Mind Over Sports

Archive for June 2015

Johnny Manziel, former Heisman Trophy Winner who is now competing for the quarterback job with the Cleveland Browns, should have a great season! Anytime an NFL player receives counseling regarding issues they may be harboring, their game almost automatically improves. In Johnny’s case, he spent more than 10 weeks this year in an alcohol treatment center and if that center is anything like AA, he should show remarkable improvement in his game. For starters, when an athlete goes through that type of therapy it improves his ability to focus. It also enhances his feelings of self-worth. So if Johnny stays committed to staying away from booze, watch for the Browns to make it into the playoffs.

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Those of you who read my column know the value I place on transforming sports teams into support groups, allowing team members to share their problem and issues with each other. And when this process take place, participants experience an enhanced feeling of self-worth (self-esteem) and begin to perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis.

But I also advocate support groups for our school systems across the country, where children who show definite signs of being disturbed due to a dysfunctional home life are allowed to talk about their issues with their peers, diffusing any volatile behavior they may be bottling up inside themselves.

When Richard Matt and David Sweat were young, both emerged from splintered families and painful childhoods. David Sweat spent time in a foster home and was considered “a disturbed child.” Richard Matt would terrorize kids on the school bus. Even in elementary and junior high he had issues.

Why didn’t their teachers intervene in their lives and provide a school-based support group to help them. The answer? Our school systems believe personal problems and issues should be dealt with at home, not at school, even though there’s no one at home to help these disturbed children.

It’s time our school systems changed and begin conducting on-site support groups for children who appear in their classes, obviously disturbed, instead of waiting for them to explode upon our society later in life, as killers.

My name is Lieutenant Columbo of the LAPD Homicide Department and I’ve been assigned the Tiger Woods case. It’s pretty obvious somebody murdered his golf game and my job is to find out who.

One of the first things I noticed (I’m always noticing things) was when Tiger and his Swedish ex-wife, Elin Nordegren were divorced, I couldn’t find anything negative that was said about her in the media. And by the way, another thing I’ve noticed is that Tiger has a history of dating tall beautiful statuesque blonds who are highly intelligent, like Elin, and when he does he starts winning tournaments.

But getting back to the case. I talked Tiger’s divorce over with my wife (she’s very smart about things like this) and she said whenever there’s a divorce it’s never just one of the partner’s fault. It’s always both partners who contribute to the divorce, and yet, like I said, I couldn’t find anything negative about her, even in old newspaper clippings. Now, to my wife (and to me, too) that is very strange. It sounds like a “cover-up” so I had to ask myself, why in the world would anyone want to cover-up her contribution to the split-up?

Then, I dug a little deeper and came up with a very interesting statistic. I googled “The Sexual Behavior of Swedish Women” and you’ll never believe what I came up with. Listen to this: Did you know that 39% of all Swedish women have sexual fantasies of having sex with another woman. That’s right. Thirty-Nine percent. So I had to ask myself, is it possible that Tiger’s ex-wife falls into this category? Or that she’s had sex with other women? That would certainly account for Tiger’s promiscuity. Who knows?…maybe he came home one day and found her in bed with another woman? When you’re investigating a murder anything is possible.

So here’s what I think may have happened. When Tiger and his ex got a divorce, Tiger did everything humanly possible to keep his ex-wife’s sexual practices out of the media. Why? Because he was worried about the effect it could have on his children. And, in my opinion, it’s been like a dark cloud over his head, just like that Joe Btfsplk guy in those Lil’ Abner cartoons. And it’s this very cover-up that could be affecting his game because he is “withholding.”

I checked with a sport psychology consultant who happens to be a friend of mine and he said that when an athlete withholds it’s a form of lying that demeans him (in this case, Tiger) and not only lowers his self-esteem but also creates psychological baggage that affect his ability to focus and process information. My friend also told me it could be a source for “misdirected anger.” He said that when and if I’m able to find the murderer he predicts we will see an entirely new Tiger because a big load will have been lifted from his shoulders. And that dark cloud will disappear.

There’s one other thing my friend told me. He said that he believes Tiger is over-estimating the effect it will have on his children since most children are highly resilient and are capable of adapting to adversity in their lives. Especially if they have been loved unconditionally as he was sure Tiger’s children have been.

