Blog archive

NBA Vs FIBA BAll

This summers FIBA World Cup wasn’t a wake-up call for the USA, it was a Shock and Awe for the world.  I have never heard the USA make excuses for losing, so this was shocking to me.  The other “teams practice more; they have been playing together for years; FIBA basketball is different than the NBA.”  None of these excuses was present over the years when the USA dominated the international competition.

The experience of a seventh-place finish behind countries such as Spain, France, Argentina, Australia (who beat the USA in a friendly) Serbia and the Czech Republic.  Should illustrate to the basketball community that athletic ability will no longer win games at the highest level.  Fundamental basketball skill, tactics and teamwork all overshadowed athletic ability.

 USA basketball needs to make a few fundamental changes or at the very least should consider the following:

Consider hiring Top European coaches as assistants.

The USA coaches were all American NBA or college-level coaches.  Much was said about the lack of international experience of the NBA players.  I would say the same discussion could be made regarding the knowledge of the coaching staff.  Adding European coaches that know the FIBA game would give USA Basketball a tactical advantage.

Consider adding American players who are currently playing in the top Euro-leagues.

Americans have been playing in FIBA competition for decades.  Some of them are good enough to be in the NBA but for many reasons are playing abroad and playing well.  NBA scouts know who the best American players are in Europe.  Its a matter of inviting the right guys to camp to see what they can do.  But more importantly, giving them an opportunity to make the team.

Mark Robinson 

 

 

 

Dr. Mark RobinsonNBA Vs FIBA BAll
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Athletes Chasing The Idea Of Perfection

The pursuit to become proficient in every aspect drives athletes to eat, sleep and breath excellence. Since a young age, the idea that “practice makes perfect” is drilled into their mindset, but where does striving for perfection draw the line between healthy and unhealthy?

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.  Vince Lombardi

There is no doubt that sports carry many benefits including discipline, team work, decision making, goal setting, and dedication. Nevertheless, this competitive environment also has the ability to aid in the downfall of the individual. For the athlete that spends countless hours seeking improvement, they have become their own worst critic. Left dissatisfied when the outcome doesn’t meet their expectation, instead of recognizing their ability to progress. What athletes really mean to say is that they seek perfection, the unreachable notion of being flawless. But what is perfection? Is it the no hitter? Is it the ideal body image? Is it doing what we never thought we could?

Vince Lombardi said, “ Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”. To the athlete seeking perfection, communication and education is key. We are so fixated on the little things that we fail to see the bigger picture of having a healthy, balanced and positive lifestyle as individuals. That includes letting go of what we cannot control. Behavior such as this is more common than we realize, especially in athletics.

Sports culture is obsessed with perfection; from performance to appearance, athletes are statistically evaluated and under the constant pressure to meet expectations. The higher the level of competition, the more pressure there is, and while we understand that less than 2% is what separates the good from the great; when do we reach a point where we are satisfied with ourselves?

The combination of various factors can lead athletes to partake in unhealthy behavior that is self-destructive. High-risk drinking, drug use, and eating disorders are just some of the better-known behaviors that athletes fall vulnerable to when they internalize stress and don’t know how to properly approach these situations.

In an environment that prides itself on mental toughness, any sign of weakness that could impact performance is negatively looked upon. Athletes feel too proud, fear, or deny that they are struggling and in return it becomes internally damaging to the individual and the athlete. The inability to be perfect does not discredit them as a person, it only allows them opportunity to develop and progress.

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Let us redefine how the sports culture views perfection. Perfection is the point where a person’s satisfaction starts and ends with them. As an athlete you cannot allow others to define your success or your self worth. Sports are about your passion and ability to reach your full potential, no one else’s. So should we stop trying to achieve perfection? No, chasing perfection gives us direction and motivates us to do better. For some, that athletic identity may extend for a longer period of time than others, but at the end of the day they all eventually come to an end. When that day comes we want athletes to continue to view perfection as their distinct ability to live a positive, balanced and healthy lifestyle.

As for our imperfections, they are what make us perfectly imperfect. They make you the athlete that you are, but more importantly they make you the person you are. Vince Lombardi was right, perfection is unattainable, but teaching athletes to reach their full potential, that is its own model of excellence.

