Mind Over Sports

Archive for March 2013

I am a big fan of Coach Bill Self but one has to wonder about the play calling at the end of the Michigan-Kansas game with just 9 seconds to go and KU down by two points. Or, if it wasn’t the play called by Coach Self, then it had to be a bad mental error on the part of Elijah Johnson. Johnson traveled the length of the court and was on his way to an easy lay-up that would have tied the game and sent the teams into a second overtime (or he could have even been fouled in addition to making the lay-up and won the game for KU with a free throw) but instead of taking the shot he threw the ball back out to Naadir Tharpe who missed a running jumper at the buzzer. I guess no one will ever know for sure if Coach Self made a mistake or if Elijah Johnson just wasn’t thinking clearly. Sometimes baggage will do that to a player or a coach. Especially in pressure situations.

When Colorado State beat Missouri in the NCAA Tournament yesterday, I believe much of the credit should go to Alcoholics Anonymous and Colorado State Coach Larry Eustachy, who is a recovering alcoholic. By way of background, on April 28, 2003, The Des Moines Register carried a picture of Eustachy kissing several young women and holding a beer at a party near the University of Missouri’s campus just hours after the Tigers defeated Eustachy’s Iowa State Cyclones on January 22nd. The Register also reported that Eustachy had been seen at a fraternity party at Kansas State hours after his team lost to the wildcats. On April 30, athletic director Bruce Van De Velde suspended Eustachy with pay and recommended that he be fired for violating a morals clause in his contract. Eustachy held a press conference in which he apologized for his behavior and admitted he’d recently begun rehab treatment for alcoholism. Eustachy initially indicated he would contest the suspension. Instead, on May 6, he announced his resignation. I believe Coach Eustachy has applied the principles of what he has learned at AA meetings to his team meetings with positive results; that is, sharing personal issues with each other in a controlled group setting and reaching out to a higher power. That’s a combination that’s hard to beat. And they were helped by the sub-par performance of Missouri’s Phil Pressey. Over the years I’ve found that when a male college athlete performs poorly, one of the major reasons is a relationship with a girlfriend that’s gone sour. No one will ever know for sure, unless Pressey comes forward and acknowledges that he was having personal problems away from the basketball court.

I’m predicting KU will win it all PROVIDING they don’t experience a problem like they did last year with Jeff Withey. As you may recall in that final game against Kentucky Withey, who is 7 feet tall, scored only 5 points and had a sub-par performance. A lot of coaches and basketball pundits will tell you that he just happened to have a bad game but I don’t buy that. A great player like Withey doesn’t just happen to have a bad game unless there’s a reason, and I believe that reason may have involved an off-court problem with his girlfriend the night before the game. Off-court problems for male college athletes almost always involve a member of the opposite sex. So I would bet the kitchen sink that last year, the night before the Kentucky game, Withey had an argument with his girlfriend that he didn’t tell anyone about and kept it bottled up inside himself. And as we all know, when athletes withhold it’s a form of lying that demeans them and creates baggage that affects their ability to focus. But the opposite is also true: When athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony, they will perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. So if Withey and his girlfriend are getting along famously, look for him to have a great post-game run that will result in KU winning the national championship. And the fact that 6’ 8” freshman Perry Ellis’ game has improved remarkably since the beginning of the season will only add to the Jayhawks’ success.

Everyone remembers when Roger Bannister broke the mental barrier of running a mile in less than four minutes, and once he did, others followed soon thereafter. But there are two other mental barriers to consider, one of which could be coming down in the not-too-distant future. The two barriers remaining are when a professional golfer shoots 18 birdies in 18 holes (something Ben Hogan thought was possible since he himself had shot 12 birdies in 18 holes at one time) and the other is when a major league baseball player consistently bats over .400 during a season. From my perspective, it isn’t that much of a stretch for a batter to get a hit 4 out of 10 times at bat rather than 3 out of 10 times. Major league baseball players I’ve discussed this with are adamant as to how impossible that would be to do on a consistent basis. And yet, once it’s done, I feel confidant others will start batting over .400 when they realize it’s only a mental barrier and nothing is holding them back but themselves. But getting back to the 18 birdies in 18 holes, I believe that if Tiger Woods continues to date Lindsey Vonn and in fact marries her, you will see him pull far ahead of all other golfers in tournament victories and he could well be the first to make 18 birdies in 18 holes. And once he does…

I certainly hope so. Based on how Tiger is playing at the Cadillac Championship in Doral, Florida, I think there’s a good possibility that he is, which is why he’s playing so well. Rumors have been floating around for quite a while now that Tiger met Lindsey when his children began taking skiing lessons from her brother. But their brief initial relationship ended quickly when she had that accident as a result (my opinion) of the media and press hounding her with questions regarding her relationship with Tiger. Being bombarded by the media caused her to lose her focus resulting in the accident. Tiger has a history of playing well when he has a significant other in his life, and in almost every instant the significant other was a tall statuesque blond who was highly intelligent. But in Vonn’s case, there’s another element. That is, her fearlessness and grit, characteristics admired by Tiger since he himself has, in the past, trained with the Navy Seals. Athletes who are happy and whose lives are in harmony perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. And Tiger is an excellent example.


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