Mind Over Sports

Archive for November 2011

In the November 25, 2011, issue of USA Today I was surprised to read what columnists Michael Hiestand and Michael McCarthy wrote about religious beliefs and sports performance. What they both don’t get is that athletes, such as Tim Tebow, who have a strong belief in the almighty generally feel good about themselves and have a high sense of inner-self which translates into a positive impact on their performance. Over the past 25 years I’ve found a high correlation between athletes’ self-esteem and their performance levels. The better they feel about themselves and the more their lives are in harmony, the closer they will perform to their skill levels on a consistent basis. With or without divine intervention.


A number of years ago, the late Dr. Carl Simonton (who first identified the mind-body connection) came up with the discovery of what he called the Surveillance Mechanism Theory as related to the detection and treatment of cancer. Simply stated, the SMT maintains that we all have cancer cells in our bodies but that our immune systems are constantly gobbling them up Pac-Man style. However, when we encounter stress in our lives our bodies give off hormones that impair our immune systems, allowing the cancer cells to multiply at a rate faster than they can be devoured. This appears to be the case involving former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer.

From my perspective, and most physicians will agree, there’s a correlation between high self-esteem and wellness and low self-esteem and illness.

When I lived in Kansas City, Missouri in the late 1980s, I volunteered my services at the RA Bloch Cancer Support Center. On various Sunday mornings, with the encouragement of co-founder Richard Bloch, I would meet with newly diagnosed cancer patients in a support group environment. At the outset I would explain to them that even though they had been diagnosed as having cancer, that was not their primary problem. Their primary problem was that each had a suppressed (or impaired) immune system and that we were going to focus on their immune systems and participate in exercises designed to enhance their immune systems. Since research has shown that the most conspicuous characteristic of cancer patients is bottled up emotions I would have everyone sit in a circle and each person would tell his or her own story about stress in their lives. Each would interact with others and bring their emotions to the surface. Once they began talking about their issues, many for the first time, they experienced an increase in self-esteem resulting in an enhanced immune system. At that point they were then introduced to the use of a visualization technique where they would “see” their own healthy t-cells attacking their cancer cells. This exercise was accompanied by Patti LaBelle’s recording of “New Attitude.”

So based on the above, my recommendation to Coach Paterno would be that he either involve himself in a support group or seek the services of a psychotherapist who could help him through this difficult period in his life.

One last point: What I have recommended should only be considered as a supplemental program. It should not replace any treatment prescribed by a physician or oncologist.

A few years ago Oprah Winfrey visited Springfield, Missouri, where I live. Now, I am a big fan of hers and admire how she picked herself up by her bootstraps and was able to change her life. But while in Springfield, she told a crowd of mostly women who attended her public seminar they were created with a calling. She said: “The universe has a dream for you. And it’s always working to move you in the right direction.”

Oprah was right when she made this observation, but not completely right. Though the universe may have a dream for us, and is always working to move us in the right direction, we human beings keep messing it up. Some of us often follow paths that are self-destructive, such as doing drugs, lying, or being dishonest with our feelings. You can see this very clearly when individuals get into trouble for having used drugs, or violently abusing a spouse, or driving while drunk and killing an innocent bystander.

The universe is not always working to move people in the right direction, but rather, only those who have a positive sense of inner self as a result of either being reared in a family where they were loved by someone unconditionally, or in instances where they were willing to roll up their sleeves and take a good hard look at themselves (as Oprah did) and then began making course corrections in their lives. This often involves many years of work and even therapy. There is no such thing as a quick fix.

Oprah should make it clear to her fans that the universe is always working to move us in the right direction providing we don’t follow self-destructive paths in our personal lives. If we are, then we need to address those issues and resolve them (or at least begin the process of resolving them) before we can get back on track with the universe and have it work with and for us. Anyone following self-destructive behavior should not expect the universe to work in their favor. Which is the foundation of how I came to develop the Psycho Self-Imagery process.

The Psycho Self-Imagery process involves resolving conflict in your life, not suppressing feelings, having a high sense of self worth (your inner self), bringing personal issues to completion (or at least begin the process of bringing them to completion), being highly spiritual, helping others less fortunate than yourself and having your life in harmony. Then visualizing yourself being successful and actually creating positive events in your life.
But when you have conflict in your life, when you are suppressing your feelings, when you have personal issues that you haven’t brought to completion, when you have a low sense of self-worth (inner self), when you are not helping others less fortunate than yourself and when your life is in disharmony, you will create negative events in your life.

Though “there is no rule without exception,” (Hermann Hesse in Steppenwolf) over the years I’ve found there really is no such thing as good luck or bad luck. We create what happens to us in our lives. Those of us who were loved unconditionally, either as children or by someone special in our lives, grow to love ourselves. And this unconditional love is the foundation for success and happiness.

First, let me make it clear that I’m on the outside looking in and am not privy to any inside information, but I have a sense that team members don’t like quarterback Matt Cassel. First, he doesn’t hesitate to reprimand them during games on national tv and doesn’t hesitate to express his dissatisfaction with a wide receiver who drops a pass. He often does this through his body language. Some quarterbacks go out of their way to create a good relationship with their offensive linemen, but Cassel doesn’t seem to do this. I’ve never seen him put his arm around one of them or pat one of his offensive linemen on the back for a job well-done. Which could be why the offensive line is often like a sieve allowing defensive players through, consciously or subconsciously, to wreak havoc on him, not giving him time to find his receivers. If I were the head coach, I would have the offensive unit conduct a players only meeting and talk about any issues they might have with each other, especially any issues the offensive line has with Cassel. Once the air is cleared, I think you would find a significant improvement in their chemistry, and their performance

Let’s face it. NFL players are human just like the rest of us mortal beings. They have issues in their personal lives and issues at work that can affect their performance on the job. Especially if they are withholding; that is, keeping their feelings and emotions about those issues bottled up inside themselves. Withholding is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem, creating psychological baggage that affects their ability to focus and process information. Right after the Tiger Woods debacle, former NFL running back Eddie George was asked what percentage of NFL players he thought were having extra-marital affairs. His response: 90%. If this is true, then that means 90% of all NFL players are not performing up to their skill levels and are prone to making mental errors during competition, such as dropped passes, missed tackles, thrown interceptions, fumbles and excessive penalties.

Another major issue for NFL players involves their finances. In the June 27, 2011 issue of USA Today, ex-NFL coach Joe Gibbs said he witnessed the following scene too many times: “A player would be upset with his contract (and) we’d be in serious discussions…and during the conversation it dawns on you, ‘Are you in financial trouble?’ That happens over and over again…it plays out a lot.” Gibbs also said: “I definitely feel like anybody that’s worried about their finances, it’ll affect every part of your life…Certainly your career and your focus…it’s an awful feeling to have a financial mess. It carries over to every part of your life.”

NFL players also have girlfriend problems. Having a relationship with a member of the opposite sex can be positive or negative, depending on that relationship. Other issues may involve members of their family, a teammate or even a coach.

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

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