Mind Over Sports

Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

The above was the headline that appeared in this morning’s sports page when reporting Texas Christian University’s victory over Missouri State University. Two years ago the team adopted a young boy with cancer named Micah Ahern as part of the Horned Frogs baseball team’s participation in the IMPACT program that pairs sports teams with sick children. Micah proved to be an inspiration to the team and even though in July, 2016, Micah died from cancer at the age of 7, he continues to be the team’s inspiration. I call this “excelling for a higher order” when athletes take on a cause that enhances their feelings of self-worth. And the higher their self-worth, the closer they perform to their skill levels on a consistent basis. Of course, enhanced performance by a team is only a by-product of the program. No team adopts a child to help them win games. But the fact of the matter is, it happens. Every NCAA college sports team in America should join the IMPACT program and help sick kids.

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.

On May 25, 2016, Ben Cannefax’s mother, Rae Ann Cannefax, died of leukemia. Ben, the oldest of five sons, plays baseball for the New Covennt Academy in Springfield, Missouri, and is one of the Academy’s top pitchers. But no one could have predicted what happened next. Ben’s game suddenly became more enhanced and his team began winning games. “I know she’s watching over me,” Cannefax said, and regarding his teammates, “They’re just there. I know that I can come to them about anything.” Because of her death, the team bonded around Ben and team chemistry went through the roof. And that’s when teams win games. New Covenant’s players and coaches paid tribute to Rae Ann Cannefax by writing her name or initials on their caps. And Ben began pitching no-hitters. This is an excellent example of what I often refer to as “Excelling for a Higher Order.” Ben’s memory of his mother has enhanced his performance and created a bonding among his teammates.

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.

In the coming NFL season, quarterback Kirk Cousins should have a fantastic season and the Washington Redskins should make it into the playoffs. I’m making this prediction based on what I’ve learned over the past thirty years: That is, when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony, they’ll perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. Kirk Cousins and his wife Julie are expecting a new member of their family in September…just as the football season will be getting under way. Even their dog, Bentley, is happy about it. News of the new baby was posted by Julie on Instagram with a photo of Bentley, holding up a sign that read: “Mom & Dad are getting me a human.”

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.

I won’t mention any names, but I know of a Division I men’s basketball coach who, I believe, has a low sense of self-worth and it shows up in how he interacts with his players. For example (and I’m not a psychiatrist) but it seems like every time he has a star player who is scoring a lot of points and is making headlnes in the local newspaper, he benches him. Why?…no one really knows. But my guess is that because of the way he feels about himself, it irks him when one of his players receives more publicity than he receives. This is the second time this has happened to this particular coach and it’s really sad for the players. A few years ago he had a player who was among the top scoreres in the nation and this coach benched him. That player ended up changing schools, and I wouldn’t be surprised if history repeats itself with this player and he changes schools.

Two other characteristic of coaches with low self-esteem are: They generally have bad eye contact and are often “control freaks” who run up and down the sideline yellng instructions to various players as they bring the ball down the court. What is amazing to me is how a university, after vetting candidates for its coaching staff, can end up with such an incompetent coach.


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