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The Power of Believing

On November 1, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. That’s right, they won the World Series! For years the Royals have been one of the doormats in the American League. I should know. I have lived in Kansas City most of my life and have twice been the team psychologist for the team. The Royals have been the target of comedians for years as their record has been one of the worst in the American League. But…. things have changed. Last year the Royals lost in Game 7 of the World Series with the tying run on third base in the bottom of the ninth. This year, from spring training on, they had a vision, a commitment , a goal of being the victors in the World Series, and they did it.

There are obviously a wide variety of reasons why the Royals were victorious. They have a number of tremendously talented young players mixed with several veterans who understand the ups and downs of professional baseball. The general manager of the Royals, Dayton Moore, had a vision when he was hired in June 2006. He said it would take several years of developing young players who understood not only how to physically play the game, but the mental side as well. His patience has paid off with a team in the World Series the past two years.

How did this team win it this year? First, they had the best record in the American League’s regular season. But, more impressively, they had seven come from behind victories in their 16 playoff games. Several times it appeared that they would lose the game they were playing, including their victory to clinch the World Series, but each time they were able to find a way to win each game. So what is their secret? I believe a great deal of it had to do with attitude. And when I say attitude, I mean a positive, confident mindset that has no room for negativity. How often have you behind in a game or athletic event in the late stages of the contest and essentially given up because you were so far behind? Most people give up because their thought process has been conditioned to think negatively. When you are behind in the tennis or golf match, the race or the game, you probably start thinking about how bad you are, why you are terrible and begin to feel sorry for yourself. That is exactly the opposite of what the Royals players were doing. It didn’t matter if it was the first inning or the last inning, they truly believed that they could win the game. And most of the time they did. Why? It wasn’t just because their confidence was very strong, it was because they had conditioned themselves collectively to believe that no matter what the circumstance they still had a chance.

During the past 35 years working as a sport psychologist, I have had the privilege to have worked with so many great individuals. Many had tremendous physical talents, but many did not. However, what the less physically talented athletes who reached success had, was an incredible mental will, ability, belief that they would accomplish their goals. I believe one of the main reasons they had this ability was that they had learned at a younger level what failure was about. They learned not to fear it, but to embrace the moment when things weren’t going their way and to attack it. For so many athletes, fear of failure and the taste of failing is scary, difficult to deal with and overwhelmingly negative. When this negative thinking takes over it is extremely difficult to overcome it. Research has shown that for the average person it takes 12 positive statements to overcome one negative. Thats correct, 12 positive statements!! I think for superior athletes it takes about six or seven, not 12, because they know they can do it.

The Kansas City Royals collectively have been a great example of this mindset. Despite being down so many times in the playoffs, they had the collective belief that they could and would come back to win their games and almost always they did. I feel they are a great example of how not just having a positive mental attitude is important, but not allowing negativity to become a factor in they’re thinking. If you read quotes from the players, they consistently said that they always felt they would and could come back no matter how far behind they might have been, and they almost always did.

If you have read my newsletters, you know one of my favorite beliefs is:
“You can two athletes or teams who are physically the same, but the one with the stronger mind will come out on top”.

As always, your thoughts….

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