Mind Massages

—Byron Starks, LSU-Eunice, LA

“Whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy, think about these things.”

The concept of “Mind Massages” started when I coached at a private school in Louisiana that had six Division 1 student-athletes-including their entourage😃-on its team, and I have grown to use the same concepts as I coach at the college level.

I heard a speaker once discussing brain washing to change your way of thinking, he said “I’ve got to take your brain out of your skull, wash it, and put it back in your skull.”  

I then thought how can I apply that to my team.  The thought of teaching the truth without manipulation came to mind- hence “Mind Massages.”

As a leader, I’ve always tried to address the Method without tainting the Message.  We call it “Mind Massages” to get the desired results from the entitlement generation.

Before you can get to the heart(Soul), you must get to the head(Mind).

In essence, we are teaching the student-athlete how to drive (Lead a team, business, family), while giving them responsibility(keys), but we still hold the title to the vehicle.  

When they prove to be responsible, we will give them the title to the vehicle.

Massages increase circulation while removing metabolic waste.  I am not a scientist but the concepts of a massage resemble the “Mind Massages” philosophy by increasing positive thoughts, while constantly removing negative orunproductive thoughts.

Here’s how we do it:

We’ve used imagery, weekly sound bites from podcasts, guest speakers, music, and giving the players a sense of ownership in leading the team.

Step 1. Build Up

“People perform better when they feel good about themselves.”

“One Minute Manager” by Kenneth Blanchard.

People prefer honest criticism over flattery.  It is important to tell your team the truth while building them up.

The Sandwich Approach of Positive | Criticism| Positive is a strategy learned from my Sports Psychology class while attending college.

An Example of the Sandwich Approach is this:

Your shot is good, but it can be better by fighting for your feet (having good balance) on the catch. If you do this more consistently, your shooting percentage increases, creating a better chance at a successful career.   This builds up rather than tear down.

Step 2. Know what makes them move

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman has been a good book that helped me better understand my wife and children.  I thought, why not use it for my team. 

Here are examples of the 5 Love Languages:

Acts of Service

-Community service

Words of Affirmation 

-Affirm actions of growth 

– Even the less challenging students should be praised for constantly do the right things

Quality Time

-One on One workouts

-Individual chats in my office


Physical Touch

– High Fives

-Fist Bumps

-Pat on the back


-Recognition Stickers for Lockers or Helmets

-Highlight Name on the Leader Board or Group Messages

There is a free survey online for Teens and Married Couples(https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs will also be a great study to help understand the basic needs of your student-athletes. 

I once had a student-athlete kicked out of class and according to the teacher, he was defiant and disrespectful.

Once we sat down in my office, I asked 2 questions:

What time did you go to bed? and What did you eat this morning? Problem solved! The kid was tired and hungry and once those issues were addressed and trust gained, he and his brother excelled in our program and both arecurrently playing Division 1and professional basketball. Before you consider any “Mind Massages” address the basics.

Step 3. Hold your team accountable by setting the example.

Servant Leadership is one of the most effective forms of leadership. As a community advocate, I find it extremely rewarding to serve and give. Our team will have scheduled events to serve on our campus, in the community, and one another.  Serving strengthens the partnership, especially when you serve alongside the team, and in most cases, I or my coaches will be there to serve.

Why is this important?

Because it’s a visual and consistent reminder in the recruiting process with “Mind Massages”, that this journey is not only about you, but how using your gifts can benefit others.  In return, the blessings always come back to you.

This shows a vested interest in the student-athlete’s successes on and off the court. They know you are with them.  This is how a two-year partnership at a community college, becomes a lifelong partnership.

In conclusion, this sums up the “Mind Massages”philosophy.• Tell them the Truth• Have High Expectations• Develop Partnerships

Byron Starks

LSUE Men’s Basketball 

Teacher• Coach • Mentor • Motivator


Twitter: @byronstarks



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