘Isn’t this what you came to Carolina for? Isn’t this fun?’ That’s how he was in every huddle. He used those as an opportunity for us to showcase our skills and what we had learned and worked on throughout the year in practice.” – JR Smith, former Tarheel



Sports parents are a young athlete’s first advocate in providing a great environment for fun. It’s their job to see the bigger picture and make sure the athletic experience is enjoyable.  But oftentimes they end up putting more pressure on the athlete, and being just another detractor from the fun.  From this Michigan State University study, you can keep yourself in check by following the two simple rules:
1 – Peace on the car ride home!  After competition, give yourself and your young athlete time to emotionally process the day’s events, and re-convene at a later time to talk about the performance.

2 – Six simple words to say right after the game:  “I love to watch you play.”   Or in other words, if your kid knows that you had fun, that enhances their fun.

Sport psychology is about fun. Having confidence, staying motivated, putting in maximum effort, blocking distractions, controlling emotions, rising to challenges, pushing through adversity – those are essential elements to peak performance.  They are also pretty fun to be able to do on a consistent basis.  As an athlete, coach or parent, if you are losing the fun, we can help you get it back.  Contact SPINw to talk to one of our consultants to get started.

Sport Psychology is Proactive too

Last week’s issue covered the fact that:   #1 – Sport Psychology is not “psychology”

Not only is sport psychology not psychology, it is also not just a measure of last resort. There can be a tendency to think of sport psychology only as a reactive measure – when the athlete is struggling mightily with performance. But working on the mental game is valuable as a proactive tool too.

Let’s look at the Mental Game on this spectrum:

SPINw Mental Game Performance Spectrum

In our experience at SPINw, the majority of our athletes are on the lower end of this spectrum.  They are usually trending toward the Struggling mode or worse.  But we do serve as a proactive measure as well. For young athletes, as they grow physically, become more skilled technically, and learn their sport tactically, the psychological aspect of sports can’t be ignored. The older a player gets, the more pressure, the higher the stakes become, they  must have the tools to handle.  For older athletes, a strong mental game is needed to keep consistency in performance.

A Proactive Success Story
I once worked with a high school quarterback who was up toward the higher end of the spectrum and told me the reason he came in was because he “heard sport psychology could help make me a better player.”  Simple.  He was a confident kid, but this was his first year to potentially be a starter.  He was in a preseason battle to win the starting job and wanted to do everything he could to give him a competitive edge.

We worked together on setting goals for the season to sharpen his focus.  He worked on improving his leadership skills to communicate better and get the most out of his teammates.  We implemented breathing and visualization techniques to help slow the game down.  He ended up not only winning the starting job, but leading his team to an undefeated regular season.

A Reactive / Proactive Mix, with predictably mixed results

The coach of a basketball team I once worked with called me halfway through the season for the first time after a tough 5 game losing streak. He wanted me to help the team re-build their confidence.  At first, the players “having to meet with a sport psychologist” was a little offensive and demeaning to them.  “What like we’re crazy and we can’t figure it out on our own?” I remember one player muttering.  Fortunately, after a couple meetings, they completely warmed up to the concept and enjoyed the sessions and told me it helped them get back on track.

The following season we did a more proactive program and this team had a better season, playing more consistently to the higher end of their potential.  They had a few big wins, including beating a highly ranked rival, and ended the season higher than their preseason prediction polls. Several players mentioned they felt more mentally tough and mentally prepared, lingo that had entered the team lexicon.

The proactive nature of that season allowed for “sport psychology” to be a normal part of the proceedings. There was no stigma around having me present at practices, games, and in-season mental game sessions. This helped get the team in the green part of the Mental Game Performance Spectrum, whereas the year before they were deeply in the red part of it.

Where do you land on the Mental Game Performance Spectrum?

Our SPINw consultants have over 50 years combined experience training, competing, coaching, and mental game training.  Contact us today to get started on a program tailor-made for you, no matter where you fall on the spectrum.

Sport Psychology is not “psychology”

*This is Part 1 of the 5 Things You Need to Know About Sport Psychology Series*

Last year, I wrote an article asking if 2014 was the Year of Sport Psychology.  While sport psychology has enjoyed great gains lately, the field is still somewhat of a mystery to most.  I suspect if you’re reading this, you have the basic understanding of the importance of the mental game, but here are 5 things you need to know to have a deeper understanding of how sport psychology can help improve your mental game and overall performance.

