Mind Over Sports

Archive for October 2012

I know NFL head football coaches are supposed to be highly intelligent and thoroughly understand the game, but based on some of their post game comments, it appears the are completely oblivious as to what causes fumbles, turnovers, intercepted passes, and off-side penalties. They keep saying they shot themselves in the foot and are working on ways to control the turnover ratio. But the truth is, they can solve their problems with relative ease once they come to grips with the causes and begin applying solutions that many of them abhor and often refer to as being “touchy feely.” What they don’t quite get is that athletes are human beings just like us mortals and have personal problems in their lives and need a safe environment where they can share their problems with teammates without anyone being judgmental. But very often they have issues with coaches and these issues tend to be swept under the rug and kept bottled up since they know if they speak their true feelings they risk being benched or even cut from the team. How often I’ve heard, when suggesting an athlete discuss his issues with a specific coach: “I’m not going to do that. He isn’t going to change,” not realizing that if he discusses an issue with a coach, he’s doing to for himself, not the coach. He can’t change the coach or anybody else. All he’s doing is “coming to completion” so he can move on with his life. Here’s a reminder to coaches everywhere: What takes place away from the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition.



A number of years ago I made a startling discovery: When athletes have a high sense of inner-self and their lives are in harmony, they are able to use visualization techniques effectively. They will not only perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis, but will also create positive events in their lives, on and off the field of competition. But when their lives are in disharmony, visualization and other mental techniques become ineffective. If they are experiencing personal problems and have unresolved issues hovering above them like a dark cloud, those problems and issues definitely affect their ability to perform in their sport.

I also found that the worst thing athletes can do to negatively affect their performance is to withhold their feelings and emotions. Withholding is a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their sense of inner-self, creating psychological baggage that affects their ability to focus and process information. Withholding, if not dealt with, can also affect an athlete’s physical health.

In the late 80’s I was invited to work with the UMKC Men’s Division I basketball team halfway through their season. At that time they had a dismal 3-15 record and the coach allowed me to take the team into a room, without his being present, and create a support group atmosphere. Each team member was encouraged to air his grievances without fear of being punished, whether they be about coaches, other players, or even issues in their personal lives. I was astounded to learn how much anger they had toward each other. And much of it revolved around relationships with members of the opposite sex. We spent four hours clearing the air and then I introduced them to visualization, which none of them had ever done before. To make a long story short, they won 8 out of their next 10 games and the coach thought it was because he hadn’t changed his under shorts.

Based on the success I had with the UMKC team, I began teaching performance enhancing mental skills (such as visualization) to teams and athletes, assisting them in sorting through issues and problems they may be experiencing in their personal lives.

In the 1930’s, a young man named Hank Luisetti changed the game of basketball forever by inventing the “one handed jump shot.” He shot the ball with one hand while he hung in the air, in stark contrast to the two-handed set shots or hook shots that were commonly attempted in those days. Luisetti attended Stanford University and on January 1, 1938, became the first player to score 50 points in a single game.

I’ve been watching women’s basketball games for many years now, including high school, college and the pros, and have yet to see a female athlete use the one-handed jump shot correctly. It’s true that some use the jump shot but it’s not a true jump shot since they don’t float in the air but rather jump as they are shooting it (thus the name). A more appropriate name might be a “jumping shot.”

I was trying to figure out why and it dawned on me that when they are very young (perhaps 12 or 13 years old) and first introduced to the game, it is assumed that women have weaker wrist action than boys and as a result no one had shown them how to shoot it.  In addition, many young girls today seem to “launch” the ball when shooting a 3-point shot.  They “launch” it by holding it off to one side of their head, almost resting on their shoulder.

So my question is, why aren’t young girls today being taught how to shoot the one-handed jump shot correctly?   And why are they being taught to launch a ball from their shoulder?   I personally don’t believe it’s a matter of having “weaker wrist action.”  Perhaps it’s time to take a good hard look at the basketball fundamentals being taught in our schools to young female athletes.   And who knows, there might be a “Henrietta Luisetti” out there somewhere just waiting to introduce a true one-handed jump shot (where she floats in the air) in a women’s game.



Beliefs can work like placebos in medicine, authorizing athletes to achieve what they are already capable of achieving. The classic example is Roger Bannister, the first human to break the four-minute mile. As soon as he broke that mental barrier to human capability, other runners began doing so. The fact that no one had run a mile faster than four minutes had become a self-limiting belief that no one could do so. After Bannister proved such a feat was possible, many other persons accomplished it. Their beliefs, not their bodies, had held them back. In his book The Silent Pulse, George Leonard refers to the process as “positive physical transformation” — dealing with the power of, what he calls “intentionality.” This is often identified as the “placebo effect” — an effect that is derived not from the potion but from the process, which is one of authorization. Roger Bannister was capable of breaking the 4-minute mile, as were many other runners, and when Bannister finally broke it, that was an “authorization” for others to do the same. This is the “power of intentionality.” The following is a quote from George Leonard’s book:

“Now that the mile is run in less than 3 minutes and 50 seconds and weight lifters can clear and jerk more than 560 pounds, these feats are not called supernatural. But if you had told a sports expert of the year 1878 that such performances were humanly possible, he would have thought you quite mad. In recent years, as a matter of fact, a fifty-year-old man has bested the time of the 1908 Olympic marathon champion. Now it’s true that some of this fantastic improvement can be attributed to technology, better selection, training methods, nutrition, and vitamins. But the same kind of technology has been applied to racehorses — with no such improvement in performance.”

As soon as someone kicks a 70-yard field goal, others will follow.

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

Learn how to visualize, resulting in increased performance.

PHONE: 417-773-2695

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