Mind Over Sports

The NCAA must think we sports fans are stupid. Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, made a salary of $1.9 million during 2014. But his press release pointed out that his salary was less than that of the commissioners in Power Five conferences. Try telling that to hundreds of thousands of NCAA athletes who make zero income while filling the pockets of NCAA executives, coaches and commissioners. If I were an NCAA athlete, I would organize a nationwide strike until the NCAA agreed to share the profit they make from the blood, sweat and tears of NCAA athletes with NCAA athletes, many whom cannot even afford to buy a pizza after a game. I know this for a fact because one of the teams I worked with didn’t have enough money to buy a pizza after a game so I treated them (under the table, of course) since they could have been penalized.

Athletes who receive unconditional love throughout their lives are those who perform at a high level. The love produces enhanced feelings of self-worth which, in turn, is the foundation for performance. And American Olympic star Simone Biles is a good example. According to her bio on the Internet, “She and her sister, Adria, were raised by their grandfather Ron and grandmother Nellie, after their mother’s struggle with substance abuse. Ron and Nellie eventually officially adopted the two girls, and Biles calls her grandmother ‘Mom.’ Nellie has been a constant source of support through Biles’s rise in the world of competitive athletics; as the gymnast told CNN, ‘She encouraged me and never let me feel down about something for too long.’”

How can you tell if an athlete has high self-esteem? There are a number of ways: They have xcellent eye contact, they don’t withhold (that is, they don’t keep their feelings bottled up inside themselves which is a form of lying but rather speak up when they have an opinion about an issue even if the issue involves their coach) and they have compassion for other peoples’ plights in life.

So if you’re a parent and want your children to be successful in life, give them unconditional love. The problem is that unless parents have received it themselves, it is very difficult for them to pass it on to their children.

Bad team chemistry can devastate a sports team. Since I’m not privy to what’s going on behind the scenes with the Tampa Bay Rays, one only has to look at their dismal 42-62 record and their last place standing in the American League East to sense something is not right among teammates. I’m sure Duffy pitched an excellent game, but I’m also pretty certain he was helped by negative chemistry among Tampa Bay’s players. And if he was, then Tampa Bay’s front office needs to implement some type of program internally to help their athletes with their personal and team-related issues. If not, it’s going to be a long, long season for them.

Coaches often try to force their belief systems onto athletes. Such an approach just doesn’t work. The athlete’s belief system controls performance, not the coach’s. If a relief pitcher believes he needs 12 minutes to warm up before putting him into a game, the manager should allow him his twelve minutes. Some beliefs concern physical activities. There are coaches who insist male athletes avoid sexual relations in the twenty-four hours before a game, believing such activity somehow depletes a player. In contrast, some players feel that such activity relaxes them and enhances their athletic ability the next day. Conceivably sex can promote or retard performance. If an athlete believes it’s beneficial, it will be. But if a player has to lie to a coach about such intimate personal activity, their dishonesty will have a negative effect at game time.

Even though golf great Phil Mickelson lost his bid to become the first male golfer in 437 major championships to shoot that mythical score of 62 when his 16-foot birdie putt didn’t fall on the 18th hole at Royal Troon in the British Open, he still shot a fantastic 63!
One has to wonder what might be going on in Mickelson’s personal life that helped his mental game. When athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony they perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. When they’re not happy and their lives are not in harmony, they don’t. So Mickelson must have been mighty happy when he shot that sixty-three. Perhaps he received some good news about his legal problems.

One of the most important characteristics of a successful coach, which Pat Summitt possessed, was a high sense of inner-self, or self-worth. When coaches feel good about themselves, it not only shows up in how they interact with their players, but it also shows up in the won-lost column.

Successful coaches care about their athletes as human beings first, and then as athletic performers. This includes helping them with their personal issues and problems and having an open-door policy. Here are other characteristics:

Successful coaches know that athletes do not perform well if they fear the wrath of their coach.
Successful coaches know that when they get angry they give away their power. They do not yell and get in the faces of their athletes.
Successful coaches are aware their behavior in their own personal lives affects how they interact with their teams.
Successful coaches know that what takes place away from the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition.
Successful coaches encourage their athletes not to “withhold” their feelings and emotions since withholding is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem; as a result of withholding, athletes will take fewer risks in interpersonal relationships and create psychological baggage for themselves that affects their ability to focus and process information.
Successful coaches hold weekly team meetings and encourage, when necessary, that their athletes sometimes participate in “players only” meetings so they will feel free to discuss team related problems and issues in a support group environment, issues they may not feel comfortable discussing with their coach present.
Successful coaches know they cannot motivate their players but can create a environment allowing their players to discuss their personal issues and problems; and as they discuss their personal issues and problems, they will then feel better about themselves and will automatically become more motivated.
Successful coaches are constantly aware of their players’ eye contact since they know that poor eye contact is an indication that players are withholding and have unresolved issues in their personal lives.
Successful coaches encourage their players to use visualization techniques, including the use of video tape sequences accompanied by a music track with meaningful lyrics.

In 1948, Robert Merton published a paper in which he stated: “The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true. The specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the beginning.”

In other words, a prophecy (or strongly held belief) declared as truth when it is actually false may sufficiently influence people, either through fear or logical confusion, so that their reactions ultimately fulfill the once-false belief.
Example: When a woman falsely believes her marriage will fail, her fears of such failure actually cause the marriage to fail.

Example: When athletes falsely fear they will not perform up to their capabilities in an upcoming game, their fear of such failure actually causes them to fail.
But I believe the opposite is also true. That is, when a coach praises an athlete and tells him or her how successful they are expected to be in their next game (even creates goals for them) and, assuming the athlete possesses the skill level to achieve those goals, there is a high probability the athlete will be successful.  But in order to do so, the athlete must not be withholding feelings and emotions, or have unresolved issues in his or her personal life.

If a parent constantly praises a child and reminds that child of what high goals he or she is capable of achieving, then there is a great probability he or she will achieve high goals, assuming the child possesses the skill levels to achieve the goals and is not withholding feelings and emotions, or has unresolved issues in his or her personal life.

If a child is being reared in a loving, nurturing home environment and has a high sense of inner-self (self-esteem), and a teacher belittles that child and creates a negative expectation, it will be like water off a ducks back because of how that child feels about himself or herself. But if the child comes from a dysfunctional home environment and has a low sense of inner-self (self-esteem) and a teacher belittles the child, the teacher’s actions will re-enforce the negative beliefs the child may already possess about himself or herself.

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

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