Article written by Danielle Gleason,

Founder of DNG and Personal Player Development Specialist

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PPD MagAthletes Chasing The Idea Of Perfection
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Danielle Gleason, and the IPPD Specialist Certificate Experience

Danielle Gleason is a former collegiate swimmer for Colorado State University.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Health Exercise Science and a Master of Education in Higher Education.  Danielle was a graduate assistant in the Student Athlete Development office for Arizona State University, which is where she realized her true passion is working with athletes in the personal development arena.  Since then, Danielle enrolled in the Institute for Personal Player Development (IPPD) and has received her Personal Player Development (PPD) Specialist Certificate.  We wanted to get feedback on her IPPD experience.

 

Dr. Mark: Why did you enroll in the IPPD, PPD Specialist Certificate program?

Ms. Gleason: I was originally referred by Jean Boyd, Sr. Associate Athletic Director at ASU to contact Dr. Robinson and after speaking to him, I decided to enroll in the IPPD, PPD Specialist Certificate program.

I felt that the work that was being done would have of not only benefited me greatly during my time competing, but more importantly after. This program has the endless possibility to help former, present, and future athletes. By enrolling in the program, I was able to gain the proper knowledge to assist athletes live the positive, balanced and healthy lifestyle that the IPPD program so adamantly teaches.

 

Dr. Mark: What did you think about the program curriculum?

Ms. Gleason: I thought that the program was very well researched, it was relevant, and it provides a lot of value to those who are taking the course. The curriculum allowed me to learn from a number of professionals in the field and apply the concepts in multiple ways.

 

Dr. Mark: Would you recommend this program to other people who want to or are working with athletes? 

Ms. Gleason: Definitely! Regardless of the capacity that a helping professional works with athletes, it is always a great opportunity to get professionally trained to help athletes develop as an individual in a positive, balanced, and healthy way.

 

Dr. Mark: What was one of the most important things you learned through the program?

Ms. Gleason: One of the most important things I learned was that, PPD specialists help athletes realize their maximum potential as an individual, not just as an athlete. IPPD has provided the framework to assist would be helping professionals in the best possible way.

 

Dr. Mark: What are your plans moving forward within the PPD industry?

Ms. Gleason: Moving forward, I plan to start my own consulting service as a Personal Player Development Specialist. I also plan on developing workshops and presentations geared towards the female athletic identity and transitional phases.

Connect with Danielle on LinkedIN

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PPD MagDanielle Gleason, and the IPPD Specialist Certificate Experience
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Brandon Sweeney, On his IPPD Specialist Certificate Experience

Brandon Sweeney is a former college athlete who experienced depression and thoughts of suicide, as a college athlete.   Mr. Sweeney shares his story of the setbacks he had to overcome when his dream of going to the NFL was shattered by a career ending injury in his current book, Loving The Game When The Game Doesn’t Love You Back.  Mr. Sweeney recently completed his Personal Player Development (PPD) Specialist Certificate, from the Institute for Personal Player Development (IPPD) and we wanted to get his thoughts on the IPPD Specialist Certificate program.

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Dr. Mark: Why did you enroll in the IPPD, PPD Specialist Certificate program?

Mr. Sweeney: Being a former athlete, I thought I truly understood athletes and how to help them because of what I went through. However, after working with athletes, I discovered I did not have the necessary tools in order to assist them.

Therefore, I enrolled in the IPPD because I wanted to truly understand athletes, the issues they were facing, and how best to assist them. I was looking to understand Athletic Identity, Athlete Behavior, and how to help athletes holistically. Most of the things I’ve researched and studied prior to enrolling in the IPPD, did not address helping athletes holistically.

Dr. Mark: Give us your thoughts regarding the program curriculum? 

Mr. Sweeney: I thought the curriculum provided relevant and valuable information. It was a lot to chew on. The curriculum gave me great knowledge and access to the minds of experts who work with athletes on a daily basis.  It also provided me with concepts and frameworks that I could use when working with athletes.

Dr. Mark: Would you recommend this program and why? 

Mr. Sweeney: Absolutely,  for two reasons. First, I believe those who want to truly understand and help athlete’s, need training on how to do that. Second, there aren’t program that specifically focus on the holistic development of student and professional athletes as it pertains to the issues and challenges they face.

