Mind Over Sports

Archive for December 2006

It seems to me that the Washington Redskins’ defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, could take a few pointers from the team’s offensive coordinator, Al Saunders. That is, take advantage of a player’s personal belief system and don’t ask him to perform at a position that he feels he’s weak at. The Kansas City Chiefs realized this half-way through this season when the coaching staff was finally convinced by some of the players, including Kyle Turley and Brian Waters, that Jordan Black belonged at the left tackle position, not right tackle. And as soon as the change was made, Black’s level of performance increased considerably. According to an article that appeared in the Kansas City Star, November 11, 2006: “He’s been phenomenal,” Turley said of Black, “he should have been at left tackle from the start.” The same article quoted Black as saying that left tackle was his natural position: “Getting back in one spot is big” Black said. “A lot of people think there’s no difference in playing right tackle or left tackle. But there’s a difference. I always knew I could play. I just needed the opportunity to play one position.”

Which brings us to situation involving Adam Archuleta and the Redskins. According to an article in December 29, 2006 issue of USA Today, Archuleta has been in the doghouse all season.

adam-archuletaArguably the best linebacker in the NFL when he played for the Rams, Archuleta hasn’t played a snap on defense in seven weeks. “It became immediately apparent in training camp that Williams wanted to use Archuleta in different ways than the Rams did. Archuleta, a hard-hitting converted linebacker, was asked to play more coverage, not his strong suit.

He started the first seven games only because Pierson Prioleau was out for the season with a knee injury, and Archuleta’s liabilities are one of the reasons the Redskins lead the league in allowing passes of 20 yards or more. Now Archuleta is used only on special teams. Archuleta wouldn’t go into details but indicated the coaches have not been upfront with him. ‘I’m a grown man. I don’t like getting lied to’ Archuleta said. ‘I don’t mind if somebody says to my face what my flaws are and what I’m doing wrong. I welcome those because an honest assessment is all anybody wants in this business.'” One of the biggest complaints I’ve often heard from NFL players is when they felt their coaches weren’t upfront and honest with them. And if other defensive players for the Redskins feel the same, and are not speaking up, it’s no small wonder that the Redskins are having defense problems. By not speaking up about issues and keeping them bottled up inside themselves they are negatively affecting their own performance. Good coaches know this instinctively.

I think a quote from former major league baseball manager Whitey Herzog is appropriate here. In his book, “You’re Missin’ A Great Game,” Herzog points out that in major league baseball, in many instances, “the team gets rid of the player, when the manager (coach) is the problem all along.”

Note: If you are an athlete and want to find out if you are performing close to your skill level on a consistent basis, take the “Self-Esteem Survey” Test while visiting this website. There’s a close relationship between athletic performance and feelings of self-worth.

p1jeffgarciapwThough the media has been fawning over Jeff Garcia’s recent performance as the replacement quarterback for The Philadelphia Eagles, few realize one of the major reasons for his success. Her name is Carmella and she is Jeff’s fiance. Both live together in Manhattan Beach, California.

I have often maintained that a loving relationship with a woman can have a major influence on the performance of a male athlete. A nurturing female companion can make a male athlete feel good about himself and helps contribute to putting his life in harmony. Another example is Tiger Woods. Also, the late Ted Williams, arguably the greatest baseball hitter of all time. Few are aware of the behind the scenes personal life of Williams. During his career he had a longtime live-in girlfriend, Louise Kaufman, who had a major impact on Williams’ success. In David Halberstam’s book, “The Teammates”, he wrote: “Ted, in time, had shown up, his three marriages by then over, and was with a wonderful lady named Lou Kaufman, a kind and forgiving person who had moved in and out of his life over the years. She was much admired by most of Ted’s old friends and was, by consensus among them, the woman in Ted’s life who seemd to understand him best and who could calm him down most readily when one of those instant moments of pure anger had been triggered. She was kind and thoughtful and truly loving – and she seemed, I once thought, when we were all three together for a day back in 1988, as much parent to him as lady-friend.” .

