Blue Jays thrive under pressure situations: experts

Oct 22, 2015 | Sports

Javon Walker

After beating the Kansas City Royals 7-1 last night at the Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays have their hands full on Friday as they try to stave off elimination for the fourth time this postseason.

However, the pressure might actually help the Jays, according to some professional sports psychologists.

“The Jays were down 2-0 to [the] Texas [Rangers] going into Texas, and needing to win there I think they thrived on pressure,” says Dr. Andrew Jacobs, who works in Kansas City and has 35 years experience in sport psychology.

“They had 3 elimination games in a row and didn’t flinch..and if they were to win tomorrow then that’s five games in a row when they were on the verge of being eliminated and came back.”

Kansas City has ‘slight advantage’

Paul Dennis, a high performance coach at York University, believes the Royals are under the same pressure the Rangers were under against the Jays, as they have to close out the series at home, where they might get too pumped up.

Except this time there’s one problem.

“The only difference is that Kansas City almost won the world series last year,” said Dennis. “They’ve got slightly more experience in dealing with a challenging situation, and because of that I give them the slight advantage.”

Jacobs, who was the Royals’ full-time psychologist from 1989-90 and 2008-11, said the team also have experience with surviving elimination games and thrives on motivation on losses, as opposed to getting pumped up.

“Both teams have been in these elimination games and they’ve both come out of them,” said Jacob. “So if it went to Game 7 it would be a very interesting scenario.

“Two teams who feel very good about themselves…neither of these teams are afraid to lose, neither are afraid to screw up.”

Even so, the Royals have an advantage by being at home. Bill Cole, the first to ever to be awarded a Bachelor of Science – with honors – in Sport Psychology, explains that playing on ones own field is like being at home.

“Part of the advantage of being at home is the comfort level,” Cole, who is the founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, told Humber News.

“Like sleeping in your own bed, eating your own food at home, all that stuff is really comforting and normal.”

What comes next?

The winner of the series will move on the World Series, where the New York Mets await after closing out the Chicago Cubs in four-straight games Wednesday.

If the Jays survive their next two games it is very possible that they could have the advantage against them.

“The Mets have so many good hitters, but as they say in the post season: ‘Good pitching nullifies good hitting every time,’  and I give the advantage to the Jays in terms of pitching,” said Dennis.

Regardless, that’s not something the Royals or the Blue Jays should be thinking about right now.

“You have to take it one game at a time, one inning at a time, one batter at a time, whether it’s a word series or the eight game of the season,” said Jacobs, one of the first sports psychologists in baseball.

“Just watch and see how it unfolds,” Dennis advises Jays fans. “And hopefully they will give you a chance for a game 7.”

Andrew Jacobs has a new book coming out in November 2015 called ‘Just Let ’em Play‘, a guide for parents and coaches who have kids who play sports.