Mind Over Sports

Archive for May 2015

We can learn a lot from Mother Nature. For example, how often have we observed a single small bird, very often a female, chasing a much larger hawk that may have just attempted to rob her nest of small chicks or eggs. Sometimes “mobbing” is involved where there are a number of small birds who have joined together to attack the much larger invading hawk. But whether it’s one bird or three, think about this: At any time that hawk could turn and attack the smaller bird or birds, smashing it (or them) to the ground with its powerful wings. But it doesn’t. In fact, the hawk often appears to be afraid of the smaller bird. Why? Perhaps the hawk knows instinctively that the single small bird chasing it is not afraid of the hawk and has somehow become empowered by its need to insure the survival of its offspring. And it’s the same way in life. When we are confronted with what appears to be a major obstacle in our life, we can allow it to envelope us, or, become empowered to attack it head-on, deflating it or chasing it away. Overcoming it.

But we have to believe that we can, in fact, face the issue head on, and defeat it. And once we are committed to defeating the problem, it suddenly becomes a non-problem and we then begin the process of resolving it.


The answer is: Absolutely! And here’s why. Besides the obvious possibility of Devine Intervention, there’s the not-so-obvious benefit of a Catholic athlete “unloading” his or her issues prior to competing in a game. This unloading process, which is actually a form of psychotherapy, enhances the athlete’s feelings of self-worth thus enhancing performance. Withholding (keeping your feelings and issues bottled-up inside yourself) is a form of lying that demeans you and creates psychological baggage that negatively affects your ability to focus and process information. Also, if you check the research, I’m sure you’ll find there’s less drug abuse among Catholic teenagers who practice the confessional. Why? Because they have a higher sense of inner-self.

Just as some athletes are able to put themselves into a “zone” I believe we are all capable of achieving a similar goal; but in order to do so, we must possess a high sense of self-worth and follow paths in our lives that are not self-destructive.

Athletes who have experienced “the zone” will tell how suddenly everything seemed to appear in slow motion and they found themselves in what many describe as being on “automatic pilot” where everything flowed effortlessly. This is what I call a “Deep Zone.” But there’s also a “Surface Zone.”

I believe non-athletes can achieve the Surface Zone but in order to do so they must be leading a righteous life, their lives must be in harmony, they must have a strong belief in a higher power, they must not withhold their feelings and emotions, they must not engage in any kind of self-destructive behavior such as substance or alcohol abuse, and they must be loving, caring individuals with a high sense of inner-self.

When they achieve this state, the Psycho Self-Imagery process will take over and events will follow a flow, with positive “things” beginning to happen in their lives.

If you want to know how you’re showing up in the world, all you have to do is look around you. If you see those around you as kind, pleasant and nurturing, they are only reflecting the signals you’re sending out. If you see them as hateful and mean-spirited, then you can be sure those are the signals you’re sending out.

I’m reminded of the story of two young Jewish couples who moved to a new town and met with the local rabbi. When the first couple asked the rabbi, “What are the people like here in this town?” – the rabbi responded: “First, tell me what the people were like in the town you just moved from.” And the first young couple told the rabbi that the people in their former town were very kind, very helpful, and were good neighbors. And the rabbi responded: “Well, I think you’ll find the people here in this town about the same.” And then the second couple asked the rabbi what the same question: “What are the people like in this town?” and the rabbi again responded, “First, tell me what the people were like in the town you just moved from.” And the second couple told the rabbi that the people in their former town were mean and vindictive, always looking for an argument and not good neighbors at all. And the rabbi responded: “Well, I believe you’ll find the people here in this town about the same.”

We are often quick to blame others for our own shortcomings, and we often see ourselves as victims. I once received a letter from the mother of a college-level volleyball player and the mother told me what a difficult time her daughter was having with her teammates. It seems they were treating her daughter badly and the mother asked if I would meet with the coach and explain the situation and then meet with the team to straighten out the problem. I explained to the mother, in as gentle terms as I could, that more than likely the problem wasn’t with the team but rather with her daughter. Her daughter should be looking at her own behavior rather than blaming her teammates.

There’s an old Hebrew saying that “Liars believe everyone around them are lying.” So the lesson to be learned is that if we feel good about ourselves and our lives are in harmony, then we will see the world around us differently than if we don’t feel good about ourselves and our lives are in disharmony.

If you’re an athlete and see your teammates as pleasant and nurturing, they are reflecting the signals you’re sending out. Another player on the same team may see the same set of teammates as being hateful and mean-spirited, because those are the signals he or she is sending out. So if you’re a coach, and notice a player is not getting along with teammates, it’s important to step in and help solve the problem by having your team become a support group. Many times you will find that the person who is negative is having problems in his or her personal life, and a support group environment will allow him or her to interact with other team members in a positive way. The result will be better team chemistry and cohesiveness.

When working with a team or an individual, I emphasize they must not withhold. My experience has been that sharing personal and team-related experiences in a controlled group environment often results in a “connectedness” among team players. The bonding that takes place surfaces to the outside world as “good team chemistry.”

In his book, Sacred Hoops, Chicago Bulls’ coach Phil Jackson relates what happened in a team meeting immediately following a 1993 playoff game when Scottie Pippin refused to enter the game, with 1.8 seconds remaining. After Coach Jackson made a few remarks, team member Bill Cartwright took over.
“Look, Scottie,” he said, staring at Pippin, “That was bulls**t. After all we’ve been through on this team. This is our chance to do it on our own without Michael (Jordan), and you blow it with your selfishness. I’ve never been so disappointed in my whole life.”

Coach Jackson goes on to say: When he finished, tears were streaming down his (Cartwright’s) cheeks. The room was silent. Bill is a proud, stoic man who commands the highest respect because of his ability to endure punishment and not back down. None of us had ever seen him show the slightest hint of vulnerability. In fact, his wife, Sheri, later told June (my wife) that in fifteen years of marriage, she had never seen Bill cry. For him to break down like that in front of his teammates was significant, and Pippin knew that as well as anyone . . . Visibly shaken by Bill’s words, Scottie apologized to his teammates, explaining the frustration he felt during the final minutes. Then some of the other players said what they felt.

Later, teammate B.J. Armstrong said he thought the whole thing brought them closer together “because we weren’t going to let one incident, no matter how big or small, break down what we had worked so hard to build.” Athletes with high self-esteem — such as Bill Cartwright — usually do not withhold. They deal with issues head-on and bring them to completion.

Nonetheless, if an issue is related to their coach, they sometimes hold back and do not reveal their feelings. How often I’ve heard: “It won’t do any good to tell the coach how I feel. He won’t change.” Maybe not. But the point of talking about an issue is not to change another person. The point is for athletes to let go of issues distracting them from performance. Resolving issues helps athletes get on with their work, regardless of whether anyone else changes. When this idea is made clear during a workshop, players immediately begin to interact with their teammates and coaches, bringing issues to completion. Many athletes harm their performance by withholding their feelings. When athletes release their feelings they begin to perform with greater proficiency. Only after this “unloading process” do visualization techniques become effective.

N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

Learn how to visualize, resulting in increased performance.

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