Mind Over Sports

Archive for the ‘Fishing’ Category

Kristan Berset is Sports Anchor with CBS affiliate WUSA-9 in Washington, D.C. and just announced she is experiencing a second bout with cancer. Based on some of the most current research available, there appears to be a high correlation between stress and cancer. And it’s possible (only possible) that she’s experiencing a considerable amount of stress being married to Comcast SportsNet reporter Brent Harris and is stepmother to his two daughters.  If this is true, here’s a bit of advice for you, Kristan.  Don’t try to be their mother but rather just be their friend, someone they can bring their issues to without being judgemental. The result will be a stress-free relationship with them and your husband.  With that said, here’s some backgorund information:

We all have in our bodies one of the most advanced and sophisticated medical systems known to mankind: The Immune System.

But research has found it can be impaired by stress and many believe there’s a high correlation between cancer and stress. Where does stress come from? It’s a result of how we view our life’s issues, which emanates from how we feel about ourselves. If we have a low sense of inner-self (self-esteem) we are likely to view our issues differently than someone with a high sense of inner-self. We are likely to be more negative.

Research has also shown that many individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer are repressing their feelings, which affects their self-esteem and their immune systems. Here’s how it works: When you withhold (repress) your feelings and emotions it’s a form of lying that demeans you and lowers your self-esteem. As your self-esteem is lowered you begin to see your world around you from a negative perspective (“we see things as we are”) and create stress for yourself. As a result of the stress, your body gives off hormones such as cortisol (known as “the stress hormone”) that impair your immune system.

According to the “Surveillance Mechanism Theory” developed by Dr. Carl Simonton, we all have cancer cells in our bodies. Many believe these cancer cells are a result of environmental hazards such as overhead power lines, electric blankets, cell phones, exhaust fumes, and cigarette smoking, just to name a few. The damaged cells are constantly being devoured by our immune system Pac-Man style. But as mentioned before, when we encounter stress in our lives, our immune system becomes impaired and the cancer cells begin to multiply at a rate faster than they can be devoured.  The result is: we are soon diagnosed as having cancer.

Many physicians will agree that a relationship exists between high self-esteem and wellness, and low self-esteem and illness. I’ve found that when cancer patients enhance their own feelings of self-worth, they automatically enhance the potency of their immune systems.

In the late 1980s I lived in Kansas City, Missouri and volunteered my services at a local Cancer Support Center. On various Sunday mornings, with the encouragement of the Center’s co-founder, I would meet with newly diagnosed cancer patients in a support group environment. At the outset I would explain to them that even though they had been diagnosed with cancer that was not their primary problem. Their primary problem was that each had an impaired immune system. Since research has shown the most conspicuous characteristic of cancer patients is bottled up emotions, I would have each person in the group stand and tell his or her own story about stress in their lives. Each would interact with others in the room and, at the same time, bring their emotions to the surface. After talking about their issues (many for the first time) their repressed feelings began to disappear and they immediately felt better about themselves, experiencing an increase in self-esteem.

At that point they were then ready to use a “guided imagery” technique where they would visualize their own healthy t-cells attacking their cancer cells. This exercise was accompanied by Patti LaBelle’s recording of “New Attitude.” They would close their eyes and “see” their t-cells forming an arrow and penetrating the cancer cells, watching them dissipate.

Later, group participants would listen to the music and the images that were embedded in their minds would recreate themselves, automatically. This part of the program could be compared to the “placebo effect” as it applies to health.

One last point: What I have recommended should only be considered as a supplemental program. It should not replace any treatment prescribed by a physician or oncologist.

According to the Internet: “Mental toughness is a controversial term, in that many people use the term liberally to refer to any set of positive attributes that helps a person to cope with difficult situations. Coaches and sport commentators freely use the term mental toughness to describe the mental state of athletes who persevere through difficult sport circumstances to succeed.

Dr. Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute defined mental toughness as ‘the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.’”

My research over the past 28 years has shown that individuals who are often identified as someone with mental toughness are the same individuals who come from a loving, nurturing home environment or had someone in their lives who loved them unconditionally. People with a high sense of self-worth are the same people who practice endurance and persistency in their personal lives. And these two characteristics are found in individuals with high self-esteem.

When Jamaal Charles fumbled twice last night during the Chiefs-Broncos game, it was as much the coaching staff’s fault (and the front office’s fault) as it was Jamaal’s.

Here’s why: Jamaal is a professional athlete but even professional athletes are human beings first, and then athletic performers. They have problems just like the rest of us mortals. And I’m not talking about deep-seated psychological problems. I’m referring to problems they might be having with their wives, or girlfriends, or financial problems, problems with a coach, or problems with a teammate. If they keep their problems bottled up, if they withhold them and don’t tell anyone about what’s bothering them, it will negatively affect their game during competition. They will not be focused and are more susceptible to fumbles, dropped passes, and missed tackles.

Former NFL coach Joe Gibbs realized this late in his career when he was negotiating an athlete’s contract and figured out the athlete, even though he was making millions of dollars a year, was having financial problems. Former NFL running back Eddie George, when Tiger Woods’ issues became public, stated: “Ninety percent of all NFL athletes are having extra-marital affairs.” If true, why doesn’t the coaching staff and front office do something about it?

Much has been written about the importance of the turnover/takeaway ratio in the NFL. Few however are able explain the reasons turnovers happen.

Some say it’s because the opposing team has focused their defensive efforts on the practice of ripping the ball out of the runner’s hands, or other reasons.

While there may be some truth to these theories, my experience working with athletes and players has made it clear that when athletes are carrying around unresolved issues in their lives, they are more prone to making mistakes. When they are withholding their feelings, when they have misdirected anger at their teammates or coaches, or when they’ve had an argument with their wives or girlfriends (or both) they are prone to fumbling the ball, or dropping a pass that hits them in the numbers, or jumping off sides, or, if the player is a quarterback, throwing multiple interceptions in a game.

The reason is simple: They are not focused.

And it all starts with the coaches and assistant coaches (and the front office) and how they interact with their players, how they listen to their players issues and personal problems, and the type of feedback program they have created internally that allows players to air their grievances (both personal and team related) without being punished.

It’s no coincidence that the NFL teams with the best turnover/takeaway ratio are successful, while those with the worst are not.

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.

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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