Great read on how Dansby Swanson tackled his mental health and how it affects player performance
We mention it more than we used to as sports fans, but it still probably doesn’t come up often enough: Mental health certainly has a dramatic impact on a player’s ability to perform to the best of their abilities.
The relationship is more or less obvious at this point (yips are an extreme but illustrative example), but we rarely get a chance to discuss the direct impact. It’s understandable that it’s still a tricky thing to talk openly about mental health issues, especially in a world where players may fear that doing so could one day end up being used against them on the open market (or in the clubhouse, if that’s the case). not all are there). compassionate enough).
So I really appreciate Dansby Swanson’s willingness to talk about his battles with anxiety, how it affected his performance, and how he worked through it:
At the end of the 2019 season, Swanson was really having trouble controlling his anxiety. That’s when he got outside help, according to the article, he realized he had some unresolved feelings associated with being drafted first overall, but then changed almost six months later (it sowed doubts about how good he could actually be or if he could lead someone else). Every time he struggled, it seems like Swanson would subconsciously return to that place of doubt.
He pointed to himself, wondering what he did wrong to become the first No. 1 pick traded in the first year of his pro career. The stress of being traded to his hometown team only added to the tension. When he wrestled for extended stints in the majors his first four years, his anxiety about the move and his early fights crept in. He made solving his losing streaks an almost impossible task.
“Dansby was playing in that space over and over again, and then he would go home and obsess over the results because he cared so much.” [mental wellness coach and therapist Armando] Gonzalez said. “Not only is Atlanta his hometown, but for once in his life he wasn’t living up to his standard. And he was terrified by that result. So his brain went into survival mode looking for any adjustments he could make, anything he could change to get back to himself.”
In order to heal that part of himself, Swanson had to relive moments where he struggled. Moments in which he felt that he had let down his team and the people who believed in him. González and Swanson worked to remove that trauma and redirect their thoughts during their first three-day dive in Nashville. In the end, Swanson felt that he had overcome an obstacle. González noticed the difference immediately in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Not to suggest TOO perfect a line of demarcation, but it’s notable that, in his career prior to 2020, Swanson hit .245/.318/.385/80 wRC+ with 5 total DRS. In the three seasons since he got his anxiety under control, Swanson has hit .265/.324/.451/109 wRC+ with 9 total DRS. Much of that player’s development, of course, but perhaps the ability to better handle the bass that comes with this sport has also served him well.
Give the article a read, since there is also a lot about Swanson as a leader. He came to the Cubs clearly looking to continue growing as a leader, and the timing is perfect.
One would hope that these mental abilities would also serve Dansby Swanson well in his transition to the Cubs. We’ve seen it many times before: the great free agent gets a great contract with a new team and immediately puts too much pressure on himself to be amazing from the start. When the inevitable slump hits, useless pressure kicks in and can create a spiral of underperformance.