#1 – Sport Psychology is not “psychology” psychology

This is typically the biggest misconception is about the field as a whole.  According to, here is the definition:

psychology  [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][sahy-koluh-jee]

1.  the science of the mind or of mental states and processes.
2.  the science of human and animal behavior.
3.  the sum or characteristics of the mental states and processes of a person or class of persons, or of the mental states and processes involved in a field of activity:  the psychology of a soldier; the psychology of politics.
4.  mental ploys or strategy:   He used psychology on his parents to get a larger allowance.

While all of these definitions are good descriptions of how sport psychology works, it’s important to make the distinction.  The field of psychology is pretty diverse – there are psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors.   Many practitioners in psychology diagnose and treat mental disorders, usually according the DSM-5.

In sport psychology, professionals are more closely related to coaches than these other titles. Mental Skills Coach, Mental Toughness Coach, or Mental Conditioning Coach might be a better way to define our work. We work with athletes on their mental and emotional states, mental and emotional processes as they pertain to sports, and habits and behavior.  These states and processes are essential for athletes to perform at the top of their game.  Sport psychology professionals help athletes to define, build, and maintain the proper habits and behaviors to excel at sports.  For further mental health issues, such as eating disorders, depression, drug abuse, and borderline personality disorder, sport psychology professionals refer athletes to qualified psychologists and therapists.

As sports become more and more competitive, as athletes continually become bigger, stronger, and faster, the desire for the competitive edge, just being coached by the team coach isn’t enough. The full team of coaches for many top level teams and athletes include the head coach, position coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists, and sport and exercise scientists.  This ensures the best chance to be highly skilled, knowledgeable of the sport, physically fit, strong, and less prone to injury.   But what about the mentality of sports? What about the emotions that go into competition?  Isn’t this just as important?  Sport psychology is a great compliment to the technical, tactical, and physical training, rounding out a complete program for athletes.

All athletes feel anxiety and pressure and stress. Teamwork and positivity are all characteristics that are necessary to be success in athletics over a long period of time.  Sport psychology is a great tool for teaching and strengthening the mental skills associated with these qualities.  Among other things, we are coaches of focus and emotional control, and mental toughness trainers. We are a key piece of the athletic puzzle, because we bring a unique perspective to high level performance.

To see more about the services we provide at SPINw, click here.

Stay tuned for the rest of the things you need to know:
#2 – Sport Psychology is not just a reactive measure.

#3 – The Mental Game is mostly about FUN.

#4 – Sport Psychology is not just for Athletes.

#5 – Sport Psychology works![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Sports by the Numbers

Sports by the Numbers

The competitive nature of sports is constantly evolving.  The best of the best are looking for the little changes, or sometimes the big changes, that will set them apart from the rest.  Sport psychology is a great field for this – how to become more mentally tough than your opponent and how to find those team motivation techniques that will make the difference.

People don’t traditionally think of the field of economics as a way to win.  But more and more, economists are answering the questions of what makes a team win for less.  Here are two examples:

A little late I know, but I finally checked out the baseball movie Moneyball this week.  I’m not a big Hollywood blockbuster movie guy, so I kind of wrote this one of when it came out.  My dad gave me the movie not too long ago so I gave it a watch.  I was really happily surprised by how well done it was.  


I was a sport psychology graduate student living in Oakland during the season portrayed in Moneyball.  I knew about the winning streak and vaguely about the moneyball aspect of it, and watching the movie, really enjoyed seeing how it all went down.

As someone in the field of sport psychology, I appreciated some of the other lessons:  problem-solving, team building techniques, setting goals and sticking to them, and focusing on the process to gain results.

Buy Moneyball through our SPINw Store Movie Page.

This movie reminded me of a book that I read last winter when I was in Barcelona.   Soccernomics is a great book covering the economics of, you guessed it, soccer.  There was a lot in it for a sport psychology professional to love:  helping foreign players and their families to assimilate to new cultures, how having smart players can help your team’s performance, and how statistics can be horribly misread and misunderstood.


Check out Soccernomics in the SPINw Store Sports Books Page.

So which is it: The data, or the gut instinct?  The numbers or the people?  Economics or Sport Psychology?

