Role Models and Imagination
I started to continue the last post on my origins working with athletes on the Game within the Game when I caught my self staring at my walls. On either side of my computer screen are pictures of sorts of two of my role models. I realize that this in and of itself is no big deal, but it did get me thinking about origins and imagination as it relates to sports and sport psychology. On my right is a baseball card of Sandy Koufax. He was my childhood idol. When I was 9 I recall being mad at my parents for allowing me to be right-handed. There are lots of reason of course for my reverence for Koufax. He was the best of that era and he was Jewish. This of course pleased my otherwise anti sport mother. I have a funny story about Mr Koufax and not me, but my mother. My mother came home one day from work. She was secretary to the president of a large discount retail store in California called White Front. She said she met this very nice Jewish boy at the store and he gave her this toy to give to me. Now I was about ten at the time and was thinking I had outgrown toys. It was a Sandy Koufax Pitching Game. You threw styrofoam balls at these plastic points on a sort of dartboard. On the box it was signed to Mike from Sandy Koufax. I was speechless. My mother said he had told her to bring me over, but she didn’t think it was a big deal. I didn’t talk to her for a week. I did however believe in my heart every time I picked up a baseball that I was Sandy. It was my summer of baseball and it couldn’t have been better as not only did the Dodgers with the World Series, but I pitched in almost every game. In my mind’s eye I was Koufax and pitched like him that whole year. There was nothing I wanted more than to play professional baseball.
On the left of my computer is a picture of Albert Einstein. My parents seemed to insist that I spend my time doing more than playing baseball and other sports. I got really intrigued with him through one of my Jr High teachers. Not because he knew that I was Jewish, but because he said he liked the way I thought about things so I should understand Einstein. Had no idea what the teacher meant, but I did what I was told. I was intrigued with him to be sure though I was still more interested in being an athlete rather than a scientist of any sort. What I did recognize is that Einstein was into thought problems. He explored the Universe with his mind. It wasn’t E=MC2 that caught my attention, but the quote “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. It is that quote that is up on my wall.
My third role model was Wilt Chamberlain. OK, forget about the number 3000 for a minute. As a basketball player (I gave up baseball soon after Koufax retired), I wanted to be Wilt. I saw him as cool. He was big and bad. He was tough on the court, yet smart enough to stay out of foul trouble. He could score at will and I wanted to be like him. So how did it turn out? I could dunk (not bad for a 6 foot Jewish kid). I could defend big tall players. And I could do a finger roll. I averaged 20 points a game my senior year. There was one problem though. I practiced being big, bad and to take people into the paint. Couldn’t dribble to save my life which of course was a large problem as I went to take my game to the next level.
So there are three stories. The very short end to this blog is simple. When we were children we used our imaginations to do everything. We used it to play as toddlers and as would be athletes. Somewhere along the way our natural ability to use our imagination got taken away from many of us. It is a key component to success in everything. Sports and virtually everything else we do in life. If I can leave every athlete I meet with something it would be to remember when you believed you were Koufax (insert current star here). Play like you did then and see how fast your game accelerates. We can contol our world very simply and play out of our minds.