I have been looking back into the past to understand myself. I am doing this so that I can better understand how to help those I work with. While I firmly believe that our performance while built on past experience is not governed or controlled by it and we can learn to move forward despite our past experience there are times where it is important to acknowledge that we do have a past to reckon with.
Every athlete or person I work with one of the initial conversations is direct to “Why” do you want to do what you are doing. What is your Why? Simon Sinek‘s book Start with Why is a great example of the importance of understanding your why. His book is a best seller because it demonstrates to us how it is we find inspiration to achieve our goals.
I’ve talked about my why in working with athletes a number of times. I was the athlete that kept failing at the next level, basically until there were no more levels. I lacked a good understanding of how to be a successful athlete from a mental perspective. You can read about this in my blog. A good friend Deborah Drake prompted me, as good friends often do, to think a little bit more about my why. I started to tell her a story about my father and she has encouraged me to finish the story here.
My dad was a teacher. Actually he had been a lot of things in his youth. He was a boxer , a push cart peddler, a roofer, a hobo, a migrant worker, a panhandler (someday I’ll write his story of panhandling in from of Nevada’s more famous houses of ill repute, but that is for another day. During the 1950’s he was a successful traveling salesman. Insert joke here if you want. After I was born he decided to become a teacher so that he would be home and as he said he wanted to make a difference. So he taught elementary school and coached on the playgrounds from the late 1950’s till his retirement in 1987 at age 70. He was burned out by the system. He had spent his career teaching in a lower economic neighborhood teaching kids to read and trying to keep them out of trouble. He was as I recall in the same building for 27 years. He was an institution in his school district. He was Mr. Margolies. Another reason I guess I go by Mike to everyone. If you don’t read more then you too may miss the point. (more…)
We have all come to realize that much of youth sports is out of whack. This is not a new phenomenon, much as some people would like us to believe. We started to develop Bills of Rights for young athletes a long time ago. Stories of pressure placed on kids at an early age both by parents and coaches are almost folklore. I remember in grad school that one of my DU classmates Nancy told a story about how she was coaching Little League and this big kid hits a ball way out into the outfield and this little outfielder near the fence closes his eyes, sticks up his glove and catches the ball as it was about to go over. I’ve seen stories like that on TV, as have you. The difference in this story was that as this unlikely hero comes trotting in, ball in hand to his jumping for joy teammates and parents. Out of the stands comes a woman, purse in hand and starts to beat the kid across the back, screaming at him that he has just ruined her son’s major league career. I’m not sure who needed more protection, the kid being beat on, or the woman’s own son.
My intent today is not to talk about youth sports reform, but to talk about how some kids have lost the part of competition in sports that got them hooked in the first place. For the last 20 years I have been emphasizing that sports should be fun, but that we need to realize that for many, competition, even at high levels is fun. We have to better define fun, as did two of my UVA classmates Rick & David in one of their studies.
Where I am leaning here is that when a player defines what fun is and you ask them to imagine something fun away for sports and they get a huge smile on their face and there is joy there, you need to explore that moment. Ask them to get a clear picture, then double the clarity. Have them see their joy on TV, then in HD, and even in Blue-ray. Have them double the size and put it on a big screen TV, then a movie screen and even bring it to 3D IMAX. When they have that tell them that is what I want you to feel out on the field. Add intensity to the picture and see how they play. It is perhaps a little too much of an NLP experience, but I think it works great for a lot of players.
I think a lot of kids have lost that feeling, even the ones having fun competing. It does something cool for them and show them that they can bring other emotions to the table and use them to build intensity and gain a vibrant sort of energy. You don’t have to be a hypnotist or neuro linguistic practitioner to understand the relationship between imagining fun, playing a game and looking for that fun in both.
Where does your fun fit in? Can you tune it up? Now that you’ve made it bigger and clearer, apply it or that feeling to something in your life. Have fun.
If you need some help with this for yourself or the young athlete in your life, let me know. I have a program for you.
Well it looks like everything is up and running to an acceptable standard. I hope that I can now get into combining some stories and techniques that people will find interesting. The next post will either be about roles we play on teams or on imagery. Both are nearly ready for prime time, but I need a day or two to sort a few ideas on them out.
