Mind Over Sports

Archive for March 2012

When I lived in Kansas City, Missouri I had a friend who was a professional football player in the NFL. He was 6’ 8” tall and was considered one of the nation’s top defensive linemen. My friend, who was not happily married, was a national celebrity who had an enthusiastic following of young fans who looked upon him as a role model.  On one of his team’s trips to New Orleans he did something he had never done before: He had a one-night stand with a young groupie. A few months after returning to Kansas City, he found out the young lady with whom he had had the affair was pregnant. She wrote him a note but did not threaten in any way to go public with what had happened. When the baby was born, my friend, feeling he should help support the child, approached his wife and told her what had happened and that he wanted to send the young girl money every month to help her and her new baby. His wife was vehement and would not allow him to help her. My friend became despondent. It played heavily on his emotions and he kept the entire episode bottled-up deep inside himself. He was not proud of what he had done and he knew that if his affair became known it would negatively affect his image and that he would be seen by his fans as a hypocrite. Which he wasn’t. But he would rather die than have his affair become public knowledge. Not long after, because of the stress, which affected his immune system, he was diagnosed as having lung cancer (even though he never smoked but had been working around heavy duty equipment and exhaust fumes) and within 18 months he was dead. I have always believed that if my friend had not been a celebrity, and just a normal mortal being like the rest of us, he would still be alive today.

Write down on a piece of paper what it is in your life that you are committed to making happen.

Now then, let’s look at your answer.  If you think you are committed to making a certain event happen in your life – and yet have done nothing about it – then you are kidding yourself. Taking action may involve risk you may not yet be prepared to take. Also, look at your commitment. When writing your answer, did you use the words “hope” or “try”? If you did, keep this in mind: When you are committed, there is no such word in the human language as “hope” or “try”. Either you are committed or you’re not committed. It’s somewhat like being a little pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t. If you ever hear a coach say, or read in the newspaper where a coach says, “We’re going to try to win this game” – forget it – that coach is not committed to winning. In fact, that coach doesn’t believe his or her team can win. And do you think the team picks up on that? Absolutely. There’s no way coaches can hide it. So, if you ever hear someone tell you that they are committed to making a certain event happen in their life, and they say “I hope such-and-such happens,” they, themselves, are not convinced it will happen. When Joe Namath was quarterback for the N.Y. Jets, he didn’t say we hope to win or we’re going to try to win the Super Bowl.  He said: “We are going to win the Super Bowl.” And they did.  Total commitment.

Beginning the 1997-98 NBA season, there was a cloud hovering above the Chicago Bulls that included:  coach Phil Jackson’s status and the dissension between the players and management. But even with an uncertainty of the future, Michael Jordan expressed total commitment to winning by saying: “When we win the championship, I think we’ll see the road we took and look back at this sixth championship and appreciate this as being the most important championship we won…just because of the cards we’ve been dealt.”  In his statement, Jordan used the word “championship” three times in one sentence and clearly stated when we win, rather than if we win. Was Jordan committed to the 1997-98 season? Absolutely. And his commitment affected the entire team in a positive way.

The prevailing wisdom in the health profession is that when a child is bipolar (demonstrating severe mood swings and depression) that it creates, in that child a low sense of inner-self (self-esteem.)
But I feel the opposite is true. From my perspective, when a child has a low sense of inner-self (self-esteem) he/she tends to have mood swings and are often depressed. I believe low self-esteem is often mis-identified as “bipolar disorder.”
So if you know of a young student athlete who is experiencing mood swings and depression, more than likely he or she was reared (or is being reared) in a dysfunctional home environment or they are withholding their feelings and emotions, which is a form of lying that demeans them and creates psychological baggage that affects their ability to focus and process information. That’s why, very often, young student athletes who are told they are bipolar because they’re not able to learn very fast and keep up with their classmates are, in fact, suffering from a case of low self-esteem, which is transferable from generation to generation just like DNA. Students who have low self-esteem generally have parents who have low self-esteem, and their parents (the grandparents) also had low self-esteem. And the best way to break this cycle is through therapy (one-on-one counseling) or, even better, group therapy where students with low self-esteem participate in support groups (approximate size should be 8-12 students) with a school counselor present, allowing them to talk about their personal issues, including what may be going on at their homes that they’ve never discussed with anyone. Once they reveal and discuss their issues with their peers they will then begin to feel better about themselves and their grade point average, their conduct in school and their performance in their sport will improve considerably.

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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