Mind Over Sports

Archive for March 2012

I’ve written about Bill Parcells before but now that he’s being considered to take over the head coaching job of the New Orleans Saints, I believe what I wrote before bears repeating.
One of the biggest complaints NFL players have about coaches is that they feel some really don’t care about their personal problems and issues and are only interested in exploiting them to win games. Which seems to have been the case when you look at Bill Parcells’ treatment of Lawrence Taylor when Taylor was a New York Giant and Parcells was head coach. As we now know, Parcells looked the other way and allowed Taylor to continue to use illegal drugs and cheat on his urine tests, and to constantly violate team curfew hours, all in the name of winning. Parcels did not do Taylor any favors since he (Taylor) later tearfully admitted on national television (“60 Minutes”) that he was an addict. When this happened, it didn’t sit well with some of the Dallas Cowboys players who were, at the time, being coached by Parcells. And I don’t believe it was a coincidence that the Cowboys lost two out of their next three games and were eliminated from the playoffs. In my opinion, Parcells should not be allowed to coach any NFL team, ever! And by the way, he seems to have built his reputation based on “fear.” He has, in the past, been proud of the fact that his players feared him but I can tell you that fear is not a motivator. In fact, it actually distracts from performance.

I don’t get it. Pete Rose bets on baseball games and gets banned from baseball for life. Sean Payton endorses a bounty program among his players that can permanently hurt an opposing player for life, and he gets suspended for a year. Something’s not right here.

According to today’s USA Today: “Some current and former players criticized the unnamed whistleblower who tipped off the NFL to New Orleans’ bounty program. Former defensive tackle Warren Sapp identified former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey as the ‘snitch.’ Shockey denied the charges via Twitter.”

If Jeremy Shockey was indeed the “whistleblower” he deserves a medal, not condemnation. It took guts to do what he did (assuming he did it) and his actions could well affect the future health and well-being of NFL players who might have been targeted. From my perspective, I think Commissioner Roger Goodell was TOO LENIENT! I would have banned head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, FOR LIFE. And that also goes for any defensive player who may have participated in the Saints’ (or any other teams’) bounty program, including Warren Sapp. One has to wonder if Sapp would have made that comment had he been a former quarterback or running back who, later in life, was confined to a wheel chair because of an illegal hit.

During the KU-Purdue game last night, I was appalled at how the officials allowed the Purdue players to physically abuse and constantly foul KU’s Thomas Robinson. Almost every time his teammates tried to work the ball into him at the post, some Purdue player was hanging on his arm or not allowing him to break to the middle to receive a pass. If they had refereed the game properly, Robinson could very well have set an all-time NCAA record for free throws taken during a single game. As it was, he made 7 out of 11 attempts, but should have been on the foul line 25-30 times!

I was speaking to a young man who played football for a club team and found out that the team owner did not provide insurance for him to cover any kind of injuries he might experience as a result of his playing. And the thought occurred to me that perhaps “health care reform” was not really such a bad idea, not only for the millions of children in our country who are uninsured, but also for this young athlete. And though he’s playing at his own risk (and because of his love of the game) I’m sure if he became severely injured he would not have the funds to pay for his own hospital care. On the other hand I noticed recently that U.S. Senator Roy Blunt underwent a successful coronary stent implantation in January of this year, after doctors located a blockage in front of his heart during a physical examination. Since Blunt is an avid opponent of “health care reform” providing all Americans with the same type of health care he enjoys, one has to wonder if he allowed the federal government to pay for his stent implant or, realizing how wrong that would be, he dug into his own pocket in order to save the government money. I doubt that it was the latter. If all of our US Congressmen and US Congresswomen and US Senators had to pay for their own health care insurance, instead of having the federal government provide theirs free, you might see fewer of them opposing Universal Health Care. Perhaps the time has come for one of our federal legislators to introduce a bill that requires all members of Congress to be responsible for their own health insurance. And by the way, I don’t see much difference between a mandate requiring everyone to have health insurance and a mandate requiring everyone to have automobile insurance.  Am I missing something?

Every coach would like to know what his or her team is REALLY thinking, and that’s why I highly recommend a focus group as the first phase when working with a team, without coaches present.  A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. The first focus groups were created by psychologist and marketing expert Ernest Dichter. But a focus group can also be an effective tool as a first phase when working with sports teams, providing team members with an opportunity to express opinions without coaches present. The second phase is when the team transitions into becoming a support group and teammates begin to share their personal issues and problems with each other. But it’s important to remember that these groups are successful only after participants are assured their comments and observations will be kept in strict confidence and will not leave the room. Also, they are only successful as long as there is no authority figure in attendance, someone who can bench them or cut them from the team (such as a coach) for being honest. That’s why the services of an outside facilitator are so important. If there is someone in the room who can punish them for being honest, it diminishes and completely eliminates honest interaction among teammates. But when support groups are effective, teammates will begin to feel better about themselves resulting in their enhanced performance, especially when introduced to “guided imagery” visualization.

Let me be clear from the start. Cancer survivors often ask me, “You mean I created my own cancer?” and my answer is an emphatic: “No!” But I also point out to them that they did create the stress in their lives that impaired their immune systems, allowing cancer cells in their body to multiply at a rate faster than their immune systems could devour them. And their stress was based on how they viewed their life’s issues.

Many physicians will agree that a relationship exists between high self-esteem and wellness, and low self-esteem and illness.  Research has shown that many individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer are repressing their feelings, which not only affects their self-esteem, but also their health. Here’s how it works: When you withhold (or repress) your feelings and emotions it’s a form of lying that demeans you and lowers your self-esteem. As your self-esteem is lowered you begin to see the world around you from a negative perspective (“we see things as we are”) and create stress for yourself. As a result of the stress, your body gives off hormones, (such as cortisol) that impair your immune system. According to the “Surveillance Mechanism Theory,” which was first identified and named by Dr. Carl Simonton, we all have cancer cells in our bodies that are constantly being devoured by our immune system Pac-Man style. But when we encounter stress in our lives, our immune system becomes impaired and the cancer cells begin to multiply at a rate faster than they can be devoured. The result is: we are soon diagnosed as having cancer.

In the late 1980s I lived in Kansas City, Missouri and 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 with cancer that was not their primary problem. Their primary problem was that each had a suppressed (or impaired) immune system. Since research has shown the most conspicuous characteristic of cancer patients is bottled up emotions, we would have each person in the group tell his or her own story about stress in their lives. Each would interact with others in the room and, at the same time, bring their emotions to the surface. After talking about their issues (many for the first time) their repressed feelings began to disappear and they immediately felt better about themselves. Once they began talking about their issues, they experienced an increase in self-esteem resulting in an enhanced immune system. At that point they were then ready to use a “guided imagery” 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.” At that time I had a story- board that I used in those sessions showing the t-cells coming together, mobilizing, and forming an arrow. The arrow would zoom toward a large glob that represented a cancer cell and the arrow would attack the glob, which would then deflate and dissipate.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to locate the storyboard. But I believe cancer patients reading this can create their own visual image of t-cells attacking cancer cells and use Patti LaBelle’s recording to accompany it. I’m sure Patti would not mind since she herself is a cancer survivor. Later, patients would listen to only the music track and the images that were embedded in their minds would recreate themselves, automatically. Also, it’s important to remember that when cancer patients enhance their own self-esteem, they automatically enhance the potency of their immune systems. 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.


N. V. I.
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