Mind Over Sports

I was about to write something regarding Peyton Manning’s sub-par performance in the playoffs this year and was planning to point my finger at the deteriorating relationship between Head Coach John Fox and Quarterback Manning. But when I visited the Broncos’ website, I came upon this headline: “Broncos, John Fox agree to part ways.” I wasn’t surprised. Things have not been right between them ever since the playoffs two years ago when, with the score tied, 31 seconds left in regulation playing time and three timeouts remaining, Fox instructed Manning to “take a knee.” Amazing! One of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time at the helm, whose specialty is moving the ball down the field under pressure, and he’s told by his coach to take a knee. That tells you a lot about coach Fox: He isn’t a risk-taker…like Elway and Manning. I was surprised he wasn’t let go sooner.

And then I read what USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan wrote about Manning in today’s newspaper, that he’ll be turning 39 in just a few months and that he was showing his age.

What Christine and other sports writers don’t quite understand is that what takes place away from the football field (behind closed doors) affects what takes place on the football field. With Fox gone, I’m looking for next season’s Broncos to not only be in the Super Bowl, but to win it.

They were all (allegedly) disruptive to team chemistry, even though they were all considered MLB super stars. Barry Bonds, when he was with the Giants, insisted on having his own private room in the locker room and looked down his nose at his teammates. It was no coincidence that while Bonds was playing for San Francisco they never once made it to the World Series.

In the case of Bo Jackson, I happen to know that when he was playing for the Kansas City Royals, he refused to follow Manager John Wathan’s instructions. He would be given a bunt sign and he would hit away. He would be told not to steal and he stole anyway. Wathan went to GM John Schuerholz and wanted to bench Jackson but Schuerholz wouldn’t allow it since having Jackson in the line-up “put fannies in seats.” Wathan was soon fired and when replaced with Hal MacRae, MacRae insisted that he would have complete control of who played and who didn’t or he would refuse to take the job. Schuerholz humbly agreed.

Randy Johnson was arrogant and treated his teammates badly. No wonder in all of his years as a professional baseball player he appeared in only one World Series.

Roger Clemens is a good example of how the Psycho Self-Imagery process works. I once read in the media that he often purposely threw at a batter’s head in order to intimidate him and thus affect his ability to hit a baseball. And since that time, I’ve never been a fan of his. Over the years, Roger has been his own worst enemy. When athletes have extra-marital affairs, when they are doing drugs, when they are dishonest and lie to a grand jury, when they repress their feelings resulting in low feelings of self-worth, and when their lives are in disharmony, they will actually create negative events in their lives, on and off the field of competition. And Roger Clemens is the perfect example.

When I read about Stuart Scott dying of cancer, after having been diagnosed in 2007, it reminded me of the “Surveillance Mechanism Theory” first discovered by the late Dr. Carl Simonton. Simply put, the Surveillance Mechanism Theory maintains that we all have cancer cells in our bodies and our immune systems are constantly gobbling them up Pack-Man style. But when we encounter stress in our lives, our bodies give off hormones that suppress our immune systems and the cancer cells begin to multiply at a rate faster than they can be devoured. And before long, we are diagnosed with cancer. And one of the most conspicuous characteristics of cancer patients is they all have bottled-up emotions at the time of diagnosis. Without knowing anything about Stuart Scott’s personal life, it’s possible that back in 2007 he had some kind of stressful event happen in his life that triggered his first bout with the illness. Over the years I’ve worked with cancer patients and would be happy to send free information to anyone reading this. Just contact me at marv@mindoversports.com — But keep in mind, the program I recommend is strictly supplemental and is not to replace any treatment you might be receiving from a physician

When Mike Singletary took over the head coaching job at the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, everyone expected great things from him and the team. I have met him personally and he is a very nice person.  But unfortunately, Mike’s “tough love” approach didn’t work because his team members were scared of him and were constantly trying to avoid bringing down his wrath upon them rather than playing the game of football. But don’t get me wrong. A tough love approach can work but ONLY if team members sense their coach genuinely cares about them as human beings first and then as athletic performers. This was one of Bobby Knight’s greatest gifts. His players knew he loved them and cared about them.

Now comes the new head football coach at Missouri State University.   His name is Dave Steckel and he’s a lot like Singletary. Coach Steckel is a former U.S. Marine and appears to be a no-nonsense type of guy. Which is good. But he also needs to learn from Coach Singletary’s failure. That is, tough love works if it’s accompanied by genuine love and caring by their head coach. And this is something that can’t be faked. Either you have the empathy or you don’t…and if you don’t, your players will know. The results will show up in the won-lost column and you will eventually fail

I just read in this morning’s USA Today where a former NFL player, Christian Peter, who had been plagued with aggression problems throughout his career, including rape, had been fed a steady diet of steroids while in high school by his high school coach. He felt that the steroids he took in high school may well have been the origin of his behavior involving the physical abuse of women.  Perhaps I’m a bit naive but it never occurred to me that high school coaches were dong this.  One has to wonder if this situation exists in school programs throughout the country and if yes, why aren’t there drug testing programs in place similar to the NFL and the NCAA? Those coaches who are caught giving their players steroids or have been looking the other way while their players have been taking steroids, should not only be banned from coaching forever but should also be strung up by their thumbs.

