Football Therapy: Being a Mentor

Exploring the connections between life skills and fantasy football.

In addition to being a staff writer for Footballguys by night, I’m a therapist by day. No, I don’t put people on the couch like Sigmund does. I spend most of my day educating and empowering my clients to leave my office with fulfillment and purpose. What I’ve learned, and quite by accident might I add, is that many of the life skills that I teach and practice in therapy are actually applicable in the context of playing fantasy football. In these writings, I will seek to show the reader connections between these life skills and those needed to be a successful fantasy owner. My hope is not only to improve your prowess as an owner, but to give you skills that will help you lead a wonderful life.

Be The Hero

Our Joe Bryant recently used an analogy that beautifully illustrates the concept I would like to explore with you today. When speaking at a recent webinar, he made the statement that Footballguys plays the role of a guide to our readership, the hero. You’re Luke Skywalker, we’re Yoda. You’re Rocky, we’re Mick. You’re Katniss, we’re Haymitch. You get the idea. Each of these characters had great potential, but needed guidance in order to tap into it. They had to be instructed in knowledge, skills, and wisdom to achieve their ultimate purpose.

One reason we fell in love with these stories is because we identify with the plight of the hero. While most of us aren’t doing anything on the scale of fighting an evil empire, we do have our struggles. Some fight to pay bills. Others toil in jobs they can’t stand. Some contend with severe family or relationship problems. Some juggle daily itineraries that leave them wanting for personal space and sleep. The list could go on ad infinitum. Life challenges each one of us in one way or another. Your Darth Vader just looks different than mine.

As was stated in this article about establishing rapport, everyone needs social connectedness. I’ll take that a step further today by asserting that everyone needs a mentor to become the hero. Merriam-Webster defines a mentor as, “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.” We know anecdotally that mentors help us achieve improvement. Studies conducted on different types of mentoring (youth, workplace, and school are just a few examples) back this up. Research shows mentoring provides positive behavioral, health-related, attitude, relationship, motivational, and career outcomes.

My Yoda, My Mick, and My Haymitch

Excessive self-disclosure is often frowned upon in therapy, but today, I feel it is warranted. I want to share with you some examples of mentors who have made a difference not just in my fantasy football writing, but also in my life. My fantasy football journey started when I was eight years old. I was invited to play in a friends and family league with IDPs and somehow came in second place. That is where my insatiable love of all things fantasy football began. Fast forward to about seven years ago. I had started school and a part-time job. My fiance and I had just split. Life was pretty hectic. Fantasy football was not just fun anymore, it was a coping skill! I had also become the commissioner of the friends and family league. Despite doing well every year, I still couldn’t seem to win a championship. I was getting frustrated. I started to listen to fantasy football podcasts in an effort to figure out what I was missing. I listened to several, but one stood out from the rest. Of course, this podcast was The Audible. The hosts were knowledgeable and oozed a passion for the game like I did. You could tell they enjoyed talking about even the most obscure players and depth chart situations. What was more, when I asked them questions on Twitter, most of the time, they answered! They were always happy to answer my many questions and provided detailed responses.

One of them in particular made an impression on me with his calm demeanor, his skill at facilitating discussion, and his ability to paint beautiful pictures with his words. I admired how he could talk so poetically about life and football in the same breath. It also didn’t hurt that he shared a first name with one of my profession’s heros, Sigmund Freud. He encouraged his listeners to be aggressive in their draft strategy and on their early season additions on waiver wire. I won my first championship soon after and I attribute my success to feeling empowered to change my conservative style of playing redraft. Sigmund Bloom’s example is one that shows that mentors need not always be directly involved with those they influence. Many have touched lives and taught lessons just by being who they are, by treating others with respect and kindness in passing. It is a certainty that others are constantly watching and evaluating us. Our actions and words stir their thoughts and emotions. When we become aware of this fact, it should prompt us to be more measured in our speech and deeds. Continued mindfulness in this area will make controlling our speech and actions second nature.

Some mentors will be a little more direct in their instruction, however. A few years later, I decided that my strategy in dynasty leagues just wasn’t getting things done. I was on The Shark Pool message board asking for advice when I met Katie Flower. Katie saw that my knowledge in this area was severely lacking and coached me up. When the lightbulb came on and I realized that I had been playing dynasty with a redraft mentality, I felt so stupid. Katie never laughed at my inexperience, as she easily could have. She patiently worked with me until I grasped the important concepts. Some time later, Katie introduced me to her friend Chad Parsons, a writer for both Footballguys and his own website, UTHDynasty.com. Katie had written some pieces for UTH and encouraged me to do the same. Chad graciously published my work on his website and uplifted me, even though I was relatively inexperienced. His words of encouragement kept me hungry to do better. He even invited me to participate in one of his podcasts! Even though I do public speaking at work and at church, I was anxious about being part of a live broadcast for the first time. In my nervousness, I know I didn’t do my best during that show. Chad never criticized, but instead offered support and encouragement. My confidence continued to grow. Both Chad and Katie illustrated how mentors recognize where their students are at and how they will best be driven to succeed. Each student will be different. Some are motivated by being pushed to their limits. Others are motivated by trying to please. Mentors are constantly assessing what is needed to get the most out of their proteges and then taking the necessary action.

Good mentors never waver in their belief in their pupil and always seek their good. There is one special lady from whom I have learned a great deal about how to live my life. The word that comes to mind when I think of her is “selfless.” She is always putting the needs of others ahead of her own. She has always let me follow my heart without complaint, despite having to sacrifice countless hours proofreading my work and to being a football widow. She always expresses the highest confidence in my abilities. My wife, whom I love with all my heart, has truly made me a better man!

Katie, Chad, and Jennifer have never ceased to stand by me in following my dream. One day, Katie told me about an opening at Footballguys for an IDP Staff Writer. While I had always wanted to work for Footballguys, I struggled internally about whether or not I was qualified. Katie continued to insist that I apply. I shared my intentions with Chad and he also told me to go for it, despite the fact that I would no longer be able to contribute to his website. I talked it over with my wife before applying and she supported my choice. As they say, the rest is history. The mentor’s faith in the mentee is a driving force for both. The recipient is infused with courage and prompted to do what is essential for growth. For their part, teachers are able not only to take pride in their students’ success, but they also learn and grow as a result of their efforts. Additionally, students provide a source of accountability for their mentors and help them raise the bar for their own standards and example.

Pay It Forward

We all have people to whom we look up. We all have people who have made us better by seeing our potential and investing in us. We all have people who demanded nothing of us except that we do the best we can. I encourage you to now be that person for someone else. Maybe there’s a younger player in your league who shows promise but is missing some fundamental points. Take the initiative to kindly show them the ropes. Perhaps you have gotten to know your league mates and you see one who needs guidance not in football, but in the issues of life. No matter where you encounter someone in need of instruction on life’s road, be prepared to offer your hand and your heart. You’ll find that being a guide to someone else gives a sense of fulfillment and purpose that makes the effort given seem as nothing.