Dr. Mark: What aspects of the program will you use in the future when working with athletes? 

Mr. Sweeney: How to specifically help athletes in two areas.  One, assisting them in maneuvering through the sports transition process. Two, a better way of working with athletes towards achieving success outside of the playing environment.

Dr. Mark: What are your plans moving forward within the PPD industry? 

Mr. Sweeney: I am going to start consulting and speaking with high schools and colleges to create a program/workshop that helps student athletes maneuver through the sports transition process. I also plan on writing a book that specifically contributes to the Personal Player Development industry.

 

Follow Braddon on Twitter- @BrandonLSweeney
Connect with Brandon on LinkedIn- Brandon Sweeney
Like Brandon L Sweeney page on Facebook – Purpose beyond the game

Get a download a FREE copy of Brandon’s current book at www.brandonlsweeney.com

If you are looking for a hard copy you can purchase here.

Book 2

 

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International Basketball Success Online Workshop

With over 4000 college basketball Seniors and only 60 available positions in the NBA, basketball players who don’t make the NBA have a great chance of playing international basketball, but many don’t make it.  Why, because they lack the necessary information.

The Institute for Personal Player Development (IPPD) has launched the International Basketball Success Workshop.  This online workshop provides athletes with the information they need in order to have successful and productive careers abroad.

Why is this workshop important or needed?  Most college basketball players are never given the proper information to find employment playing abroad.  Instead many of these players either:

Give up on the dream

Play abroad and have a horrible experience

Sign contracts with agents who don’t help them

Pay to attend exposure camps and never get a job

Waste years doing it the wrong way

College basketball programs and USA Basketball do not give basketball players the information they need in this new and exciting journey, but the IPPD does.  Enroll today and learn what you have always wanted to know.

Listen to what previous athletes think about the workshop below.

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Erin Konheim Mandras: Athletes and Eating Disorders

Erin Konheim Mandras played college soccer at Michigan State University.  Following her collegiate career she played semi-professional women’s soccer and later became a collegiate soccer coach.  Erin is currently a motivational speaker, blogger and founder of www.kickthescale.com.  Kickthescale.com focuses on eating disorders, body image, exercise, and nutrition, particularly in athletes.  PPD Mag caught up with Erin to get her thoughts on athletes and eating disorders.

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Dr. Mark: What is the purpose of kickthescale.com?

 

Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: Kickthescale.com is a website that provides my personal biography, my rock bottom, and my ongoing blog, all related to my story and experiences of developing, battling, and overcoming a significant eating disorder as a collegiate athlete at Michigan State University. Based on statistics, there is a widespread presence of eating disorders among all men and women, of all ages, but particularly prevalent in high level athletes. Therefore, my mission is to raise awareness and educate others on the issue, in hopes to prevent eating disorders from developing, or helping us to identify signs and symptoms early on, to prevent further damage. Kickthescale.com is a resource for people to use, as my writings and stories are relatable, real, and powerful.

 

Dr. Mark: Are female athletes under the same amount of pressure to perform as their male counterparts?

 

Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: Female athletes endure the same amount of pressures to perform as their male counterparts in all facets of life. Ultimately, males and females have the same goals, desires, and dreams to achieve great accomplishments, despite men’s sports earning more revenue. At the college level, a full ride scholarship is the exact same amount of money invested in an athlete, regardless of the sport or gender. Therefore, each athlete feels pressure to meet and/or exceed expectations, while an education is being funded. At the professional level, though there may be a significant discrepancy in salaries earned between men and women, each athlete signs a contract that promises results.

 

Dr. Mark: Is the subject of eating disorders a topic that needs to be discussed with high school and college athletes?

 

Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: Eating disorders are beginning to develop at a much earlier age, even before high school. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss, educate, and raise awareness on the topics surrounding eating disorders to all ages. Nutrition, healthy exercise behaviors, and a balanced lifestyle are all necessary components in helping to prevent eating disorders from developing. There is an intense desire to achieve the ideal body type that media and society is portraying as beautiful, in both men and women. And, as a result, many are finding alternative ways to attain that figure, whether through diet, exercise, or even surgery. It is so important to continue emphasizing positive body image. Also, we must continue discussing the details of eating disorders in hopes to bring attention to the signs and symptoms, and urge people to seek help immediately. Additionally, by sharing my story to all ages, my goal is to help eliminate the stigma attached to these issues.

