Mind Over Sports

Archive for December 2013

I’ve been doing some research related to what happens in an athlete’s life that precedes their entering “the zone.”  I once had the experience myself while playing handball when, during the game (I was playing against a much better player than I) everything suddenly shifted into slow motion.  Those of you who have ever played handball will understand the following:  For ten consecutive points I would serve, my opponent would return the serve, and I would fly kill the ball to end the point.  This happened ten straight times and then suddenly, it left me as quickly as it had arrived.  I often thought that because of that feeling I had actually elevated my game to a new level since after that game, I noticed my skill as a handball player improved considerably.  When trying to determine exactly what caused it, the only thing I could trace it to was that for the previous two nights I had gotten very little sleep.

I once read in a book about sports performance that some athletes related being in the zone immediately after a time in their personal lives when everything was in a state of disarray as a result of their having experienced some type of issue or trauma or emotional upheaval.  This was similar to my experience, but not exactly.  No trauma.  I’d be interested to know if anyone reading this has ever performed “in the zone” and what they believe may have triggered it.  Please send your comments to marv@mindoversports.com.  I’d love to hear from you.  And I promise not to use your quote or mention your name in my column without your permission.

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The Chiefs are assured of playing in the AFC playoffs in two weeks, but they have a game this Sunday against the San Diego Chargers that is meaningless. So head coach Andy Reid is trying to determine if he should play his starters, or rest them. The answer to that is simple: Ask the players. If a player believes he will perform better if he continues to play rather than taking a break, then Coach Reid should play him. But if another player believes he will play better by taking a break and resting, then by all means, let him rest. We’re talking here about beliefs. The athletes’ beliefs affect performance, not the coaches. This is strictly a no-brainer but the media seems to be making a huge issue out of it. Go figure.

Ever wonder why in sports, the best and most talented team doesn’t always win?  In order to explain why, let’s assume you’re a Division I mens basketball coach and your team comes from a mid-major college. And you have a game to play against one of the best teams in the country. You are also aware that the team you’re about to compete against has a 6‘11” center who scores an average of 25 points a game, which includes making 52% of his field goals and 90% of his free throws. The game begins and you notice something’s different. The 6’11” center is missing easy shots and at half time has made only 20% of his free throws. So as head coach, you make the decision to allow him to shoot and you instruct your team to foul him often, forcing him to go to the free throw line. You realize something is wrong with his game but you’re not quite sure what. When the game ends, your team has won by 10 points and everyone is in a happy mood. And it’s only later you find out from someone who was in your opponents’ locker room that the 6’11” center had had an argument with his girlfriend about an hour before the game began. He didn’t tell anyone about the problem he was having, including his teammates or his coach. He withheld his feelings and emotions, not realizing that withholding was a form of lying that demeaned him and lowered his self-esteem, creating baggage that affected his ability to focus.  When athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony they perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis.


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