I think the answer, like with most things is somewhere in the middle. Both are a key aspects of sports performance and results.


Sports Parents FAQ – part 1

SPINw clients come in all ages, genders, and skill levels.  Often we work with middle school and high school athletes, and when we do, the parents play a huge role in the process.  With all athletes 18 years old and younger, we meet with the parents and athlete together before beginning our work with the athlete.  We also meet again at the end of the sessions to go over next steps and how the parent can best continue to support their young athlete.

In addition to individual, team, and coaching sessions, we run parent education seminars for youth clubs and organizations.  Our goal is to give sports parents the awareness and tools they need to be supportive and helpful to the athletes, teams and organizations.

That said, here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from and about parents, with answers from SPINw’s Brian Baxter, Jimmy Yoo, and Elliott Waksman.

Q: What is wrong with these parents?! Why do they get so worked up over their kids’ sports?

Brian:  This is a pretty typical question we get.  While the stereotypical irate sport parent may get all the headlines, the majority of sports parents are really positive and supportive.  That said, from time to time, most parents can get caught up in the action when their kids are involved.  I have had poor parent behavior at sports events described as “sideline rage” – like a driver may experience “road rage.”  It’s an emotional reaction to something that someone has done to “Me!”  Therefore, make sure that you let the sport event be about your child, and not you personally.

Q: How do I know if my child is succeeding in his sport? 

Jimmy:  Rather than emphasizing the need to be the best on the team or a starter, focus success in the following manner:

*Giving it your all or giving maximum effort in practice and games

*Be a student of the game, always be willing to learn and improve

*Refuse to let fear and mistakes stop you

Q: I have tried everything I know, but I can’t seem to help my athlete with their confidence/focus/attitude anymore. What can I do?
Brian:  Most of the young athletes we see here at SPINw have the most supportive parents who have reached the end of their knowledge of how to help.  At a certain point, just hearing something from your parents will not sink in for a teenager (sometimes it does many months or years down the line, but not in that moment).  The first thing you may want to try is to simply ask your athlete what they need from you – “How can I help?”  Helping them find the answers for themselves is important.  If you can’t do that, don’t worry – you’re not alone!

Contact us to find out how one of our SPINw consultant can be the objective, supportive voice in taking the next step.

Sports Parents FAQ – part 2 – Motivation


A frequent theme of questions we get from parents centers on the athlete’s motivation, or sometimes the seeming lack thereof.  In our experiences, an athlete lacking in motivation or effort may simply be suffering for lack of confidence and not necessarily motivation.  Athletes are invidiuals and tend to be motivated uniquely.  That said, there are some basic rules of thumb on the most effective way to tap into motivation.

Q: Is it okay to give my child $ or gifts for on-field performance?

Brian:  The sport psychology version of this question is “is it okay to use external motivators to improve my athlete’s motivation and therefore, performance?”  The main goal should be to help foster the athlete’s internal motivation – that is – the fire, passion, and enjoyment within to participate and excel in their sport.  Using monetary rewards or gifts is a form of external motivation.  As a general rule, external motivation may work in the short term, but does not work for the long term.  If used correctly, an athlete’s internal motivation will improve, but it has to be done with care.

More often than not, the use of $ and gifts turns into a net negative, causing:

*focus on the wrong things
*jealousy among teammates,
*going against the coach’s wishes, and
*selfish play.

If the external motivators become the driver of performance, it will be expected time after time.  If the athlete can only become motivated by external factors, well, you can see where it might go.  If an external motivator is used, be sure to tie it into how the performance makes the athlete feel internally:  proud, confident, happy, etc.  Make that internal reward really known and appreciated.

Q: My athlete doesn’t seem to want it as much as I do! How can I motivate him/her?
Brian:  As with the previous answer, the key is in helping the athlete find internal motivation.  Remember, as an adult, if you played sports, it probably took many years for you to learn everything you know about your sport.  The same will be true for your young athlete – it might be a process and take time for the child to “get it.”  And, as I mentioned in the intro, lack of motivation may simply be a lack of confidence in the player’s ability, so be careful how you approach it.  Try to focus as much as you can on the athlete’s:  effort level,  attitude,  teamwork,  and enjoyment  in their sport.  This will help the athletes along the way.  Your job as a parent is to guide them in the right direction, not do it for them.