Now, here’s my problem. I can’t just arrest Tiger’s ex for having murdered his game, unless, some national sports writer gets wind of this and after finding out it’s true writes a column about it. And if that happens, my friend says he believes you will see an entirely different Tiger Woods on the golf course, providing, of course, he’s found another tall, beautiful statuesque blond who is highly intelligent.

Most followers of professional golf are aware that Jordan Spieth is the youngest U.S. Open Champion since Bobby Jones in 1923. What they don’t realize is the powerful positive effect his sister has had on his game. Ellie is his special needs sister.  He is not only close to her but when growing up he often volunteered his time at her school. It’s this relationship that has fueled his feelings of self-worth and made it possible for him to become the golfer he has become. I call this “Excelling For A Higher Order.” For athletes like Jordan, when you’re happy and your life is in harmony you create positive events in your life, on and off the field of competition.

We’re all familiar with how athletes are able to enhance their performance by visualizing themselves being successful, but the visualization process can also be used in a negative way by kooks in our society who are angry and feel they are victims of society. They are often walking time bombs who have come from dysfunctional families and have a low sense of self-worth because they received very little, if any, love and nurturing in their lives. I believe such was the case in Charleston, S.C. when a white gunman walked into a church and murdered nine innocent people. One has to wonder if he had watched violence on television which then became the trigger for his actions. It may not be so for psychologically healthy people, but for that small segment of our society who carry around with them massive amounts of anger, it could very well be the source. These people subconsciously visualize the violence they see on national television and then go out and reproduce a violent scenario in real life with real people. The only way to avoid this is to intervene in their lives at a very early age when they are children by creating support groups in our public school systems that will allow them to talk about what is happening in their homes that no one knows about and which they are keeping bottled up inside themselves. Once a program like this is set up in our school systems across the country, you will see fewer and fewer Charleston S.C. scenarios.

Hey LeBron! You are a great athlete and a great basketball player. Probably one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  But I think you’re trying to do too much. Just think what the score in game five might have been if, when you were driving toward the basket with two or three guys hanging all over you, you suddenly flipped the ball out to the perimeter and one of the your three-point shooters took an easy three-point shot.  I hope when the team returns to Cleveland and plays game six that you’ll begin to allow your teammates to get more involved in the game. You have some great teammates. Some great 3-point shooters and it’s a shame not to let them use their talent.  And if you do that then, in my opinion, you will not only win Game Six but will more than likely win the NBA Championship as well.

In sports, there is such a thing as a self-limiting belief. But beliefs can also work in a positive way, like placebos in medicine, authorizing athletes to achieve what they are already capable of achieving. The classic example is Roger Bannister, the first human to break the four-minute mile. As soon as he broke that mental barrier to human capability, other runners began doing it. The fact that no one had run a mile faster than four minutes had become a self-limiting belief that no one could do so. After Bannister proved such a feat was possible, many other runners accomplished it. Their beliefs, not their bodies, had held them back.

In his book The Silent Pulse, George Leonard refers to the process as “positive physical transformation” — dealing with the power of, what he calls “intentionality.” This is often identified as the “placebo effect” — an effect that is derived not from the potion but from the process, which is one of authorization. Roger Bannister was capable of breaking the 4-minute mile, as were many others, and when Bannister finally broke it, that was an “authorization” for others to do the same. This is the “power of intentionality.” The following is a quote from George Leonard’s book: “Now that the mile is run in less than 3 minutes and 50 seconds and weight lifters can clear and jerk more than 560 pounds, these feats are not called supernatural. But if you had told a sports expert of the year 1878 that such performances were humanly possible, he would have thought you quite mad. In recent years, as a matter of fact, a fifty-year-old man has bested the time of the 1908 Olympic marathon champion. Now it’s true that some of this fantastic improvement can be attributed to technology, better selection, training methods, nutrition, and vitamins. But the same kind of technology has been applied to racehorses — with no such improvement in performance.”

A baseball player planning to join the Mets AAA team told me that he expected to hit .300 in the farm club. I asked him: If he could hit three out of ten pitches, why couldn’t he hit four out of ten? Who was stopping him from hitting .400? He looked at me thoughtfully and replied, “Nobody.” He realized how his expectations had been limited to conventional beliefs.


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