In the June 21 issue of Sports Illustrated, writer Pablo Torre examined Major League Baseball’s increasing acceptance of the legitimacy of mental and emotional issues that athletes may face. The article includes clinical depression and anxiety disorder among the issues that big leaguers have gone onto the DL for in the past few years.
This is a really positive sign in taking the stigma away from these serious issues that are faced by people in all walks of life. By being able to acknowledge the problems, players may seek the help they need to get themselves back in the game, as Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke did in 2006. In a highly competitive sport where players do not want to show weakness of any kind, and are often taught to figure out problems for themselves, this is a great leap forward.
The article did not only focus on the severe mental and emotional issues that athletes may go through, but also the mental side of athletics that all athletes go through on a day-to-day basis:
“Mark Shapiro, now the executive vice president and general manager of the Indians, saw something curious: Outside the elite of the elite, 90% to 95% of players at the Double A level had comparable physical skills. The better players’ competitive advantage came mostly from something intangible. “At least in baseball,” Shapiro says, “the mental side is what allows you to bridge the gap between potential and performance.” It turns out that Yogi Berra, who once calculated that “90 percent of the game is half mental,” had something of a point.”
So even if we’re not talking about severe clinical issues, the mental side of the game is coming more to the forefront as well. In the pros, the difference between physical ability can be miniscule, and it’s often the mental game that sets players apart. Just like the physical part of the game, the mental game comes naturally to some, but most have to work on it to maximize their potential.
Working with a sport psychology consultant is a great way for athletes of any age, sport, or gender, to strengthen the mental game and let their physical ability shine to its fullest potential. As the “mental DL” is gaining acceptance in Major League Baseball, at SPINw we have seen the awareness and acceptance of sport psychology consulting gain acceptance too.
About the Author: Brian Baxter received an M.A. in Sports Psychology. He teaches individuals how to identify and build awareness of their difficulties, their areas of improvement and their strengths and implements strategies to make the process second nature.