Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Phil Jackson

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.

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When working with a team or an individual, I emphasize they must not withhold. My experience has been that sharing personal and team-related experiences in a controlled group environment often results in a “connectedness” among team players. The bonding that takes place surfaces to the outside world as “good team chemistry.”

In his book, Sacred Hoops, Chicago Bulls’ coach Phil Jackson relates what happened in a team meeting immediately following a 1993 playoff game when Scottie Pippin refused to enter the game, with 1.8 seconds remaining. After Coach Jackson made a few remarks, team member Bill Cartwright took over.
“Look, Scottie,” he said, staring at Pippin, “That was bulls**t. After all we’ve been through on this team. This is our chance to do it on our own without Michael (Jordan), and you blow it with your selfishness. I’ve never been so disappointed in my whole life.”

Coach Jackson goes on to say: When he finished, tears were streaming down his (Cartwright’s) cheeks. The room was silent. Bill is a proud, stoic man who commands the highest respect because of his ability to endure punishment and not back down. None of us had ever seen him show the slightest hint of vulnerability. In fact, his wife, Sheri, later told June (my wife) that in fifteen years of marriage, she had never seen Bill cry. For him to break down like that in front of his teammates was significant, and Pippin knew that as well as anyone . . . Visibly shaken by Bill’s words, Scottie apologized to his teammates, explaining the frustration he felt during the final minutes. Then some of the other players said what they felt.

Later, teammate B.J. Armstrong said he thought the whole thing brought them closer together “because we weren’t going to let one incident, no matter how big or small, break down what we had worked so hard to build.” Athletes with high self-esteem — such as Bill Cartwright — usually do not withhold. They deal with issues head-on and bring them to completion.

Nonetheless, if an issue is related to their coach, they sometimes hold back and do not reveal their feelings. How often I’ve heard: “It won’t do any good to tell the coach how I feel. He won’t change.” Maybe not. But the point of talking about an issue is not to change another person. The point is for athletes to let go of issues distracting them from performance. Resolving issues helps athletes get on with their work, regardless of whether anyone else changes. When this idea is made clear during a workshop, players immediately begin to interact with their teammates and coaches, bringing issues to completion. Many athletes harm their performance by withholding their feelings. When athletes release their feelings they begin to perform with greater proficiency. Only after this “unloading process” do visualization techniques become effective.

I’ve followed Phil Jackson’s career for many years and have read his books.  I’ve even studied Buddhism, especially since my daughter spent seven years in a Buddhist monastery in Kyoto, Japan.  Here’s why Phil Jackson will be successful:  First and foremost, he encourages honest communication among his players.  Team meetings are often held (with and without a coach present) allowing his players to vent their feelings in a controlled environment. Second, he doesn’t over-coach his players, encouraging them to use their God-given talents, especially during the final three or four minutes of a game.  Third, he is a highly spiritual person, having learned from Native Americans  while growing up in Montana.  And finally, his players always know he cares about them as human beings first, and then as athletic performers. Coaches who combine these four principles are destined to win. And you can be sure, the head coach he selects will implement them.

I’ve been reading NBA coach Phil Jackson’s most recent book, “Eleven Rings,” and in it he makes the following observation:

“Basketball is a great mystery. You can do everything right. You can have the perfect mix of talent and the best system of offense in the game. You can devise a foolproof defensive strategy and prepare your players for every kind of eventuality. But if the players don’t have a sense of oneness as a group, your efforts won’t pay off. And the bond that unites a team can be so fragile, so elusive.”

Now coach Jackson knows a heck of a lot more about basketball than I’ll ever know but it’s possible I might have a leg up on him when it comes to team chemistry and team bonding. I don’t find team chemistry and team bonding elusive at all. In fact, it can be achieved quite simply. All a coach has to do is lock players in a room for an approximate 4-hour session, with a facilitator (not to be a coach) with every player (including the facilitator) signing a “ground rules” form that guarantees complete confidentiality. That is, whatever takes place in the room stays in the room. Then, everyone sits in a chair in a circle with no one present in the room who can bench them or, even worse, remove them from the team (and that includes all coaches) so that there will be total and complete honesty among players.

The first step is to have everyone go around the room telling a little about their personal lives and any problems or issues they may be having and these issues and problems can be strictly personal or team-related or even coach-related. Primarily, these are issues and problems they have been withholding (bottling-up inside themselves.) After the first hour or so when they begin to feel comfortable and begin trusting their teammates and the facilitator, they will then begin to open up and be more honest regarding what is going on in their minds and their hearts and what they may have been withholding and bottling-up. They are especially eager to do this once they realize that if they open their hearts and minds (and their problems) to their teammates, often making themselves vulnerable in the process, sometimes producing tears of emotion, they will begin to feel better about themselves and will begin performing at a higher skill level. Helping their teammates with their personal problems, and helping their teammates figure out a way to solve their problems, makes players feel better about themselves and enhances their performance on the court. This emotional interaction soon creates a strong bonding among team members and enhances team chemistry.

And the next and final stage is where everyone is in the locker room (including coaches) and all are holding hands and standing in a circle with the lights dimmed and with special music playing in the background with meaningful lyrics. This is when group visualization begins. Every team member visualizes himself or herself performing at peak performance during the upcoming game.

And there’s an easy way to tell if, in fact, the team bonded; and that is by checking each player’s eye contact. Good eye contact means the player participated in the session and feels good about himself or herself and is bonded with teammates and also feels a part of good team chemistry. However, a player who does not have good eye-contact after the session more than likely wasn’t honest during the session and refused, for whatever reason, to share his or her personal and emotional issues with teammates.

Write down on a piece of paper what it is in your life that you are committed to making happen.

Now then, let’s look at your answer.  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 writing 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 a coach says, “We’re going to try to win this game” – forget it – that coach is not committed to winning. In fact, that coach doesn’t believe his or her team can win. And do you think the team picks up on that? Absolutely. There’s no way coaches 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 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.” And they did.  Total commitment.

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.


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