Whenever I work with young male athletes, I always impress on them how important it is to have a good relationship with their girlfriends. If there’s an argument, they need to resolve it before competing in their sport. And if the girlfriend refuses to resolve it, then it’s time to get another girlfriend. And of course, the same applies to female athletes and their boyfriends. In order to perform close to their skill levels, athletes’ lives must be in harmony.

knight_bobbyIt’s easy to be critical of Texas Tech head basketball coach Bobby Knight. Especially if you really aren’t aware of what goes on behind the scenes in the locker room. What sets Bobby Knight and other successful coaches like him apart from the others is one basic element: They genuinely care about their players. They care about the welfare and personal issues of their players. And they’re always there to help them through troubled times. The players know this only too well. They pick it up fast and will play their hearts out for any coach, like Knight, who cares about them as human beings first and then as athletic performers.

Coach Knight and others like him, such as Mike Singletary Assistant Head Coach for the San Francisco 49ers, Roy Williams, head basketball coach at North Carolina, former NFL and University of Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer, NFL Coach Al Saunders, and Mike Krzyzewski, head basketball coach at Duke University, will tell you that they are not only preparing their athletes to be good performers on the field or on the court, but also to handle the life they will encounter in the real world after their sports careers have ended.

It’s been said that if you want to know if someone is committed, all you have to do is look at their actions. Commitment shows up in what we do, not what we say we’re going to do. Bobby Knight’s actions speak for themselves. For example, few people are aware (and if memory serves me I first heard this when he was interviewed on the Washington Press Club on national television) that after a player has used up his four years of eligibility, if he still hasn’t graduated, Knight dips into his own pocket and pays for the fifth year himself. How’s that for commitment?

carmelo-anthonyIt’s really very sad. More brawling by millionaire basketball players resulting in fines by NBA Commissioner David Stern. A few of those being fined: Carmelo Anthony, Mardy Collins, Jerome James, Jared Jeffries, J.R. Smith, Nate Robinson and Nene. In the past there have been NFL fines for such notable athletes as Darren Woodson, Donovin Darius, John Lynch, Mark Carrier, Brian Dawkins, and Warren Sapp.

But you can be almost certain that the brawling had little or nothing to do with the game itself, but was rather a case of “misdirected anger.”. NBA players, and NFL players, are no different than any of us other mortal beings. They have issues and problems in their personal lives just like we do. But the main difference between them and us is they often refuse to deal with them because they fear the negative publicity that may be generated if they go public. So what do they do? They keep everything bottled up inside themselves until it explodes during athletic competition. Or they get into some stupid fight in a bar. Once in a while you have someone like PGA Golfer John Daly who does go public, but most of them bottle it up, which, is the worst thing they can do.

But here’s the good news. They really don’t have to go public with their issues but just have someone in their personal lives with whom they can share their issues without that person being judgmental. What amazes me is that, to my knowledge, no one in NBA or NFL management seems to have required teams to provide any kind of ongoing internal system that allows the players to discuss their issues and problems in a support group environment. I’m not talking about anger management since you really can’t manage anger. The idea is to acknowledge, resolve (or attempt to resolve) whatever issues in your life that are creating the anger in the first place. That’s why team meetings are often so effective. Because they provide players with a forum to bring up an issue that’s bothering them, and then move on. In the past, I’ve often been approached by a player I was working with and told that he had an issue with his coach. “Well,” I would say, “tell him how you feel.” To which he would answer: “It won’t do any good. Coach isn’t going to change.” And of course, my response to that is: “You can’t change anybody. When you tell a coach (or even your wife or girlfriend) how you feel, you’re doing it for yourself.” But there’s another part of this puzzle that, for obvious reasons, gets very little publicity. And that is, many of today’s professional athletes are cheating on their wives or girlfriends (or both) and keeping it bottled up, not realizing the damage it’s doing to their self-esteem and to their game. You show me an athlete who is living a lie and I’ll show you an athlete who isn’t performing anywhere near his or her skill level. If I were an NBA or NFL coach or general manager, I would make it clear to all athletes and coaches involved in my organization that if they were having affairs outside their relationship with their wives or girlfriends and just couldn’t help themselves, they should either begin immediate counseling or they would be released from the team. Even one bad apple can affect the chemistry and performance of an entire team.

