Mind Over Sports

Archive for August 2014

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged publicly that he had made a mistake in suspending Ray Rice for just two games for his involvement in a domestic violence case, he also announced that in the future, for a first domestic violence offense the suspension would be six months and for a second domestic violence offense, banishment from the league with the possibility of reinstatement after a year.

That’s great, but am I missing something? What type of “preventive measures” is he insisting NFL teams implement to head off potential domestic violence in the future? I’ve been advocating for years that that the NFL should require every team to create an internal support group system allowing players to share with each other problems they’re experiencing in their personal lives that could result in misdirected anger and how they interact with not only their wives or girlfriends, but also how they interact with their teammates. Many of these players have been taught at an early age not to talk about their feelings because it’s not macho and is a sign of weakness. That’s really too bad, but it’s never too late to be what you might have been. And here’s a secondary benefit: Once they let go of whatever issues they’re withholding and bottling-up, they’re going to feel better about themselves and their performance on the field with be enhanced considerably, not to mention the positive effect the sessions will have on team chemistry.

 

I’ve been going to Physical Therapists off and on for many years due to severe back surgery and have had to literally live with pain. Especially pain down my right leg. But a few months ago, a friend introduced me to a Physical Therapist who works here in Springfield, Missouri and after just the first session, much of the pain disappeared like magic. Susan Grimshaw has a national and international reputation and has worked on many athletes, including professional athletes such as Kurt Thomas of the NBA.   He credits Susan with saving his career. I won’t go into what it is she does but she has a unique method of not only treating soft tissue injuries, but also treating the whole body and many different conditions. Her patients often get relief after just one session, as I did. If you’d like to contact Susan her office phone number is (417) 889-4800 and her e-mail address is susan@advantagetherapyonline.com. I highly recommend her! You might want to check her out at www.youtube.com/ssgrimshaw.

A number of years ago, Missouri University’s football team was playing Oklahoma University and Oklahoma was a huge favorite since they had an All-American quarterback. With just a few minutes to go in the first half, Oklahoma was winning 21-0. But on the last play of the first half, Oklahoma’s All-American quarterback was injured and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher and was out for the rest of the game. When the second half started, Missouri seemed to have a different mindset. Even though they were still competing against the same Oklahoma defense that held them scoreless in the first half, they were able to score three times in the second half but eventually lost the game by a point, 21-20. What made the difference? Their “belief” they could win once the Oklahoma quarterback was out of the game. And the Oklahoma team more than likely believed that with their quarterback out of the game, they could lose…and they almost did.  Bottom line: What you believe to be true is true for you, no matter how it plays out in the real world.  Which is why placebos are often so effective.

When Quarterback Tim Tebow made the transition from college football to the NFL, he was not afraid to show his strong belief in God. Many sportswriters made fun of him saying that God had a lot more important things to do than to come down to earth and make sure Tim completed his passes or was able to pick up yardage running the ball. They made fun of him and the fact he wasn’t afraid to show his belief in a higher power. But what those pundits didn’t understand is that, regardless of whether or not there was Divine Intervention, Tim’s strong belief in God enhanced his own feelings of self-worth (self-esteem) and as any psychologist will tell us: Self-esteem is a generator of performance. That’s why whenever I’m talking with college or professional coaches, I always recommend they sign up as many spiritual athletes as possible because you can be assured they will almost always perform close to their skill levels. Not to mention they’ll get into very little trouble away from the football field or baseball diamond or basketball court or soccer field. Today, Tim is a College Football Analyst with ESPN and I’m sure he is doing a great job.

 

In the world of business, 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 focus groups can also be an effective tool as a first phase when working with sports teams, providing team members with an opportunity to express opinions. 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 know that 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 they believe might bench them or cut them from the team 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 and become more focused, resulting in their enhanced performance.

I had an opportunity to interview Dr. Tommy Burnett who spent 40 years as a professor at Missouri State University. Dr. Burnett has a PhD in Sport Psychology and is also an expert in Sports Law and Risk Management. He told me that based on his experience and knowledge, he’s found that the consumption of alcohol interferes with an athlete’s oxygen supply making him or her more susceptible to injury. Here’s how it works: The consumption of alcohol interferes with the transportation of oxygen to the body’s muscle cells and is not being delivered to the ligaments and tendons. When the muscle fibers are deprived of oxygen, the athlete is more prone to injuries. This is pretty common knowledge among personal trainers who work on college and professional athletes but it’s a fact often hidden from public view since there is a close association of the marketing of alcoholic beverages and sports, especially professional sports. So when you read where an athlete is experiencing muscle and ligament problems, there’s a high probability that particular athlete is also consuming a substantial amount of alcohol in his or her personal life.

What takes place away from the golf course affects what takes place on the golf course.  Two good examples are Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.  In the case of Mickelson, he’s being investigated by the federal government for alleged insider trading in the stock market and if found guilty could serve time in prison.  But even worse, the stress he’s experiencing could already be affecting his health since it was reported that he is “battling the lingering effects of strep throat” and a case of strep throat could easily be an advance indication of something more serious, such as cancer. The R.A. Bloch Cancer Support Center in Kansas City, Missouri, has conducted past research that indicates that stress produces hormones in a person’s body that impairs their immune system, and cancer cells in their body begin to multiply at a rate faster than their immune system can devour them. (This is called the Surveillance Mechanism Theory that was discovered by the late Dr. Carl Simonton.)  Note: Since writing this entry, Mickelson’s game has improved considerably so it’s possible (and I’m only saying possible) that he received good news from his attorneys assuring him that he would not serve any time in jail.  But this is only conjecture on my part.

In the case of Tiger Woods, his problems aren’t nearly as severe since, according to press reports, he is battling an ex-wife who is reportedly insanely jealous of his relationship with Olympic Skier Lindsey Vonn and she could be using his children to get back at him.  In divorce cases, when there is on-going anger and jealousy, the children are often used as pawns.  Tiger has two choices:  He can file with the courts to gain sole custody of his children (something that is unlikely to happen) or he will have to wait until his children are old enough to express their desire, to a judge, that they want to live with their father.  That could take quite some time since the children have to be of a specific age, which was the case with Tom Watson when he remarried.  Watson married a woman, also named Watson (who was the wife of another PGA golfer) who had abandoned her two young children to marry him.  Her unhappiness weighed heavily on their marriage.  After a number of years of mediocre golf (for him) the children finally reached the age where they could decide which parent they wanted to live with and his wife was awarded custody.  I assume her children are now living with them which would explain his improved performance.


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