Missouri State University’s Dorrian Williams, has become one of his team’s best rebounders this season. According to the Springfield (MO) News-Leader: “Dorian Williams calls it a ‘want to do it’ mentality that allows him to excel in a facet of basketball that requires grit, sweat and sometimes a bit of bloodshed. The 6-foot-2 Williams is one of Missouri State’s smallest players, but one of its best rebounders…’It’s a will,’ Williams said of the first requirement of rebounding. ‘It’s also understanding the angles of a basketball when it misses.’” But what Williams didn’t mention is that his belief system had changed from last season. And what brought about the change? Probably the fact that he lost almost 40 lbs during the off-season. (Not sure if that’s the exact figure, but his weight loss was substantial.) From a psychological perspective, losing that much weight changed his beliefs about himself, and his belief in his ability to rebound. What an athlete believes to be true is true for him (or her), regardless of how it plays out in the real world. If a basketball player believes that watching a video of himself or herself making free throw after free throw after free throw will improve his or her accuracy at the free throw line, it will. Providing, of course, that he or she has the skill level.

Once when the University of Missouri football team was playing the University of Oklahoma, the Tigers were trailing by 21 points at half-time. But during the third quarter Oklahoma’s All-American quarterback sustained a game-ending injury and had to be carried off the field. His injury energized the MU offense which proceeded to score three touchdowns, only to lose the game by a single point. The Tigers’ offensive unit hadn’t changed, but their belief they could win did.

A particular belief can limit or enhance performance. A professional golfer may have played a particular course many times, yet feel a need to play the course one more time the day before a tournament. If the need is satisfied, it will aid the player’s performance. But if the need is not satisfied, the player may feel unprepared.

A major league baseball manager may believe that his team will face a greater disadvantage from a wet infield than the opposing team will. His players will know that. The manager thereby establishes a self-fulfilling prophecy that excuses low performance. And to excuse low performance is to promote it.

Some athletes believe a particular number on their jersey is important to success. If they have the number, they have extra confidence that enhances performance. If the team manager assigns a different number, the player loses confidence and that loss is reflected in performance. Same belief, different outcomes. A wise coach takes advantage of an athlete’s beliefs, no matter how crazy they seem, in order to build a team’s strength.

The athlete’s belief system controls performance, not the coach’s. If athletes believe that being sexually active the night before a big game will make them more relaxed and that they will therefore perform better, they will – regardless of what their coach believes. Coaches often try to force their own belief systems on their athletes and it just doesn’t work. The best coaches, the most successful ones, are those who instinctively tap into the belief systems of their players and use those beliefs to the team’s advantage.

Beliefs can also be a powerful tool in the field of health. When I lived in Kansas City a few years go, I worked with children who had been diagnosed with Sickle Cell Anemia. People who have sickle cell have sickle-shaped cells that, when under pressure, coagulate in the blood stream, forming a beaver-dam effect resulting in extreme pain. An audio visualization tape recording was created with slow relaxing background music and a narration by an announcer describing how their sickle shaped cells were becoming whole and round and flowing effortlessly through their veins and arteries. It wasn’t necessary that their cells were actually becoming whole and round only that they believed they were. And that they believed the use of the recordings would reduce their pain level. And when those beliefs kicked in, their pain level was reduced substantially, so much so that most of them were able to replace morphine shots with the use of the recording.   Sometimes what a patient believes about the potency of a particular medicine or treatment is almost as important as the medicine itself.

This is the second time it has happened. When Tiger was married to Elin, she prepared some noodles for him and seasoned them with Accent or some other type of seasoning that is essentially MSG. The result? Tiger sweated profusely and vomited on the course during a tournament. And now here it is again. This time at the Hero World Challenge and though he’s no longer married his reaction to a food allergy was the same. MSG is a food additive and flavor enhancer and the reason I know so much about it is that for many years I had the same reactions Tiger is having now. But when I finally figured it out, thirteen years had passed. A rocket scientist I’m not. What is confusing about MSG is that most people believe you can only get it in Asian cooking but MSG is also used to enhance the flavor of gravies used on meats and other non-Asian foods. And some restaurants offering salad bars soak their lettuce in it to keep it from turning brown.  After playing through his allergic reaction (which I’m assuming it was) he said: “It wasn’t easy. I fought hard. It’s all I had.” A reaction to MSG is often misdiagnosed as a flu symptom, but it’s not. And for Tiger to have shot a 3-under-par 69 and to be even after 54 holes while suffering from “MSG food poisoning” is an amazing achievement.

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Mind Over Sports
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