Sam Obitz / November 18th, 2010 / No Comments »

Recently we have seen an increase in the number of news stories about trash talking. Whether it’s Kevin Garnett and Charlie Villanueva or Laron Landry’s taunting of DeSean Jackson and his Philadelphia Eagle teammates during warm-ups this past Monday night, these stories are popping up everywhere. What’s new is not that players are talking trash, but rather that so much attention is being directed at it.

Not every player talks trash, but every player I work with has been subjected to trash talking and thus been forced to deal with it – some on a regular basis. My job is to help athletes perform at their peak level consistently and the best way to achieve that is to help them form habits which enable them to focus on the task at hand and be in the moment at all times.

All anxiety lives in the future or the past. There is no anxiety for those who are able to live moment to moment. What separates the truly great players, the ones who appear to be impervious to pressure, is that they are living in the moment without fear of what’s next. The main reason players talk trash is to get the other player’s focus off of what they are doing and get them into their own head (i.e. to worry about things that may happen or to get them stuck thinking about things that already have happened). It is often a very effective strategy to take away a player’s mental edge, and that’s why so many players use it.

It is each player’s job not to let the trash talk affect them. I tell my players what my father told me as a child, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” We cannot ever control what other people or players say to us, but we have full control over how we react – or not react at all – to it.

Clearly Kevin Garnett was effective and got under Charlie Villanueva’s skin because he was so affected by what Garnett said that he felt the need to tweet about it to everyone after the game was over. The only message that conveyed to me, and I am sure most of the players in the league, was that the way to get Villanueva off his game is to talk trash and keep at it until you find what works on him. Charlie would have been much better served keeping quiet and taking steps to control what he can control – ignoring everything Garnett says and focusing on playing his game.

The only other effective response is to do what DeSean Jackson and his teammates did –  not let it get in or take it personally, and channel that energy into their own purpose by using Laron Landry’s words as additional motivation and scoring on the first play of the game.

In the end with trash talking, like everything else in life, it’s not what’s said but how you react to it that matters. I’ll take DeSean and the Eagles reaction over Charlie Villanueva’s every time.

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