albert-haynesworthFor those of you who are familiar with my approach to enhancing performance in sports, you know how important I believe it is that athletes not bottle-up their feelings and emotions. A good example: the Tennessee Titan’s Albert Haynesworth.

The following appeared in the November 15, 2006 issue of 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,’ Hayesworth 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.’ Haynesworth worked out Monday, the first day he was eligible to return form his five-game suspension.” Is it possible the Titans realized the value of not bottling up emotions and have since had their entire team involved in the process? Withholding (bottling up feelings and emotions) is a form of lying that demeans an athlete and negatively affects his or her self-esteem. By not withholding, athletes enhance their self-esteem, thereby enhancing performance.

tiger-erin-woodsIn March of 2003, Tiger Woods won the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando, Florida, even though he came down with what was diagnosed as a bad case of the stomach flu. Saturday night after a pasta dinner prepared by his wife Elin (who was then his girlfriend). It was reported that she collapsed outside the clubhouse from food poisoning and dehydration and spent the night in the hospital.

These types of diagnosis (stomach flu and food poisoning) are very common when the actual problem could have been that she used MSG (monosodium glutamate) as a flavor enhancer on the pasta. This is often found in such products as Accent. (The manufacturers of Accent have become so sensitive to this issue that they now offer their product two ways: One is their regular formula which is almost entirely MSG, the other clearly states on the label: No MSG.)

There have been many cases of athletes reporting to be suffering from food poisoning, stomach flu, flu-like symptoms or migraine headaches just before competing in their sport when the actual diagnosis could well have been MSG. MSG is a flavor enhancer and food preservative used by many restaurants and home chefs. The National Food & Drug Division requires labeling on products containing MSG, but there is no labeling required at restaurants since laws affecting restaurants are generally state imposed.

Most people know that MSG is often found in food served in Asian restaurants, but few realize it is also used in food preparation in other types of restaurants as well: in salad bars as a preservative (the lettuce is often soaked in an MSG solution to keep it from turning brown), on steaks as a flavor enhancer, in sauces, in soups, and many other foods.

As an athlete, you need to be careful what you eat the night before competing. If you dine out, ask your server if the restaurant uses MSG in any of the foods you’re ordering.

Here is a list of just a few of the athletes who, in the past, reported being ill: David Toms and David Duval, Professional Golfers; Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Laker; J.D. Drew, former St. Louis Cardinal; Drew Gooden, former Kansas University Jayhawk; Rob Johnson, former Buffalo Bills Quarterback; even entertainer Mariah Carey.

One has to wonder if the Chinese concern about the food poisoning of athletes who will be participating in the 2008 Beijing Games is really food poisoning at all but rather the use of MSG in the foods they prepare?

joe-namathMost people are unaware that the death of a dog may have been partly responsible for the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl.

In 1969, New York Jets quarterback Broadway Joe Namath had an Irish Setter named Faro that had been given him his rookie year as a birthday present. The dog was so hyper Namath had to keep him on a farm with a friend. One day Faro was hit by a car and killed, but Joe didn’t find out about the accident until the night before the Jets played Kansas City for the AFL Championship. Namath was miserable and it showed up in his performance. The turning point in the game was when the Chiefs stopped Namath and the Jets three times from the 1-yard line at the outset of the final period. Final score: Chiefs 13, Jets 6. The Chiefs went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating the Minnesota Vikings, while the Jets haven’t been back to the big game since. If something important happens in an athlete’s personal life the night before a big game, it’s certain to affect his or her performance.


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