 

Dr. Mark: What are some other topics you discuss when you’re presenting to athletes?

 

Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: When I present to athletes, I share my story of the development of my eating disorder, and the reasons why I was destined to develop one of my own. As athletes, we have tremendous responsibilities off the field, as well; academically, socially, and religiously. Therefore, it can become extremely overwhelming and stressful to perform at one’s best in all areas of life.

Athletes tend to be very high achieving individuals, who place an immense amount of pressure on themselves, and it is important to be aware of the health affects and ramifications this may have, such as, in my case, the development of an eating disorder. I emphasize the importance of positive body image, and the significance of strength, power, and health for optimal performance. Nutrition and exercise are two main contributing factors to optimal performance, and without proper and adequate attention to both, one’s performance may decline, like mine did.

 

Dr. Mark: What are the visible red flags of a student-athlete experiencing an eating disorder?

 

Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: In my case, I was identified by two major factors: a drop in body weight and my personality. These were clear signs of an issue. I had loss weight, but, also, appeared very lethargic, and distant in my close relationships. My dieting behaviors became noticeable, and my strict habits became worrisome. Additionally, I had lost my menstrual cycle.

Other signs and symptoms of all eating disorders can be found here.

 

Dr. Mark: How can we be proactive in preventing eating disorders with athletes?

 

Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: We must talk openly about the issues, and signs and symptoms so people are able to identify the disorders early enough to prevent significant damage. Additionally, the more common people feel these are, the more open to help people may be regarding eating disorders or disordered eating. It is so important to continue educating others on the details of eating disorders in hopes of saving lives.

Follow her on twitter @ErinMandras

Like Kick the Scale on Facebook

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Matt Blamey, Pioneering Lacrosse out West

Matt Blamey is the current Head Coach for the Sierra Nevada College Men’s Lacrosse program in Lake Tahoe. Currently the Eagles are 7-1 on the season and ranked #12 nationally in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association. We all know that lacrosse is the fastest growing youth sport but PPD Mag wanted to know how the impact and growth of the sport is being developed in the West.

Dr. Mark: Why did you start the California Junior College Lacrosse Association (CJCLA)?

Coach Blamey: Prior to becoming a college coach, I spent seven years coaching at South Lakes High School in Reston, VA. We had a ton of great athletes come out of the program who, for one reason or another, would end up going to the local junior college (Northern Virginia Community College). NOVA was, and still is, one of the most prestigious and largest 2-year colleges in the United States.

While I was very proud of seeing these student-athletes continue their education, I hated the fact that their playing careers had to come to an end. Over my final few years with South Lakes, I began writing a proposal of what it would take to run a program at NOVA. I’d say this is where my passion for junior college athletics began.

During my final season with SLHS, I sat down with Brian Anweiler, then Student-Wide Activities Coordinator for all of NOVA, to discuss the potential of a lacrosse program. They say timing is everything. My meeting with Brian was serendipitous to say the least. It just so happened that Brian was specifically hired to help make athletics a reality at the institution. Needless to say our meeting was very successful. Brian agreed bring me on to start the program at Northern Virginia Community College, the first JUCO lacrosse program in the state of VA.

After spending two fantastic seasons with NOVA, my wife and I came to the decision that it would be best to raise our family in her home state of California. Upon relocation, I started a new coaching position with Sonoma State University. Almost immediately, I began noticing how large the junior colleges are in CA and what tremendous athletics facilities that they possess. Junior college sports are very popular in California, but once again, lacrosse was rarely an option for graduating high school athletes.

I did some research and saw that there was one junior college who offered competitive lacrosse as an offering. Diablo Valley College, east of San Francisco, was running a club program who would compete annually against 4-year schools during the fall. I reached out to Terry Armstrong, founder of the program, and we worked together to come up with an umbrella organization that would aid aspiring junior college to create club programs at their own schools. The CJCLA was born.

The primary goal of the CJCLA is to assist student-athletes at junior colleges in getting club programs online at their own institution. We provide sample budgets, staffing needs and access to uniform and equipment discounts through quality vendors. We also will build a free website for new programs in order to assist them in getting the word out to prospective student-athletes about their programs.

