I wrote a brainstorm with a lot of ideas that came to mind when I heard about Milton Bradley asking the Seattle Mariners for help in dealing with his stress and personal issues this week, but the only message that I think is really important for all of us to take out of watching Bradley’s situation is that it should be easier and more acceptable for people to ask for help. I think that’s true in our society, not just in baseball and I am hopeful that this is one of those situations that makes it easier for players in the future to feel like they can ask for personal help when they need it. I did some research a couple of winters ago, asking college coaches if they thought there was still a stigma associated with sports psychology. Many of them said that the stigma was still there, but that sports psychology was becoming more widely accepted in recent years. So I wanted to offer encouragement to Milton Bradley and applaud him for his bravery in asking for help, something that may have been a long time coming, given the trouble he has experienced in his career. And I wanted to point out how well it seems like the Mariners organization, from Jack Zduriencik to Don Wakamatsu to Bradley’s teammates, is handling the situation.
If you’re wondering, my work is almost never involved in helping people with personal or family issues or anything clinical in nature. My role is to help players with on-field performance and development of their mental skills. There can be a lot of overlap between off-field issues and on-field performance and I have the responsibility of recognizing where my work stops and the work of psychologists begins.
Every team offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to its players, coaches, and staff and EAP provides support for people needing help with alcohol and drug abuse, marriage and family therapy, clinical depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and other therapeutic services. In my experience, I’ve met with many players who were hesitant to ask for help when they needed it from EAP, and I’ve been proud to explain the value of this service. It’s similar to going to the trainer when your arm is sore or going to the doctor when you have the flu. We all experience stress in different ways and we all come to the field with our own unique personal and family situations. Sometimes those situations make it difficult for us to stay focused on our jobs. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, and I’m glad to see some positive light being shed on the process.
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