How to bounce back from the drubbing of a lifetime

How do you spur members of a team to summon their pride and their skills in times when victory appears out of reach?, asked The Globe and Mail, Aug. 24, in a story sparked by a recent Major League Baseball game that ended in a record-setting 30-3 defeat for the Baltimore Orioles by the Texas Rangers. And how do you rebound? While consensus seems as elusive as an Orioles’ out, there are a few approaches to escaping the doldrums.

"Once you become frustrated and it leads to anger, your performance deteriorates rapidly," says Paul Dennis, a sports psychology lecturer in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, and player-development coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

When Dennis sees players with losing body language, he advises them to undertake what he calls "emotion regulation" in which they hark back to a positive memory from the past, wrote the Globe.

"With the Baltimore Orioles, these are professionals who may at one time have been NCAA champions or the winner of a batting title," Dennis says. "They should be encouraged to think back to that as a way of stopping the negative thoughts." And if they can’t dredge up a good sports memory, Dennis says, they can look beyond the field, maybe even to "a particularly enjoyable experience with a spouse or another family member. What I recommend is a ratio of three to one: For every mistake we make, we have to recall three positive experiences."

And then there’s the Lou Piniella approach, the Globe wrote. With his Chicago Cubs down against the Atlanta Braves two months ago, Piniella, the quick-tempered Cubs’ manager, charged after an umpire because of a controversial call. He was eventually tossed from the game and suspended for four games for kicking dirt and making contact with an official. Since Piniella’s tirade, the chronically underachieving Cubs have been one of the best teams in the National League.

"There is a place for dressing-down," Dennis said. "Coaching is a results-oriented position. If it works, go with it."

Perfectionists can be perfectly happy, too

Although they may drive others crazy, many niggling perfectionists aren’t as troubled as they’ve often been portrayed, psychologists agreed at a weekend panel in San Francisco, wrote USA Today Aug. 20.

Sky-high standards per se don’t make people anxious, ashamed or depressed, researchers reported at the American Psychological Association meeting. Newer studies are teasing out the toxic parts of a perfectionist streak, separating them from more benign or positive aspects, says Gordon Flett, Canada Research Chair in Personality & Health in York’s Faculty of Health.

High achievers often expect the best of themselves, "and that’s not necessarily a bad thing," he says. The troubled people are those whose whole self-worth hinges on perfect performance and who feel they must conceal shortcomings.

Those most invested in appearing perfect to others have the deepest feelings of shame and inferiority, Flett’s studies show. "This shame fuels depression and stress." Some perfectionist tendencies may be helpful in life, and even hard to change when they’re destructive, Flett says. "It’s better to work on responding more constructively when things don’t work out 100 per cent rather than trying to lower your standards."

York adds former Argonaut to coaching staff

The York University Lions hired three-time CFL all-star Clifford Ivory as defensive co-ordinator, wrote the North York Mirror Aug. 23. Ivory, who was a Toronto Argonauts defensive back, joins the Lions coaching staff for the upcoming season. "It’s exciting to come to York, especially having the chance to teach younger guys," Ivory said. "I just want the guys to have fun and always make the best of every opportunity. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself. It’s going to be a great time." Ivory was an adviser with the Lions coaching staff last year.

On air

  • Brendan Quine, director of York’s Space Engineering Program in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the plan by his Northern Lights group to send a lander to Mars in 2009, on CBC Newsworld, Aug. 23.