Mind Over Sports

Archive for the ‘Golf’ Category

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.

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.

There are many theories as to what Tiger Woods needs to do to straighten out his life and his golf game, even though his most recent run-in with the law wasn’t because of alcohol but rather due to prescription drugs he was taking. But what he needs to do is really quite simple. That is, take a two year hiatus and go and live in a buddhist monastery in Kyoto, Japan. It will not only bring order to his life, but will help his golf game as well. I’m sure his mother will agree.

“It was almost impossible for him (Sam) to talk about it (his depression and anxiety)– even with his best friends and even with us– and that was his downfall… it was just totally encompassing and overwhelming,” said Sam Holmes’ dad Tim Holmes. Nineteen-year old Sam was one of the top high school golfers in Missouri and yet, because of depression and anxiety, was driven to take his own life.

Losing a child is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a mother and father, and though I’m cetain they tried to get him help, I would have attempted to get him into a supprt group with others his own age who also suffered from depression and anxiety.

I recall a group I was involved with in Kansa City many years ago who were former inmates of the penal system and who were about to re-enter the job market. One of the particpants, for the first eight sessions, sat with his arms folded and was determined to say nothing. But then, when he realized he was in an environment where it was safe to talk about his issues and problems, he let loose and began talking…so much so that, in fact, it was difficult to shut him up.

Based on what Sam’s father said, Sam was withholding (bottling up) his issues and feelings and as we know, when someoe withholds it’s a form of lying that demeans them and lowers their self-esteem, which could result in depression and anxiety. That’s why support groups are so helpful.

The following appeared in the November 15, 2006 issue of USA Today: “DT Albert Haynesworth said he learned through counseling that he should quit bottling up his emotions until they explode, a problem that landed him the NFL’s longest suspension for an on-field act. His remorse and willingness to seek help since kicking Dallas Center Andre Gurode in the face with his cleats is why he will practice today. But the Titans are requiring Haynesworth to continue that anger-management counseling. ‘I just want to keep doing it,’ Haynesworth said. ‘Honestly, it’s helping. I can actually talk about stuff. My wife likes it, too. I actually open up and talk about problems I have.’ Haynesworth worked out Monday, the first day he was eligible to return form his five-game suspension.” Is it possible the Titans realized the value of not bottling up emotions and have since had their entire team involved in the process? Withholding (bottling up feelings and emotions) is a form of lying that demeans an athlete and negatively affects his or her self-esteem. By not withholding, athletes enhance their self-esteem, thereby enhancing performance.

In the 1986 U.S. Open Golf Tournament, rumors floated about Tom Watson’s personal life. After an opening round of 72, he called a press conference and announced he was not an alcoholic, he was not divorcing his wife, and he was not firing his brother-in-law as his agent. He cleared the issues from his head and focused on golf. The next day he shot an outstanding 65 and finished runner-up in the tournament.

I used to play a lot of handball and one day I was entered in a tournament in Overland Park, Kansas, where I used to live. Just before I left home, my wife and I got into a little tiff. I didn’t think much of it at the time but after I had suited up and was about to step onto the handball court, something didn’t feel right. So I decided to call my wife and when she answered the phone I apologized for some of the things I had said and she apologized to me also and we decided to take care of the matter when I returned home later. I told her I loved her and she told me she loved me and how much she appreciated my calling her. I hung up the phone, stepped onto the court, and played some of the best handball I had ever played. And I’m convinced that had I not made that phone call, I would have played some of the worst.

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.

If you think you are committed to making a certain event happen in your life – and yet have done nothing about it – then you are kidding yourself. Taking action may involve risk you may not yet be prepared to take. Also, look at your commitment. When formulating your answer, did you use the words “hope” or “try”? If you did, keep this in mind: When you are committed, there is no such word in the human language as “hope” or “try”. Either you are committed or you’re not committed. It’s somewhat like being a little pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t.

If you ever hear a coach say, or read in the newspaper where he says, “We’re going to try to win this game” – forget it – he’s not committed to winning. In fact, he doesn’t believe his team can win. And do you think his team picks that up from him? Absolutely. There’s no way he can hide it. So, if you ever hear someone tell you that they are committed to making a certain event happen in their life, and they say “I hope such-and-such happens,” they, themselves, are not convinced that it will happen.

When Joe Namath was quarterback for the N.Y. Jets, he didn’t say we hope to win or we’re going to try to win the Super Bowl. He said: “We are going to win the Super Bowl.. We are going to win.” Total commitment. And when Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently said “I feel like we can run the table,” he didn’t say were are going to “try” to run the table, or we “hope” to run the table.

Beginning the 1997-98 NBA season, there was a cloud hovering above the Chicago Bulls that included: coach Phil Jackson’s status and the dissension between the players and management. But even with an uncertainty of the future, Michael Jordan expressed total commitment to winning by saying: “When we win the championship, I think we’ll see the road we took and look back at this sixth championship and appreciate this as being the most important championship we won…just because of the cards we’ve been dealt.”
In his statement, Jordan used the word “championship” three times in one sentence and clearly stated when we win, rather than if we win. Was Jordan committed to the 1997-98 season? Absolutely. And his commitment affected the entire team in a positive way.
When you are committed, powerful forces take over in your life.


N. V. I.
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