Just recently an emotional LaDainian Tomlinson bid farewell to his team, to the fans who supported him from the beginning, and to the dream of playing for the San Diego Chargers through his entire, record-setting career. Several times during the questions from the press, L.T. discussed professional football being a “business,” alluding to the fact that decisions are made for business reasons, despite the feelings and desires of the players.
L.T.’s dismissal from the Chargers is like any other business laying off a loyal employee, where the message received is something like, “It doesn’t matter that you have contributed so much to our organization. You are no longer useful to us.”
Many observers claim that with the current Charger coaching staff, the running game is eschewed in favor of the pass, thus rendering L.T.’s contribution “unimportant” and his continual presence too expensive. Whether that is the reason the decision was made is not being made public, but one thing that was made public was L.T.’s candid revelation a few weeks ago that there was something wrong with the “organizational climate” this season.
Too often, professional athletes feel like they are “pieces of meat” who are revered as long as they can produce what is expected of them. Injuries are no excuse…don’t perform and we’ll find someone who will. Where is the loyalty? “It’s a business,” they say, rather than a family, where folks look out for and help each other during difficult times.
If a company’s productivity or its’ employee morale drops, they can hire a management consultant to diagnose the causes. Professional sports teams can do the same thing, but they rarely do. Instead, they just go out and look for bodies to take the place of the people they let go and hope that the “organizational climate or culture” will accommodate them. Sadly, these teams are missing the true causes of their difficulties. Their biggest assets are their athletes, yet the management of these teams rarely give them the dignity and respect to try to assess what’s happening with them, in order to right the ship.
Professional Sport Psychologists are fully equipped to help teams assess the “organizational climate or culture” issues, not only to right the ship, but to prevent problems from occurring. Perhaps if the Chargers had done this in the first place, L.T. would be finishing his glorious career with the team he loved so much.
Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
Certified and Licensed Sport and Clinical Psychologist
Diplomate, National Institute of Sports Professionals, Division of Psychologists
Diplomate, American Academy of Behavioral Medicine
Certified Hypnotherapist, American Academy of Clinical Hypnosis
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