Sports Psychologist: Panthers ‘Charged by Doubters’

CHARLOTTE, NC (WCCB Charlotte) — It doesn’t take long for Cam Newton to go head-to-head with his doubters.

Newton pounces on ‘them’ in the post game press conference.

“I know you guys didn’t pick us,” Newton said after Sunday’s 31-24 win.

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Newton and the Panthers have been proving nay-sayers wrong all season. It’s been the unofficial rallying cry the entire year.

Licensed Psychologist at Mind over Body, Southeast Psych, Dèsarèe Festa, PH.D.,  works with student-athletes for the Charlotte 49ers and consults with the Hornets for the draft. She says this type of motivation is common in sports.

“A statement like that,” Festa said when asked to analyze Newton’s post game comments. “I would assume (he) is very much charged by doubters.”

The doubters have been with the Panthers since the beginning of the season. The injury to Kelvin Benjamin, being underdogs at Dallas on Thanksgiving and even many so-called experts ate crow this past week in picking Seattle over Carolina.

In mid-December, NBC analyst and former player Rodney Harrison told the Charlotte Observer that he “gets these tweets and people get mad at me because I said, “I believe in Seattle.†Harrison continued his criticism on TV which incited an animated response from cornerback Josh Norman.

All that negativity, psychologist Dèsarèe Festa, PH.D. says, may have served the perfect purpose for the Panthers and head coach Ron Rivera.

“A good coach has a lot of skills and tools in their back pocket on how to motivate players,” Festa said. “So ‘chip on your shoulder’ is one to get them fired up. ‘Nothing to lose’ is another. But also, ‘having fun’.”

And we know the Panthers have had a ‘dab’ of fun this season.

Win after win may be starting to defeat the doubters. Carolina is currently a 3.5 point favorite to beat Arizona. A stark contrast to two-to-three weeks ago where ‘experts’ said the Cardinals were the team to beat.

So, how will head coach Ron Rivera motivate his team before Sunday’s NFC Championship?

“I have to wait until I read all of your articles and see what’s out there,” Rivera said with a chuckle.