Mind Over Sports

The Tamp Bay Buccaneers announced yesterday that defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has been released, but gave no indication why. It’s possible that Albert has forgotten the lesson he learned back in 2006,when he underwent counseling. The following appeared in USA Today: “DT Albert Haynesworth said he learned through counseling that he should quit bottling up his emotions until they explode, a problem that landed him the NFL’s longest suspension for an on-field act. His remorse and willingness to seek help since kicking Dallas Center Andre Gurode in the face with his cleats is why he will practice today. But the Titans are requiring Haynesworth to continue that anger-management counseling. ‘I just want to keep doing it,’ Haynesworth said. ‘Honestly, it’s helping. I can actually talk about stuff. My wife likes it, too. I actually open up and talk about problems I have.’” Athletes who withhold, who bottle-up their feelings, will not perform anywhere near their skill level and are prone to making mental errors during competition because withholding affects their ability to focus.

I firmly believe that when you’re happy, and your life is in harmony, you will create positive events in your life on and off the field of competition. And such is the case with Cleveland Cavalier’s new head coach David Blatt. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that soon after he accepted the position of head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the number one basketball player on the planet, LeBron James, rejoined the team. Based on the theory of quantum mechanics, many consciousness physicists believe our mind creates our own success and our own reality. And though I’m not a consciousness physicist, I do believe there’s an excellent possibility that the Cavaliers will win the 2014-2015 NBA Championship, even though it will be  coach Blatt’s first year as an NBA head coach.

When NFL Saints Coach Sean Payton was informed the World Cup coach for Mexico was having his players abstain from sex for three weeks and then asked if his players should abstain on nights before games, he responded: “I’m for whatever we’ve been doing. How’s that?” But the fact of the matter is, it’s not what the coach believes, it’s what the athletes believe. I once worked with a Division I men’s basketball team and the night before a game their coach locked them into a hotel room so they would have to abstain from sex the night before a game, even though most of the players felt that having sex the night before a game helped them loosen up and relaxed them and they actually played better. Coaches should remember that it’s the athletes’ beliefs that affect performance, not the coaches.


Twenty-five year old Rory McIlroy, one of the world’s top professional golfers, recently sat down with golf legend Jack Nicklaus during which the subject of McIlroy’s first and second rounds at Nicklaus’ recent Memorial Tournament came up. Nicklaus asked him: “How the hell can you shoot 63 (first round) and then 78 (second round)?” I think I might have one possible answer to that question and you might agree with me if you subscribe to the theory: What takes place away from the golf course affects what takes place on the golf course.

McIlroy recently broke off his engagement to Danish tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki and said at the time: “The problem is mine…I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails.” But there could be some lingering effects from that decision. What if (and I’m only speculating) Caroline didn’t want the relationship to end and is still pursuing the possibility they will get back together. And one of the ways she stays in contact with him is through his cell phone. As you may be aware, some of the PGA Tournaments allow participants to take and make calls on their cell phones during competition providing the calls are personal and not performance related. So let’s assume (and this is strictly assumption) that just before teeing off the second round he receives an unwanted call from Caroline. They get into a brief spat and the results show up on the leader board. But the weirdest thing of all is why do they even allow cell phones (or i-phones) to be used during competition and how can they police usage?

I’ve always said that what takes place away from the golf course affects what takes place on the golf course. An extreme example is the current situation involving Phil Mickelson and his being accused of “insider trading.” If convicted, Mickelson could go to prison. It is the first time since 2003 that he has gone this far into a P.G.A Tour season without a victory. And last week he instructed F.B.I. agents to “speak to my lawyers.” I also believe that what goes around comes around. There have always been rumors about Mickelson’s arrogance, especially when interacting with his fellow P.G.A. touring partners. It was said that he treated everyone around him badly and had few if any close friends. If true, that would certainly account for what’s happening in his life today. And it should be a good lesson to anyone reading this column. Always treat others the way you yourself would like to be treated.

Last night on HBO I watched a disturbing report about horse racing in America and how trainers are (legally) drugging horses to enhance their performance. Many of the horses are suffering heart attacks and dying on the tracks. I invite you to watch www.hbo.com/real-sports-with-bryant-gumbel#/ and I’m sure you’ll agree with me 100%.

With the 2014 NFL Draft coming up, the media, including The New YorkTimes, are looking back at the 1998 draft when Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning were the number one and number two draft choices. Peyton was drafted by the Colts, Ryan by the Chargers. The media is questioning why Ryan’s career fizzled and why Peyton’s took off. It’s easy to blame the athlete but we, the public, are almost never privy to what may have gone on behind the scenes between Ryan and his San Diego Coaches that could have caused his career to collapse.

I reside in Springfield, Missouri, where the Missouri State University’s baseball team is often visited by major league scouts. On one such occasion I noticed an African-American man who was scouting for the Atlanta Braves. Walter and I struck up a conversation and he told me he used to use his 6’ 4” frame and 230 lbs to throw 90 mile per hour fastballs. He had a certain style of pitching that had served him well throughout high school and college. After graduating, he was drafted by one of the major league baseball teams and a pitching coach was assigned to help him. Unfortunately, his new pitching coach immediately tried to change his style of throwing, which didn’t sit well with Walter. Instead of standing up to his coach he acquiesced and tried to change his style of pitching but to no avail. Soon, he was released by the team and in retrospect, he now feels it was a mistake not to speak up and attempt to change his coach’s approach to training him. This is a good example of what former major league manager Whitey Herzog once said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Very often the team cuts the player when they should have gotten rid of the coach.”

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Mind Over Sports
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