Mind Over Sports

Almost everyone is in agreement that when athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony, they will perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. And if true, watch for Serena Williams to win almost every tournament she enters, including the Austrailian Open, because she recently became engaged to Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of Reddit.

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.

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?

I just finished watching the movie “Concussion” about the work of Nigerian-born pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu and his theory of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It was something new in the world of sports and met with an enormous amount of opposition, especially by the National Football League. For the past thirty years I’ve been attempting to convey a new idea regarding sports performance enhancement and have met with a great deal of opposition. Most people, when I tell them about my theory, just say they’ve never given the idea much thought but did see my point of view, although it’s almost impossible to prove. And therein lies the problem. The research is only anecdotal. Not scientific.

If you read any sports page in America you’ll find the focus on what the winning team did in order to win and the success they had in order to win the game. In other words, all the things they did that were right. The emphasis is always on the positive aspects of competition and very little attention is given the negative mainly because no one really knows what goes on behind the scenes in the personal lives of athletes.

For example, there’s not much you can say about why, in a basketball game, a three point shooter suddenly makes only 1 for 12 three point shots when he normally hits 5 for 12. Or why a football running back fumbles the ball twice in a game or a wide-receiver drops three passes that hit him right on the numbers. Or how a baseball team played poorly because there was some issue that created negativity in the locker room such as a fight between two players, resulting in poor team chemistry.

I’m a firm bIeliever that what goes on away from the field of competition affects what takes place on the field of competition. Compassionate coaches who are highly successful understand this but there are a lot of coaches out there who still don’t get it. They have their teams “visualize” success but don’t understand that in order for visualization to be effective there must be a fusing of psychotherapy with visualization.

A number of years ago I was working with a high school coach who was coaching a girls’ soccer team. They had a good team but were not performing up to their potential. Then, an accident happened. One player’s boyfriend was killed in a motorcycle accident. The team rallied around her and comforted her, which resulted in the creation of good team chemistry and at the same time enhancing the performane of the entire team. The team went on to win the state championship.

Something similar happened at Missouri State University. On February 1, 2015, MSU volleyball player Tatum Marshall experienced personal tragedy when she lost her step father, Alex, who she had known and was close to since she was three years old. Alex worked at a Thriftstore in Fayetteville to support a ministry and help underprivileged children. He was loved by everyone who knew him.

A life-saving support system came into being with her teammates, coaches and fans. There was off-court bonding between her and her teammates. Fantastic team chemistry developed and still exists today.

Volleyball coach Melissa Stokes had developed a friendship with Alex and the two of them often visited after matches. She also wears her “#LiveLikeAlex” wristband every day. “We take it as a great responsibility that when you become a Bear, we not only look out for them as volleyball players, but as people as well,” coach Stokes said.

The team is on its way to the NCAA tournament and should have great success. They have something no other team possesses: the memory of Alex.

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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