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Sunday, August 21, 2011

The SLUMP...Your Worst Nightmare!

The SLUMP…every athlete’s nightmare.  Just mention the word, and pro athletes can shrivel up and hide in the corner.  An 0 fer 4 game slowly turns into a 1 fer 25 week.   Save situations quickly take on a whole new meaning when a closer has blown their last three save opportunities.  Birdie after birdie, becomes bogey after bogey, and that two foot putt shot is no longer money in the bank.   Heck, why just allow that privilege for athletes – the slump can happen to the average Joe at the office.  Your sales calls to prospects aren’t returned.  Your voice messages just aren’t as effective, and your “go-to” closing technique just isn’t getting the client to sign on the bottom line.  Your motivational seminars are met with “Is That All There Is,” instead of “Thank You For Changing My Life!”  Your pick up lines at the local bar that used to be met with a smile and a phone number now fall on deaf ears and all you get back is a look of disgust, and a wave of the hand…Oh, the slump…One Word – A Whole Lot of Pain.

No one is immune to the slump.  At some point in an athlete’s career, there is going to be a time when the “basket looks like the size of keyhole” and those “seeing eye hits” no longer find their way around a fielders glove.  It doesn’t matter what status you have achieved, how many years you have played, or if your first name is Tiger, the slump is going to get you. 

Look at Ichiro, All Star outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, lifetime .327 average, and 10 years in a row of 200 hits more.  In 2011, the rightfielder’s average is 60 points below his career average, (.267) and he is not driving the ball as he has in the past.  At 37 years old, (Ichiro will turn 38 in October), could age be catching up to him? 

The question isn’t if it’s going to happen, the $64,000 question is WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?   Why do hitters start hitting feeble ground balls to the second baseman instead of line drives into the gaps…why do pitchers lose sight of the strike zone and instead start to find the sweet spot a hitter’s bat …a once sweet shot that found nothing but net, now clangs off the rim with greater frequency…forget where Jim Hoffa is buried, find a cure to avoid the slump, and you’ll be guaranteed your own show on the Oprah Network!

Many will say it’s all Mind Over Matter – the slump is nothing more than your mind working against you.  Clear your mind, and let your athleticism take over.  After all, you’ve done it before – why can’t you do it NOW!  Easier said then done.  Explain that logic to Florida Marlins Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who at the prime age of 28, the 3 time National League All Star with a career .306 batting average is sitting on the Disabled List and looking at a .243 average for the 2011.  (How many people had Hanley as their #1 pick in their Fantasy Baseball League!)

Maybe the slump is caused by the pressure to perform.  The bright lights of the Big City can cause the weakest of minds to stumble.  In the off season, probably one of the biggest free agent signings took place in Boston where the Red Sox signed outfielder Carl Crawford to a 7 year $142 million contract, with a $6 million signing bonus.  The 3 time Tampa Bay Ray team MVP has not looked comfortable in Boston all year long, and is hitting .248 with 7 home runs and 38 runs batted in.  Think Crawford isn’t squeezing the bat a little tighter than usual…

For many of us, when the slump hits, it usually confined to our own little world.  It rarely goes outside our office or beyond our small circle of buddies who we hang out with after hours.  The crisis can be chalked up to a lack of focus, a break down in your daily discipline, or most likely, you’re bored, and you want to leave your job. How many times have you starred at the four walls of your office, and think “is this the best I can do?”  Your co-workers will tell you to go back to the basics, look outside your comfort zone, make that one extra call before you go home, everything is going to be okay

Unfortunately, for today’s athlete, it’s not that easy…your team is depending on you…the front office signed you to a long term contract and called you the SAVOIR on the day you signed…the media is dissecting every at bat, and the fans are holding up signs asking you what happened… “Get back on the bike…you’ve done it before…” Just doesn’t cut it, when your batting average is below the Mendoza Line!  "Tomorrow’s Another Day…” Yeah, that’s right, another day of doubt, ridicule, and no hits!  "Go back to the basics"…easy for you to say, but you're not the one under a microscope!  

The SLUMP…For A Professional Athlete, There Is Nothing Worse.

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