Now in our third year, we have had a few programs come on board and fall off. It has been a rocky start. We are proud, however, that in addition to Diablo Valley College…Santa Barbara City College and Grossmont College have both come online and proved to be competitive and well-supported programs. This fall we are working with Butte College to get a new program running as well.

Some student-athletes will use JUCO athletics as a stepping stone to a 4-year school. For others, playing for the CJCLA will be the pinnacle of their career. In both instances we want to provide an organized and highly competitive playing experience for these young men. Lacrosse remains the fastest growing team sport in the country. One day, when there are CJCLA programs up and running all over the state, we hope the California Community College Athletic Association will see lacrosse as the next logical fit to their varsity athletic offerings.

Dr. Mark: Do athletes in lacrosse experience the same personal development issues as athletes in the sports of basketball and football?

Coach Blamey: Just this week I read an article in Fast Company on how student-athletes entering the work force are at an advantage over those who have never competed athletically. I believe this to be true. Many of those advantages have to do with withstanding the challenges and pressures that come along with competing in college.  In short to your question, the answer is yes. For every student-athlete who successfully navigates through the challenges brought on by stress, drugs/alcohol, technology, etc.. There will be another young man or woman who will falter.

Every year the NCAA puts out report a report on the levels of drug/alcohol use among collegiate athletes. Along with basketball and football, lacrosse consistently ranks high on this list. While substance abuse is an issue with many college students, I think the pressure on athletes makes them more at risk out of the need to “check-out” or “unwind.”

Social media has proven another challenge that I believe many athletes, at least in my experience, are learning to deal with much more intelligently. A few short years ago, I was often disappointed by the things that I would see posted by current players or even worse, potential recruits. While there will always be exceptions, I think the message that “nothing is private” has made the rounds.

Overall, I strongly believe that the days of simply “coaching” are over. In our profession we have to pay attention to our student-athletes in all areas of their life. It is our job to help these players successfully avoid making choices that can lead to disastrous consequences. It’s cliché, but frankly, I don’t want these young men to make some of the same mistakes that I did. Relationships don’t end when the whistle is blown at the end of practice.

 

Dr. Mark: In an ideal world, would it be advantageous for a coach to have someone on his/her staff to work with athletes on the personal development issues?

Coach Blamey: In an ideal world, absolutely. I am by no means an expert in personal development. I simply speak from life experience. Challenges with most institutions, mine included, will be budget dollars. We are constantly moving around the numbers so that we can hire adequate assistant coaches, athletic trainers, etc… Unfortunately, I feel that a personal development expert on staff is one that most athletic departments will relegate to the bottom of the priority list.

 

Dr. Mark: Do you believe specific training is needed for athletic staff members working with athletes in the area of personal player development?

Coach Blamey: This is my 14th year of coaching. I have yet to have a single season where I haven’t had a player come to me with a unique personal problem or challenge.  I think quality training could be helpful, but I would hate for it to turn into another mandatory webcast that the school or government mandates to all athletics staff. I think more valuable would be a professional consultant as an on-call resource. Google can only do so much.

 

Dr. Mark: Do athletes in lacrosse need support making the transition from athlete to non-athlete?

Coach Blamey: I’m not sure about this one. On those same annual reports put out by the NCAA, lacrosse athletes consistently rank among the highest in graduation rates. 99% of lacrosse players understand that they will not be earning a living playing professionally. I think that most realize that the cleats will be retired upon graduation and that Friday under the lights will now mean a late night at the office.  That being said, I am an advocate of giving our young men and women all resources possible prior to heading into the “real” world. If there are avenues available to ease the transition for our players, I’m all for it.

 

Dr. Mark: What are some of the issues you see at the professional level of lacrosse?

Coach Blamey: My personal experience within the professional ranks is limited. That being said, I am a huge fan of both Major League Lacrosse (Go Bayhawks!) and the National Lacrosse League. It’s amazing to see the growth of the professional game in both field and box lacrosse.

By all accounts, most professional players are still weekend warriors. They draw modest salaries and some fly into the city they represent on Friday for practice, game Saturday, and then fly back home to be at the office on Monday. It sounds like a grueling schedule, but from those I’ve chatted with, they wouldn’t trade it for the world.

