The 2014 Blue Jays and Handling Pressure

Meet your 2014 bearded Blue Jays - they're good enough for all of 'em to appear on Ducks Dynasty!

Meet your 2014 bearded Blue Jays – they’re good enough for all of ’em to appear on Ducks Dynasty!

Here we are Blue Jays fans on the first day of the season, it’s a time of great anticipation and ever-longing hopefulness of a successful season. Many of our Jays had inspiring springs, and although we all know spring stats mean jack, the team headed north is mostly healthy and primed to rebound from last years dreadful season.

In fact, Jose Reyes recently told Brendan Kennedy of The Toronto Star, “Last year we had high expectations, we finished last. This year, we have no expectations, maybe we’ll finish first. Who knows?” Who knows indeed. What I like about his quote though is the acknowledgement that there is in fact no pressure on them this year because no body expects anything from this team.

There is cause for optimism though as Kennedy writes in the same article, “there is bona fide science behind the notion that the Jays may actually perform better this season simply because they have been around each other longer.” I too have alluded to this before and 500 Level Fan did a really nice write up on this notion as well.

I’ve also written before that the amount of fun a team or individual has, has to out-weight the pressure to perform. Intuitively, I knew this, yet couldn’t prove it until Kennedy wrote about this research in his article, which I encourage you all to read.

This leads me to two fascinating views on handling pressure in books I’ve read this offseason. The first of which is former NBA all-time great head coach Phil Jackson in his latest book, Eleven Rings, when he said,

“When a player isn’t forcing a shot or trying to impose his personality on the team, his gifts as an athlete most fully manifest. Paradoxically, by playing within his natural abilities, he activates a higher potential for the team that transcends his own limitations and helps his teammates transcend theirs. When this happens, the whole begins to add up to more than the sum of its parts.”

He later adds, “as a coach, I know that being fixated on winning (or more likely, not losing) is counterproductive, especially when it causes you to lose control of your emotions. What’s more, obsessing about winning is a loser’s game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way.”

Letting go of the outcome … that’s not easy considering the results-driven society we live in today. Interestingly though, Buzz Bissinger similarly writes in his book, Three Nights in August, as he covers the life and mind of soon to be inducted Hall of Famer, Tony LaRussa,

“…when you’re up there [to bat in a high pressure situation], focus on the process and not the result; don’t project into the future. Forget about the noble but irrational concept of going for broke [like hitting one out]. Put away the hero complex and simply try to get something started.

That, my friends, is what I’d like to see this season – for the Blue Jays to not get so anxious and try to pull everything out of the park; to not try and win every game with a home run. The ability to relax, to appreciate the moment, and to play within one’s own natural abilities may result in a better than expected run in 2014.

There’s already been evidence this spring with the likes of Adam Lind and Jose Bautista and many others hitting the ball up the middle or to the opposite field. That’s an approach that is both welcomed and refreshing to see.

And one final thought I have for the Jays before the first pitch is thrown this year is – go get those other AL East bastards!!

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