Mind Over Sports

Archive for July 2017

How often have we heard someone say they were really “stressed out” but what they actually meant was they were feeling a lot of pressure. People survive pressure but often don’t survive stress because of the effect stress has on their immune system. When an individual is experiencing stress, his or her body gives off hormones (such as cortisol) that impair their immune system, allowing cancer cells in their bodies to multiply at a rate faster than their immune system can devour them.

But people who were reared in a loving, nurturing home environment and have a high sense of self-worth (self-esteem) seldom experience life-threatening illnesses, while those who were reared in a dysfunctional home environment and have a low sense of self-worth (self-esteem) often experience illnesses, such as cancer.

It’s not the issue that causes stress, but how we view that issue based on our feelings of self-worth. The better we feel about ourselves, the less likely we are to see our issues as being stressful.

I’m often asked what I believe to be the secret for living a longer, healthier life, and based on my experience these past 85 years here’s what I’ve found. First and foremost it helps if you are born into a family where there is a loving, nurturing home environment and as a child you receive unconditional love. But this love can come later in life from a spouse, a coach, or even a teacher. It translates into high self-esteem and the most important characteristic for someone with high self-esteem is they deal directly with their issues and do not allow them to fester and hover above them like a dark cloud. People who have low self-esteem and withhold (and by withholding I mean keeping their feelings and emotions bottled-up inside themselves) create stress for themselves and this stress results in their bodies giving off hormones that impair their immune systems. In addition, a regimen of exercise is important. In my case, I played baskeball and handball for more than thirty years, five days a week, 3 hours per day, and never used drugs nor abused alcohol. The way you treat your body when you are young will show up in your older years. That’s why exercise is so important. But even more important is high self-esteem. And a strong belief in the almighty.

In 1989 my wife and I moved to Phoenix and while there, I read in the local newspaper there was a local Pima Indian runner who was considered Olympic potential. In fact, he was so good that Billy Mills, the famous Native American who won a gold medal in the 10,000 metre run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, made a special trip to Phoenix to run with him. The following week I visited the reservation and met with the young man and four of his friends who were all cross-country runners. This group included the young man’s 14 year old brother who was also a runner, and was considered to have the potential to be even better than his older brother. At one of our sessions I asked the young 14-year old runner why he had been losing his most recent races and at first he didn’t want to comment. But then it finally surfaced. He was purposely losing those races, he told us, because he didn’t want to break his brother’s records. When that information surfaced, his older brother stood up and gave him permission to break his records. After receiving that permission, the young man once again began running like his former self and began breaking all records. Including those of his brother.

I bring this up because tomorrow, July 15th, 2017, according to USA Today, “Venus Williams will be competing to win a sixth Wimbleton trophy and will become the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era. That feat would knock her sister Serena from that record, which she secured in January in winning the Australian Open at 35.” Let’s only hope that Serena has given her 37-year old sister permission to beat her opponent, Garbine Muguruza, and take over the record.

It’s pretty common knowledge to baseball fans that former Red Sox all-star Wade Boggs consumed chicken at 2pm on game days throughout his 18-year career. When he was inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, he thanked his elderly father who was sitting in the front row, but shouldn’t he have also thanked Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Swedish great Bjorn Borg never shaved during the Wimbledon fortnight, which he won from 1976-80. Tennis star James Blake wore the same Nike baseball cap without washing it for three weeks in a 14-match winning streak.

In baseball, no one speaks to a pitcher who is in the midst of a no-hitter and often they won’t even mention it to a teammate.

I once began working with a NCAA Division I men’s basketball team halfway through their season. They had a dismal 3-15 record and their coach allowed me to take them into a room where they proceeded to “unload” all their issues in the privacy of a team meeting, which was followed by visualization exercises. They won 8 out of their final 10 games and the coach thought it was because he wore the same under shorts every day, without laundering them once.

Some athletes believe a particular number on their jersey is important to success. If they have the number, they have extra confidence that enhances performance. If the team manager assigns a different number, the player loses confidence and that loss is reflected in performance. A wise coach takes advantage of his or her athletes’ beliefs, no matter how crazy they may seem to be, in order to build a team’s strength.

The athlete’s belief system controls performance, not the coach’s. If athletes believe that being sexually active the night before a big game will make them more relaxed and that they will therefore perform better, they will – regardless of what their coach believes. Coaches often try to force their own belief systems on their athletes and it just doesn’t work. The best coaches, the most successful ones, are those who instinctively tap into the belief systems of their players and use those beliefs to the team’s advantage.

If a basketball player believes that watching a video of himself making three point shots will enhance his ability to make three point shots, it will. (Providing of course he has the skill level.)

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.


N. V. I.
National Visualization Institute

Learn how to visualize, resulting in increased performance.

CONTACT MARV FREMERMAN
PHONE: 417-773-2695

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