Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘New York Mets

In sports, there is such a thing as a self-limiting belief. But beliefs can also work in a positive way, like placebos in medicine, authorizing athletes to achieve what they are already capable of achieving. The classic example is Roger Bannister, the first human to break the four-minute mile. As soon as he broke that mental barrier to human capability, other runners began doing it. The fact that no one had run a mile faster than four minutes had become a self-limiting belief that no one could do so. After Bannister proved such a feat was possible, many other runners accomplished it. Their beliefs, not their bodies, had held them back.

In his book The Silent Pulse, George Leonard refers to the process as “positive physical transformation” — dealing with the power of, what he calls “intentionality.” This is often identified as the “placebo effect” — an effect that is derived not from the potion but from the process, which is one of authorization. Roger Bannister was capable of breaking the 4-minute mile, as were many others, and when Bannister finally broke it, that was an “authorization” for others to do the same. This is the “power of intentionality.” The following is a quote from George Leonard’s book: “Now that the mile is run in less than 3 minutes and 50 seconds and weight lifters can clear and jerk more than 560 pounds, these feats are not called supernatural. But if you had told a sports expert of the year 1878 that such performances were humanly possible, he would have thought you quite mad. In recent years, as a matter of fact, a fifty-year-old man has bested the time of the 1908 Olympic marathon champion. Now it’s true that some of this fantastic improvement can be attributed to technology, better selection, training methods, nutrition, and vitamins. But the same kind of technology has been applied to racehorses — with no such improvement in performance.”

A baseball player planning to join the Mets AAA team told me that he expected to hit .300 in the farm club. I asked him: If he could hit three out of ten pitches, why couldn’t he hit four out of ten? Who was stopping him from hitting .400? He looked at me thoughtfully and replied, “Nobody.” He realized how his expectations had been limited to conventional beliefs.


“Focusing” is a mental state where no emotional issues distract an athlete’s performance. Successful athletes are often described as focused, concentrating complete attention on the job at hand.

To achieve focusing a person must resolve emotional issues; merely exposing them isn’t enough. For small issues the process may be simple: before an event a recreational player might write down things that are supposed to be done afterward, such as bring home a gallon of milk or return a book. That way trying to remember those obligations during the event won’t subconsciously distract the player. Such distractions can even harm professional athletes.

Former St. Louis Cardinals infielder Mike Tyson (no relation) recounted a bases-loaded mound conference requested by pitcher Al Hrabosky. Hrabosky “told me he had to go somewhere after the game, and asked me if I still had the rental car. He asked if he could borrow it.”

When the divorce of Mets first basemen Keith Hernandez became final on a Monday, in his next seven at-bats he hit three home runs and drove in nine. “Maybe I should get divorced every day,” he said. “I’d be broke, but I’d be in the Hall of Fame.” Daily divorce may be unnecessary, but Hernandez obviously needed to shift his focus from marital strife to baseball. His basic skill didn’t change, but his focus changed and allowed him to reach his skill level.

When George Brett and Jamie Quirk were playing for the Kansas City Royals, a problem arose that affected both of them. By way of background, Brett and Quirk came up through the minors together and were as close as two human beings could be. Then, after they made it into the majors, Quirk married and Brett and Quirk’s new wife didn’t get along. One source told me it was probably because of Brett’s jealousy. After all those years together, Brett was now alone and Quirk had his own life with a wife. The two grew apart and had little contact. At that time, I happened to have a friend who knew Brett and I suggested that she point out to George that it is in his best interest to handle this issue, which, I believed, was affecting his performance. She conveyed my message to him and soon after, on June 5, 1988, it was reported in The Kansas City Star that Jamie Quirk drove George to the ballpark, and on that same day Brett hit two home runs, a triple and a single.

By relinquishing emotional issues that obstruct concentration, an athlete can focus on a sports event. Focused athletes are more likely to perform at their skill level. Such focusing provides an advantage over competitors who may be inherently more talented but who fail to reach their skill level because they have not come to completion with emotional issues in their lives.

Their names are Adam Dunn of the White Sox (age 32), Joe Nathan of the Rangers (age 37), Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies (age 33), David Ortiz of the Red Sox (age 36) and R. A. Dickey of the Mets (age 37).
All five had below average seasons in 2011 but this year they all rebounded and have achieved all-star status and will play in the 83rd All-Star Game in Kansas City. But that’s not all. If you scratched the surface I’m sure you would find all five had some special event or situation happen in their personal lives that made them feel good about themselves and affected their self-esteem. A new marriage, a new girlfriend, a new baby. When athletes are happy and their lives are in harmony their performance in their sport will automatically be enhanced.

When USA Today Columnists Tom Weir and Reid Cherner wrote about Kobe Bryant’s pending divorce (“Ringing in the season with Kobe”) and other celebrity divorces, what they don’t realize is that divorce represents a major “unresolved issue” in an athlete’s life and once that issue is resolved, and their life is back in harmony, their performance in their sport is generally elevated to a new level. Example: When the divorce of former New York Mets first basement Keith Hernandez became final on a Monday, in his next seven at-bats he hit three home runs and drove in nine. “Maybe I should get divorced every day,” he said. “I’d be broke, but I’d be in the Hall of Fame.” Daily divorce may be unnecessary, but Hernandez obviously needed to shift his focus from marital strife to baseball. And now that Tiger Woods is divorced, it appears that he’s finally getting his life in order, especially issues regarding his children. When there are children involved, divorce doesn’t end your relationship with your ex-wife, it merely transforms it. Once Tiger and his ex agree what schools the children will attend, how and when he will be able to visit them, and a myriad of other issues, his game will then be elevated to a new level. And when he finds another girlfriend, and he’s happy and his life is in harmony, he will enter a new phase in his life and you will see an even more successful Tiger Woods. He will start winning tournaments like mad. And judging from his recent performance, it’s possible that phase has already begun.

When the divorce of Mets first basement Keith Hernandez became final on a Monday, in his next seven at-bats he hit three home runs and drove in nine.  “Maybe I should get divorced every day,”  he said.  “I’d be broke, but I’d be in the Hall of Fame.”  Daily divorce may be unnecessary, but Hernandez obviously needed to shift his focus from marital strife to baseball.  When Tiger Woods gets his divorce, and his life is once again in harmony,  his game will automatically return to normal, and even above normal, which means he’ll start winning tournaments like mad. All those pundits who are saying he’s finished must not realize…What takes place away from the golf course affects what takes place on the golf course.

N. V. I.
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