I’ve been very excited about the NW Foundation idea and I hope some of you are as well. I had a very interesting conversation via Skype with my friend Thomas Cox. Thomas is finishing his studies in the UK and is thinking of visiting the US this summer and doing and learning some more about applied sport psychology. We were talking about a few concepts and the conversation drifted in this direction.
Most people if they are aware of sport psychology recognize it because of the Olympics or Professional Sports. What if we provided younger athletes with mental skills training. Those it help to reach the highest levels would want help in their professional lives and those that realized success but chose different paths like business or other profession would use the skills there to help them to success.
The real deal from out talk was when these young athletes become adults, have their own kids and begin coaching, they would have a much greater appreciation for the mental side of things then the generations before them. As someone who also coaches soccer and has been involved with youth soccer for 35 years it is really now that we are seeing the fruits of our coaching the last three generations. Ten years ago I would have maybe 1 parent of a player that had played in high school. Now I have parents of players that played in college.
Would the same be true for sport psychology? I know very good sport psychology researchers that have contributed tremendous things to the way kids are coached today. A Bill of Rights for Children in Sports has been around for around 30 years, but sport psychology is still not excepted everywhere as an important sport science. In the UK sport psychology on many professional teams has been integrated into the coaching /sport science staff. Here for sure there are sport psychology consultants working with some of our professional teams as outside consultants, but not necessarily as part of the team.
So perhaps it is the children that are our future. Perhaps making sport psychology part of High School training might change the paradigm in the next few generations faster than the golfer that credits a sport psychologist for their success. The rub of course is that to provide services to kids we have to figure out a way to make it happen. My way will have to be through a Foundation or Non-profit Organization. Working with those that can pay I’m afraid has limited us in who we have been able to reach.
You can help me make a difference by spreading the word about the NW Foundation for Sport Psychology and Training. I don’t have any idea what makes an idea go viral, I just know that with most anything it starts with a goal, a commitment and most of all a first step.
I created a page on http://themental-game.com/foundation/ where I will continue to add information. It is where I will look for corporate sponsors and grants. I’ll only post something here if there is exciting news. Let’s hope it is soon.
It is said that desperation is the mother of invention. I am not desperate, but I am tired of telling families I’m sorry I can’t work with your child because you can not afford to pay me. It sucks. A friend and associate of mine asked me how I could work with kids for free, when he knew I had a business to build. I told him it was because I felt like these kids needed my help and that I could make an impact in their lives. His answer was, if I didn’t stay in business who then would I impact. He is right of course and perhaps as a successful business man and former great professional athlete I should pay attention to not only his words, but his intention. The only thing I can say is “James I just can’t” .
So this is where I have landed. I have toyed with the idea for some time to build some sort of center or foundation to teach young athletes about mental training. The only drawback is that I have no idea how to go about doing this and still build my business. I just know that I have to be able to teach athletes about how to deal with competitive stress, how to concentrate, what it means to be mentally tough. Some would say that it’s not very important. I would counter with all the athletes I’ve seen that succeeded in school. I’m not talking about the ones that have gone on to play in college, I’m talking about the ones that stayed in school because of sports and went on to have productive lives because they learned how to use their minds in a positive way.
I want to change lives one athlete or team at a time. I want to reach more kids in Washington that want to play on teams or compete individually. Sports have become very expensive and outside training to stay competitive has become the norm. Speed training, strength training, core training, specialized coaching all needs money. Sport Psychology or mental skills training is always it seems thought of last on the list. I’ve tried to change that perception for 30 plus years, one athlete at a time. I may not change that general perception anytime soon, but I think we can change the availability part NOW.
The Northwest Foundation for Sport Psychology and Training will provide both mental, physical, and nutritional training and education for those that can not afford it otherwise. Working in conjunction with physical trainers I propose to be able to offer athletes, at least in group surrounding, access to all kinds of sport training.
I can’t do this alone. I can find the needed partners to help provide training. I need some business partners that have my same vision of providing kids in the Northwest with this kind of training. The Foundation needs commercial sponsors to help fund the program. If you know of anyone that would be interested in helping and investing in athletes and their futures. I’m reaching out to all of my friends and associates worldwide to help me get this project accomplished. So all my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Univera friends, if you can help me either yourself or through someone you know, you know where to find me.