The Tao of Dr. Sharon
I am sure that my family and friends are tired of hearing me talk about my favorite new obsession, Ted Lasso. Like many people, I enjoy the show for a myriad of reasons. I am firmly convinced that the show could not have come at a better time, as it gives us a temporary reprieve for an hour every week from the stress we are all dealing with brought on by the fear and isolation from the pandemic and the political divisiveness in our society. While many consider it primarily a "feel good show," it often dives deep into the darker side of the human condition. There have been several occasions that I have felt a whole spectrum of emotions while watching a single episode of the show.
While the premise of the show that an American college football coach managing an English Premier League soccer team is far-fetched, some of the other nuances of the storyline are firmly rooted in reality. In particular, I enjoy the portrayal of the team's psychologist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. As a mental performance consultant/coach, I spend a lot of time traveling to work with collegiate and professional teams (some teams I have worked with recently: www.greggraber.com/about). I can tell someone on the writing staff of Ted Lasso has been around a team, because the way in which Dr. Sharon is portrayed is accurate to many of my own experiences working with teams.
I always laugh when I see Higgins looking for a place to set up shop, because on visits, I am always displacing someone from their office in order to have a place to work with the players. Similar to Higgins being nice enough to give his office to Dr. Sharon to use, some nice staff member is always generously giving me his or her office to use. Another similarity is the part about building a rapport with the staff. Much like the way it was portrayed in the first few episodes in which Dr. Sharon appeared, it always takes time for me to build trust with he coaching staff.
There is also the "lurker" thing. Like Dr. Sharon, I can often be seen "hanging around" and observing the team, whether it is on the practice field/court, strength work-outs, dining room, film room, etc. While I am sure my presence makes some nervous or curious, these observations are often invaluable in terms of enabling me to determine things like team chemistry, energy, morale, confidence, etc. Like Dr. Sharon, I try to make my presence during these observations as least disruptive as possible.
Whether she is helping Danny get rid of the yips, giving Colin a mantra to help with his confidence, or rendering therapy to Ted, Dr. Sharon is a valuable member of the AFC Richmond family. As news headlines in real-life continue to show famous athletes like Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, and others dealing with mental stress (https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Wellness/naomi-osaka-sloane-stephens-talk-mental-health-struggles/story?id=79855647 ), it is encouraging to see more and more teams adding mental health professionals like Dr. Sharon.
While therapy is hardly ever the quick-fix panacea that television shows often portray it to be, it is refreshing to see a popular show like Ted Lasso demisitfy some of the misconceptions that some hold about mental wellness. Misconceptions equating "mental wellness" with "mental toughness" were widely expressed by "fans" on Twitter and other social media platforms this summer when Osaka, Biles, and other top athletes spoke out about their struggles with mental stress and their mental health in general. Some social media posters ignorantly called them things like "mentally weak," "soft," "spoiled," etc. As someone who works on the mental side of sports with elite athletes, I can tell you that "mental toughness" and "mental wellness" are not one in the same. Over the years, I have seen many mentally tough athletes struggle under the weight of stress. I am sure Dr. Sharon would say the same thing.
One of the most appreciated aspects about the show to me has been Ted's gradual embracing of the therapy process with Dr. Sharon. Earlier in the series, Ted was dead-set against getting therapy. It has been my experience that many men, especially those in the sports world, can see therapy as something for "weak" people, viewing it in an almost esmascualting way. I am glad to see that this view is slowly starting to become a thing of the past. It is my contention that Ted Lasso is helping our collective consciouness realize that we are all works in progress, and a little mental tune-up from time to time is a good thing.
Now if we could just get Nate to visit Dr. Sharon.....
Greg Graber, the author of Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, teaches mindfulness and Social & Emotional (SEL) skills to schools, top sports teams, and various organizations around the world. Graber, a frequent keynote speaker, currently serves as the Director of SEL at Lausanne Collegiate School. He may be contacted through his website: www.greggraber.com