Mind Over Sports

When the Oakland Athletics introduced “Moneyball” focusing on the importance of getting runners on base, I made a prediction at the time that the idea sounded good, but if there was not good team chemistry, it wouldn’t work. And it hasn’t. This past Sunday the Oakland Athletics released designated hitter Billy Butler despite still owing him $10 million for next season. Last month, according to the Associated Press, “Butler went on the concussion disabled list after a club-house altercation with teammate Danny Valencia.”

“Butler acknowledged frustration with a diminshed platoon role in Oakland after playing every day most of his career. He believes he still has a lot to offer”…and I’m in total agareement. Oakland’s manager, Bob Melvin, obviously doesn’t understand the importance of tapping into an athlete’s belief system. If an athlete, such as Butler, believes he performas at a higher level if he plays every day rather than being part of a platoon system, the manager should allow him to play every day. The athlete’s beliefs affect performance, not the manager’s.

Had the A’s contacted me, I probabely could have saved them $10 million. And the first thing I would have recommended would have been to convert the team into one big support group allowing players to air their grievances, something I’m sure they’re not now doing. And if they were, they would not be sitting in last place, 24 games out of first.

When NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the choice to kneel during the national anthem, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he disagreed with Kaepernick’s choice. “I support our players when they want to see change in society,” Goodell said, “On the other hand, we believe very strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe very strongly in that.” Unfortunately, Goodell didn’t believe strongly in the right of his NFL players to know the truth about the research conducted by Dr. Bennett Omalu, the Nigerian forensic pathologist who fought against Goodell and the NFL when they tried to repress his research on CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy, suffered by professional football players.

Have you ever noticed how, when there’s something in life you want to happen and push and push to make it happen it seldom happens. Then, when you back off and “let go” and begin to move on with your life, presto! It happens!

You see this quite often among hunters of whitetail deer. They positon themselves in treestands and are constantly looking around for a deer to come close to them. Finally, they decide to sit back and enjoy the moment not caring whether they see a deer or not, and just like that, a huge buck appears within sight.

The detachment principle also works in male-female relationships. A young man is interested in dating a particular girl and keeps trying to line up a date with her but she continually refuses. Finally, he says “the heck with it” and shortly thereafter the phone rings and it’s her, wanting to meet him for a date.

The power of detachment generally works after you go afer something with great intensity and then finally acknowledge it’s not going to happen and “let go.” This is also sometimes referred to as the Theory of Pardoxical Intentions.

But what about Rory McIlroy? According to the Associated Press: “Three holes into the Deutsche Bank Championship, Rory McIlroy had to make a 15-foot putt just to escape with triple bogey. He already was 4-over-par and had every reason to believe this tournament was headed for an outcome that was becoming too familiar for a player of his class.” But then, something surreal happened. McIlroy went from a miserable start to a memorble finish, closing with a 6-under 65 on Monday to make up a six-shot deficit and win the Deutsch Bank Championship. Is it possible he unknowingly practiced the concept of “detachment” and had accepted the fact he was not going to win and decided to “let go.” And when he made that decision, his game vastly improved.

So remember, when you go after something in your life, with great effort, and it doesn’t happen, you may need to back off and become detached by “letting go.” Take Rory McIlroy’s word for it. It works.

West Virginia’s running back Rushel Shell missed most of the second half of the Missouri game last Saturday due to leg cramps. In a past interview with Dr. Tommy Burnett, he told me that in the medical profession it was pretty common knowledge that the consumption of alcohol interferes with the transportation of oxygen to the body’s muscle cells and is not being delivered to the ligaments and tendons. When the muscle fibers are deprived of oxygen, the athlete is more prone to injuries such as muscle cramping. This is also common knowledge among personal trainers who work on college and professional athletes but it’s a fact often hidden from public view since there is a close association of the marketing of alcoholic beverages and sports, especially professional sports. So when you read where an athlete, such as Rushel Shell, is experiencing muscle and ligament problems, there’s a high probability that particular athlete is also consuming a substantial amount of alcohol in his (or her) personal life.

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 460,000 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 the athletes (in the form of scholarships, not as employees.)  Many of these athletes 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.

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