Can you tell when an athlete is faking an injury? As they get older, moving up to pros, do they become more sophisticated at bluffing an injury than grade school athletes? Possibly, but not necessarily. Athletes have a larger stage, but lack the skill set as thespians.
The N.Y. Giants, Deon Grant, recently took the spotlight in a game against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams were successfully using the “no-huddle” offense when two Giants flopped to the ground with cramps. Taking a dive was the Giants tactic to slow down the offense of the Rams. It was so poorly executed even the commentators were able to see right through their ploy.
Feigning an injury crosses an invisible line between good and poor sportsmanship. What makes a team decide this is an appropriate strategy when they are up against the wall in a weaker position? Athletes flopping on the field are acting like “used car salesman,” giving their sport a bad name.
Pulling this stunt is on the rise in football. The NFL sent out a recent memo telling players to cut it out. Coaches were instructed not to be party to this tactic. The NFL took a soft approach to a growing problem. Expecting the guilty players to change their tactic with a reprimand is naïve. The consequences need to be stronger than the benefits for players to quit bluffing.
Do other sports involve this same defense? Yes, soccer players across the globe are notorious for feigning injury, buying some time for the team. It doesn’t just apply to team sports. On a recent chat there was a runner asking which injury was easiest to fake because he didn’t want to run a steeplechase with his team.
Feigning injury serves a purpose, buying time to change out players, re-think strategy or get input from the coach. In the long run, taking short cuts is not the best defense. Participating in this tactic is purely a mindset issue. What is the mindset of coaches, teams and athletes bluffing injury to buy time?
Values: The values of the coach impact the actions of a team. When a coach has high standards, the players perform according to those expectations. Sportsmanship and winning are separate values. When winning is dominant, dubious actions are more likely to be rationalized.
Integrity: Is consistency in character. Actions, values, methods and expectations maintain a certain standard. Coaches and athletes of high integrity focus on attitude and performance as markers of good sportsmanship, being more likely to play within the code of ethics.
Need to win: Is an obsession. High tension is created because the need to win is actually a negative mindset, fueled by the egos need for recognition. This perspective actually works against athletes and coaches, because it does not allow room for error.
Facing an obstacle: Is difficult for coaches and athletes who are rigid and inflexible. The energy is focused on getting out of a problem instead of seeking solutions, creating a negative frame of reference. Self coaching strengthens an athlete’s mental game.
Vantage point: Athletes and coaches viewing themselves at a disadvantage will have a different response than those playing from a power position.
Going so far as to fake injuries to buy time is a poor defense. As you can guess, when the losing team doesn’t have any more time outs remaining, a player will become injured, giving the team time to recollect themselves. This is used to break up the momentum, slowing down the event or disrupt the other teams rhythm.
This approach to break momentum for the opposition is a waste of time, a poor tactic and implies everyone involved is gullible enough to fall for it. It is a desperate response, due to the defense’s inability to rally together as a unified team. Basically, this approach steals from the trainers, coaches, fans and other athletes.
Instead of employing a bluff, change the approach. Make the other team work hard to earn the win. Continuing to practice fake injuries will tarnish the reputation of football, costing plenty in the long run. Fans vote with their wallets.
Injuries are not something to be taken lightly. They occur all the time. A referee is not going to determine whether an injury is real or fake at the moment it occurs. He is expected to taking injuries seriously, each and every time. When athletes cry wolf too often, referees might become jaded leading to a referee not responding quick enough when a real injury does occur.
Interestingly enough, the NFL does not want to take a strong stand on this issue, feeling the cons outweigh the pros by creating a ruling. Instead their approach is to send out a soft warning, soliciting coaches to uphold the spirit of the game. Athletes, and teams, who bend the rules by feigning injury, rationalize their behavior. They’ve already crossed the line, determining the rules don’t apply to them when a win is at stake.
Continuing with this approach forces the hand of the NFL to take a stronger stand, creating a ruling. Historically most rulings are made to tame the athletes who push the edge between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. No one likes a cheater. Although rules apply to all, they are created because of a few who overstepped an implicit boundary to tip the odds in their favor.
Athletes who rely on faking injury as a strategy are shortchanging themselves. Bridge the gap between current performance and peak potential by taking action. What does that mean? Well, weakness affects performance. Building a strong mental game to deal with challenges improves performance.