Mind Over Sports

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“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.

Neil Greenberg, sports writer for the Washington Post, sent out his predictions for the NFL games this weekend and has picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Carolina Panthers. According to the news release, here’s what it said about how Neil goes about picking his weekly winners and losers: “Each week, Neil Goldberg makes NFL game predictions based on a multitude of factors that will have an impact on game day. These include efficiency stats such as success rates, yards per play and yards allowed per play, plus points scored based on strength of opponent. Point spreads are the consensus odds from multiple sports books in Vegas.”

No consideraton is given to any type of mental issue a player may be experiencing, both positive and negative, that impacts that player’s performance. For example, Neil isn’t able to measure a player’s self-esteem even though there’s a strong relationship between feelings of self worth and performance. And when an NFL player is performing for a child who is ill, (I call this “excelling for a higher order”) his performance increases dramatically.

This past week, Quarterback Cam Newton visited an Atlanta children’s hospital and surprised a ten year old boy who has a serious heart condition and got a big hug in return. That hug had a powerful positive effect on Cam. Taylor Deckard (the 10-year old) was wearing Newton’s No. 2 Auburn jersey at the time and I’m sure he didn’t realize how powerful that hug was. It was very emotional for Cam. According to the newspaper account: “When Newton asked him how he was doing, Taylor climbed out of bed and hugged him. During the long embrace, Newton said, ‘I feel your heart. It’s going 1000 miles an hour.’ Newton appeared touched by the moment in the video posted by Auburn.”

Watch for Cam to have one his best games ever. And I’m predicting a Carolina win.

Footnote: I was wrong. The Panthers lost 17-16 when they tried for a two point converstion with just seconds to go and missed it.  And Cam threw three interceptions though it’s important to rememer that sometimes the receivers are at fault if they run the wrong pattern.  No one will ever know.  But it was definitely not one of Cam’s better games.  Could he be having some kind of personal problem?  Or an attitude problem toward one of his coaches?

Have you ever noticed how, when there’s something in life you want to happen and push and push to make it happen it seldom happens. Then, when you back off and “let go” and begin to move on with your life, presto! It happens!

You see this quite often among hunters of whitetail deer. They positon themselves in treestands and are constantly looking around for a deer to come close to them. Finally, they decide to sit back and enjoy the moment not caring whether they see a deer or not, and just like that, a huge buck appears within sight.

The detachment principle also works in male-female relationships. A young man is interested in dating a particular girl and keeps trying to line up a date with her but she continually refuses. Finally, he says “the heck with it” and shortly thereafter the phone rings and it’s her, wanting to meet him for a date.

The power of detachment generally works after you go afer something with great intensity and then finally acknowledge it’s not going to happen and “let go.” This is also sometimes referred to as the Theory of Pardoxical Intentions.

But what about Rory McIlroy? According to the Associated Press: “Three holes into the Deutsche Bank Championship, Rory McIlroy had to make a 15-foot putt just to escape with triple bogey. He already was 4-over-par and had every reason to believe this tournament was headed for an outcome that was becoming too familiar for a player of his class.” But then, something surreal happened. McIlroy went from a miserable start to a memorble finish, closing with a 6-under 65 on Monday to make up a six-shot deficit and win the Deutsch Bank Championship. Is it possible he unknowingly practiced the concept of “detachment” and had accepted the fact he was not going to win and decided to “let go.” And when he made that decision, his game vastly improved.

So remember, when you go after something in your life, with great effort, and it doesn’t happen, you may need to back off and become detached by “letting go.” Take Rory McIlroy’s word for it. It works.

West Virginia’s running back Rushel Shell missed most of the second half of the Missouri game last Saturday due to leg cramps. In a past interview with Dr. Tommy Burnett, he told me that in the medical profession it was pretty common knowledge that the consumption of alcohol interferes with the transportation of oxygen to the body’s muscle cells and is not being delivered to the ligaments and tendons. When the muscle fibers are deprived of oxygen, the athlete is more prone to injuries such as muscle cramping. This is also common knowledge among personal trainers who work on college and professional athletes but it’s a fact often hidden from public view since there is a close association of the marketing of alcoholic beverages and sports, especially professional sports. So when you read where an athlete, such as Rushel Shell, is experiencing muscle and ligament problems, there’s a high probability that particular athlete is also consuming a substantial amount of alcohol in his (or her) personal life.


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