As the growth of the game continues to explode for both players and fans, I think the salaries for athletes will grow into a quality living wage. Will it ever be a six or seven figure paycheck? I’m not so sure. Until then, however, there is something to be said for these guys. They are truly playing for the love of the game. I admire every one of them!

 

Dr. Mark: How much potential does the west coast have to develop lacrosse into a thriving sport?

Coach Blamey: This has been an ongoing question for some time. I think it’s time to put it to bed. Lacrosse is already thriving on the west coast. From Southern California to Washington, the west coast is putting out some of the best players in the country and every year it continues to grow. Are there areas where lacrosse is still new? Absolutely! But no longer is our sport an unknown.  This past season the University of Denver was the first NCAA program west of the Mississippi River to win a National Championship. Right now they remain ranked #1 in the country. Their roster is littered with players from the west.

In the MCLA, west coast teams have been flourishing for years with home-grown talent. It’s not a secret anymore. West coast kids know how to play…

Follow Coach Blamey on twitter  @coachblamey

Follow The California Junior College Lacrosse Association on twitter

 

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The Practice of ‘Mindfulness’ for Optimal Performance and Well-being in Sport and Business


 

 

Whenever we evaluate current levels of stress, anxiety, debilitative factors affecting confidence, or blocks to achieving optimal performance in a variety of vocational tasks and domains, whether that be human functioning in operational business, or collective team performance in sport, such conceptions of these barriers are atypically a result of past experiences or future events. Furthermore, from personal experience, within any life domain, when individuals are asked to reflect on their three highest sources of stress,  the responses often related to past experiences or future events. In business this may be hitting weekly/monthly targets, in football, goals per game ratios. To elaborate in more detail, using football as an example, it is a common occurrence to witness  teams ‘crumbling’ under pressure. Whether that be teams in the relegation zone, or underdogs with a shot at the title. What often happens in these situations is rather than being in the present moment and focusing on the tasks and resources needed to complete a specific task or game to the best of their ability, the egoic mind is all too often reliving past experiences or worrying about future outcomes, which reinforces (quite often negatively – due to negative tendencies in though processing) our current levels of self-worth and ability in that present moment.

 

For the individual saleswoman pitching to a CEO, her direction of thoughts on securing the deal (end result) and potential future business generation (future event) from this pitch debilitates her ability to pool resources together for; building high levels of rapport with the CEO in question, focusing on the tonality, language and pace of the pitch, the details and intricacies of the product. For the footballer who is taking a penalty kick in the cup final, he is often distracted by the consequences of success or failure rather than the decisions needed to succeed in the present moment (i.e. target, ball placement, shot choice, pace, power, wind direction, position of the goal keeper). The fear of not attaining the cup, letting down team mates, comparing this situation to the last time he missed and/or scored a penalty, is preventing the individual from optimal headspace needed to achieve success.

 

From my experience of working with business leaders, C-suite, employees, football managers, sport coaches, and athletes/players, what separates the best performers in the world, to the average ones, is an ability to recognize the direction of their thoughts, and an even stronger recognition to disassociate specific thoughts, thus allowing them to maintain in the present moment. Sport and business psychology consultants have long dedicated time to helping individuals change such thought processes, their attention, focus and direction, and the direct and indirect influences on performance and well-being. Traditionally, this has been addressed through models of practice such as CBT (thought stopping, cognitive reframing) NPL (reducing the impact of thoughts and feelings) and PST (increasing the use and applicability of psychological strategy).

 

A more contemporary approach which has aimed to help individuals with such thought processes relating to their well-being, is mindfulness. Practitioners are now incorporating such models of practice across a range of performance domains. For those that may not yet be fully aware of the way in which mindfulness works, Buddhism (the origins of mindful meditation) places emphasises on ‘being’ in the present moment. However, by identifying with the egoic mind, an illusory distinction is made with our past experiences and future events. Such identifications are the difference between being mindful or mindFULL. That’s not to say that we can not recognize our past, as inevitably it has made us who we are today, but continual recognition of past mistakes, missed opportunities, broken relationships etc., or conversely, solely focusing on future opportunities, and promotions, and living the future significantly impacts upon well-being by not allowing us to recognize the present moment for what it is.