Q: My son plays for a bad team and is getting dejected, how can I give contructive advice?

Jimmy: A good rule of thumb is the 5:1 praise to criticism ratio, find five things to praise before making a criticism.  Also, try not to make statements that sound demanding or commanding.  Try to phrase criticisms by using a phrase like: “Maybe you could try doing it this way next time.” Remember that you are a role model. Parents serve as the most influential role model to communicate the principles of fair play.

Create and discuss norms of respecting:






*Fairness and honesty

*Importance of effort over outcome


Sports Parents FAQ – part 3 – Coaching


Another theme we are approached about by parents has to do with their child’s coach.  How players interact and communicate with their coaches (and vice versa) is obviously an enormous factor in the enjoyment, motivation, development and success in sports.  Part of the job of being a good sports parent is to help your athlete as they experience different team environments, coaching styles, and coaching decisions along the way.

Q: What are your opinions on coaching your own kid?

Brian: Coaching your own child in sports can be a hugely rewarding experience, and most recreational sports organizations depend on parent coaches.  There are some things to watch out for, however, and knowing when to pass your child on to the next coach is crucial. At SPINw, we have had several cases where the parent/coach-player relationship caused a lot of stress for everyone involved, and hurt the performance and development of the player. In my experience in youth soccer, the general rule of thumb is for a coach to work with a team for 2 years and then move them on.  This is a seemingly good rule of thumb for other sports we have worked with, as well. 

The most important thing for a parent-coach to keep in mind is this: separate the two jobs!  When it’s time for practice or game, be the coach.  Once practice/game is over, be dad or mom.  Financial guru Dave Ramsey has a funny story about a man who hired his son to work at his company.  Unfortunately, the son was a terrible employee and the dad had the uneviable task of having to fire his son.  So he bought 2 hats – one said “DAD”  and the other said “BOSS.”  He asked his son to coffee and put on his “BOSS” hat:  “Unfortunately, John, your work has been subpar for a while now, so I have to let you go.”  Then he put on his “DAD” had and followed with:  “Son, I heard you got fired. I’m really sorry to hear that – let’s talk about what we can do about it.”   For a parent-coach, remember that you wear 2 hats – you will look silly trying to wear them both at the same time.

Q: My daughter’s coach is a ‘yeller’ and it’s not her style – what can I do about it?

Brian:  First and foremost, be a supportive parent. Make sure that the ‘yelling’ coach is doing so out of motivation and not intimidation.  Getting to know your athlete’s coach before the season and communicating expectations early on will go a long way (see answer below to the next question).  Let your child know that they are loved and supported and try to help them see that the coach is trying to help them, that the coach would only push a player who they see potential in.  As an adult, you know that the athlete will experience others in positions of authority like this later in life (bosses, police officers, etc.)  Help the player understand that learning to deal with and thrive under different leadership styles is an important part of life.

Q: Should I speak to the coach if my son or daughter is having a hard time?

Jimmy: You should encourage your children to communicate effectively for themselves.   Empowering a player to articulate their concerns, whether it revolves around playing time, identifying skills that need improving, or something else, encourages self-confidence because it provides the athlete with a strong sense of pride and ownership.  The only time a parent should consult a coach about a sport related issues is when the player has repeatedly attempted to speak with the coach and does not feel that the issues has been resolved.

Sports Parents FAQ – part 4 – Support


As mentioned in the first segment, most sports parents are not the stereoypical pain-in-the-neck parents who are living vicariously through their children.  Most are highly supportive, love their kids immensly, and want the best for their kids.  A lot of the questions we get from parents is simply how to best support their kids in sports.  When to push, when to prod, when to ask questions, and when to just leave them alone!

Q: I want to know how my teenager’s day went – when is the best time to check in?

Elliott: I will often facilitate a problem solving activity with sport families. Recently, my client and the mother agreed to only chat about the day’s practice or competition over dinner, rather than immediately after the child walk in the house. The student-athlete responded much better without cold clothes and a hungry stomach.

Q: After games, we sometimes get into arguments, how can I better handle after-game situations?

Elliott: I recommend to the parents of my clients to stick to the normal routine no matter the outcome of the game. If you go to lunch after a win, do the same after a loss. Otherwise, the student-athlete might relate the activities after the game with winning and losing.

Q: How should I best support my athlete emotionally? 

