Mind Over Sports

Archive for April 2015

A few years ago, before chewing tobacco was banned in college baseball, I had the opportunity to walk inside a Division I college baseball team’s dugout and couldn’t (at first) understand why the floor of the dugout was so sticky. Then it hit me: Spit from chewing tobacco. But there’s a reason chewing tobacco should be banned in MLB that’s much more important than sticky dugout floors: Cancer. There’s no question that chewing tobacco damages healthy cells in the body and causes them to become cancerous. Normally, the immune system would be standing by to gobble them up Pac-Man style. But when a ball player experiences stress in is life (and make no mistake about it, playing major league baseball is a stressful business) the body gives off hormones such as Cortisol that impair the immune system and the cancer cells begin to multiply at a rate faster than they can be devoured. Just ask Tony Gwinn, Sr. Unfortunately, you can’t ask him because he passed away June 16, 2014 of salivary gland cancer. And before he died he attributed his habit of chewing tobacco to his being diagnosed with cancer.

When former Duke standout Bobby Hurley was recently hired as Arizona State’s new head basketball coach, his dad made the following comment: “The thing he probably learned from Mike Krzyzewski more than anything else is the daily communication with the college athlete…They’re comfortable coming in (to his office) when they have a problem. They can keep the air clear all the time so there are no individual problems.”

When athletes “keep the air clear” and don’t bottle-up their problems they’ll perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. But if they do bottle-up their problems it’s a form of lying that not only affects how they feel about themselves but also their ability to focus. That’s why open communication between players and coaches is so essential if a team is to be successful.

One last point about Coach Hurley. His Sun Devils should be competing for the national title within a three or four year period. Because of his relationship with Coach K he’ll probably be on the receiving end of a direct pipeline with Coach K sending him his overflow of championship caliber athletes for whom he doesn’t have scholarships.

If my theory is correct, that athletes perform close to their skill levels when they are happy and have powerful positive beliefs, then Adam Scott should win the 2015 Masters. He’s newly married and became a father in February; he has a new caddie; and he’s going back to a broomstick putter which he used when winning in 2013   All of this, of course, is predicated on the assumption that he has the talent to win, which he does since he’s won the Masters before. How will Tiger do? It depends on whether or not he’s straightened out his problems with his ex-wife. I should point out that the assumption he’s having problems with his ex-wife is strictly an assumption on my part. But one good sign is that Tiger’s significant other, Lindsey Vonn, won the World Cup Downhill title last month so that’s an indication she and Tiger are getting along well. Because if Tiger is having problems with his ex, it would more than likely affect their relationship and show up in her performance. POST MASTERS COMMENT: Sorry, I goofed.  There must be something going on in Adam’s personal life that I’m unaware of…


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