Psychologists say Blast can turn tables

April 05, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

The Blast has lost seven straight games, but Johns Hopkins research psychologist Dr. Gary Gottfredson says that's not so unusual.

"If you flip coins, half the time they'll come up heads and half the time they'll come up tails, but it's not unusual for one side to come up seven times in a row," he said. "It's the luck of the draw."

Luck has not been on the Blast's side of late. But according to local psychologists, that doesn't mean, with two games to go, that can't change.

Tonight, the Blast will try to break its unlucky string when the Dallas Sidekicks come to the Arena for a 7:35 game.

Baltimore holds a one-game lead over the Wichita Wings in their fight for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Division.

Wichita plays Eastern champion Cleveland tonight before winding up the season tomorrow at home against St. Louis, while the Blast travels to Cleveland.

"If the Blast is feeling the pressure it could be affecting their performance," said Dr. Jeffrey Barnett, a psychologist in Annapolis, who deals in sports psychology, as well as other stress-related occupations. "What they have to do is focus on the technical aspects of their game and not the stress of the moment."

The Blast is trying not to feel stress. In fact, it has presented one of the most positive fronts of any team with a 20-28 record.

But there is tension. Blast forward Domenic Mobilio said last week after a missed shootout opportunity in Kansas City that he felt "different" before he took the shot.

"Maybe part of our problem is everyone wants to be the one to win it for us," said Blast coach Kenny Cooper. "But that's a positive, too. We've never seen anything like this, never been through anything like this. And yet, we're fired up. We're not in disarray."

Forward Dale Mitchell, a veteran warrior who has no reason to doubt his skills, admits the pressure to break out of this nightmare has everyone trying to make a difference.

"I don't know if we're rushing our shots, but I think the pressure has kept us from relaxing," Mitchell said. "Take Cleveland [a 9-8 winner in overtime last Saturday], they're relaxed and they're letting things happen instead of forcing it. As much as we try not to press, we are a little."

Besides losing seven straight, the Blast has lost 12 of its last 13, not to mention 19 of 27 one-goal games this season.

"They need to practice guided imagery," said Barnett. "They need to get into a relaxed state and picture themselves performing well in pressure situations."

Barnett calls it a form of self-hypnosis. "It's like playing a flawless game tape in their minds," he said. "It is a technique used by most world-class athletes and it can be very effective."

As for coaching a team in the throes of a "human performance problem," both Barnett and Gottfredson recommend accentuating the positive.

"They've executed before," said Barnett. "They know how to do what is necessary. So focus on what they've proven they can do. Just keep telling them they can do these things over and over."

Don't stress the importance of the moment, say the psychologists. Instead, stress the technique and skill each player has and confidence in his ability to perform the task.

"Keeping a sense of humor about the situation also helps," said Barnett. "If you start getting down on yourself, it only creates more negatives."

If positive thinking is the key, the Blast is in good hands tonight.

"The bottom line is that we have to win," said Cooper. "And I expect us to win."

The Blast will announce its Most Valuable Player and Unsung Hero at halftime of tonight's game.

The Chicken will be at the Arena to entertain and team photos will be distributed.

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