Jimmy: Encourage them and be a good listener:  parents are the main source of emotional support.  You can play a vital role by encouraging your young athlete and providing an avenue for them to express their frustrations, fears, and successes.

Book Review: Must Win: A Season of Survival for a Town and it’s Team

SPINw Book Review From the book Must Win – A Season of Survival for a Town and it’s Team by Drew Jubera

Must Win

Since Friday Night Lights was published in 2000, a wave of books following a sports team for a season or more have come out. Books such as Hurricane Season, The Blind Side, The Boys from Little Mexico, and even Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer come to mind. There are also some amazing documentaries out there, such as Hoop Dreams and Undefeated. These books and movies go beyond the sports on the field, mixing in athlete’s and coaches’ backstories, plus historic, geographical, and social issues to provide context for the team’s stories.

Must Win follows this tradition. In Must Win, author Drew Jubera follows a year in the life of the 2010 Valdosta Wildcats, the winningest high school football team in the nation’s history. Following in the footsteps of 2 legendary coaches – Hader and Brazemore – there are several coaches who have been hired and fired after 2-3 year stints, unable to live up to the expectations of their predecessors. A new school in the area, Lowndes County High, has taken the mantle of the best team in Valdosta over the past 10 years.

This book starts with the hiring of a new coach, Rance Gillespie, and follows the team throughout the season into the playoffs. In the book, the sport psychology stuff is never mentioned explicitly, but it’s in there. It starts with Coach Gillespie’s changing of the attitude of the players, coaches, and hopefully the town in general. He knows that before he can win any games, he must win over the trust and respect of the players. His practice philosophy works not only on the physical, skill, and strategy level, but the mental level too. As Jubera explains:

“He was old-school tough, but new-school adaptable…. This was a coach who would run you ragged in practice, tell you to suck it up when you came limping out of a pile, but then later call you into his office to show you something cool on YouTube.”

Another one of the main characters in the book is not a coach, but an ex-Valdosta player from their glory days, Stan Rome, who has had his fall from glory, but is redeeming himself. His son is following in his footsteps as a highly recruited player. Rome serves as sort of a town elder, and mentor/coach for the team. The following exchange with a young receiver on the team has some great mental game aspects to it:

“You gotta pull that s— down!” Stan told him, man to man – street kid to street kid. “You can’t hold it up there – you have to snatch it down!” Tyran stood still and straight. Didn’t say a word. He knew he should’ve caught those balls – that Stan would’ve caught those balls – but he got anxious when he saw them spinning his way. He didn’t see himself yet as one of the team’s big playmakers, like Jay or Malcolm. Now, Mr. Stan told him, he was. “Just picture yourself making those plays,” Stan went on, his tone almost therapeutic. “Picture yourself making great plays…”

The way he explains visualization, and mindset is really powerful, and he had the kid’s attention. Throughout the book, the author lets us know what the players were thinking at certain points in the game. Here, he presents some insights on confidence, self-talk, and over-thinking from the perspective of another receiver on the team:

Needing 9 yards on third down from their own 24, Ryan floated back, searched the middle for his favorite receiver, and coolly fired a high strike. As the ball spiraled toward Malcolm, the voice in his head suddenly hemmed and hawed, or at least that was the effect. It seemed to be saying too many things at once. When a pass came Malcolm’s way before, the voice would tell him to run around, catch the ball, and the “Go! Go as far as you can go!” This time, with Malcolm’s ankle killing him, the voice sounded unsure of what to say next, like it was still furiously working out all the calculations. “What are you going to do after you catch it?” it asked. Because Malcolm knew he couldn’t do much once the got the ball. He knew he couldn’t spin, couldn’t stick his foot in the turf when he landed and cut to his right. His ankle wasn’t up to that. If somebody came up on him from his left? He didn’t know what he’d do then, either. “When a ball’s coming at you full speed and you’re not focused 100 percent on catching it, you’re going to drop it,” Malcolm would say later. “When all those things register in your head, that’s what happens. So my focus was off. And the next thing I know the ball is coming out of my hands.”

Overall, this was a really enjoyable book that I read in 3 or 4 days. The characters are interesting and the backstories are compelling. And for me, there was enough of the mental game stuff to keep my attention on that front as well. If you’d like to check it out, you can buy it through our SPINw Store here.