Mindfullness

It is not surprising to know that through clinical research and reports, looking back is directly associated with depression, whilst looking forward (for some) is directly related to anxiousness.  Having worked with individuals with such tendencies, I feel that ultimately what causes such performance decrements and well-being issues (depression, anxiety, anger) is the lack of control which we have over events which have happened, or going to happen in the future. Mindfulness recognizes that all we can control is the present, by not evaluating thoughts of previous or upcoming events, we allow ourselves the freedom to enjoy the present moment. It is in this moment we see people flourish in performance and they experience feelings of content (not happiness – dictated by external sources). It is also during these episodes, elite athletes report being ‘in the zone’. With the ‘quiet mind’ being reported time and time again as a characteristic during such peak performance. Through neuroscientific evidence, we know this not to be 100% accurate. Whilst there is a significant reduction in brain activity, what actually is happening during such episodes is that the individual does not directly associate with his/her thoughts. He/she actively becomes an observer of thoughts through non-evaluative means. This allows him/her to be truly present in the moment.

A great example of someone who currently lives in the present moment is Claudio Ranieri – Leicester City FC Manager. His ability to not focus on the outcome of the season and to approach performance on a game-by-game basis, he is a prime ambassador for advocating the positive effects of being mindful (as opposed to mindFULL). Through a deep understanding that team performance will be dictated by the resources he has at any given moment in time, through his language, communication and actions, he instills a positive mentality in players, whereby their focus is intensely on the present moment for the following 90 minutes, and nothing else. Though we cannot examine brain activity and recall accurately during a football match, it could be assumed that players mindfulness on the pitch is exemplified in their behaviours i.e. logical as opposed to emotional reactions,  verbal and non-verbal communication and body language after successful and unsuccessful outcomes.

 

To illustrate this through a practical example (and in an attempt for you to understand your current levels of mindfulness, or mindFULLness) if you took your dog for a walk this morning, ate breakfast with your family, or grabbed a take-out coffee on your way to work, take time to relate back to the direction of your thoughts. Were you thinking about upcoming bills at the end of the month, the potential promotion at work? Or, were they solely focused on experiencing that laughter of your two year old son as he dribbled porridge down his chin, or the fresh crisp air at 6am when you walked your dog through the park, with the trees damp with the thaw of overnight frost? The layman will often volitionally accept the direct relationships between thought, feeling and behaviour without conscious attention. As a result, this lack of self-awareness often necessitates living (not being) in the present moment through thoughts of past circumstances or future events.

 

Being a Mindfulness Practitioner, I am fully aware and endorsing of the many ways that mindfulness could assist the well-being of the general population (feel free to ask me any questions you may have), but for the purpose of this article we will focus on the holistic benefits for individuals and teams in both sport and business.

 

By combining Mindfulness Diploma training with clinical, business and sport psychology education, practicum knowledge and experience, I have devised a mindfulness strategy (applied through either individual consultations and/or groups workshops), which follows the three stage process of; recognition, observation and acceptance.

 

This first step to becoming more mindful (as opposed to mindFULL) is understanding the cognitive behavioural hypothesis. By comprehending the cyclical relationship between thoughts, feeling and behaviours, we become more self-aware of the direction and intent of our thoughts, and the resultant impact on feelings, emotions and subsequent behaviours. If we relate this to business, as another example, due to the cut-throat nature of sales in high performance environments, a salesman’s typical response to each and every telesales call may be “I need to hit my target” (which could be a result of self-worth, paying bills, evaluation apprehension or all of these factors). This thought directly results in feelings of nervousness and tension, and the subsequent unconscious (sometimes conscious) behaviour of pressurized selling, not accurately listening to the customers queries and demands, poor memory of product features and applications etc. By focusing on future events (outside of his control at this present moment) he is unable to be in the present moment, resulting in a whole host of debilitative factors. From my own consultancy experience, when individuals who understand (even at a low level) such relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, this recognition is a powerful enough tool for initiating change.

 

Through intense self-refection and analysis, individuals will become more aware of both positive and negative cyclical relationships through the cognitive behavioural hypothesis. It is here (or should be) where CBT therapists may use thought blocking or cognitive reframing for changing faulty thinking processes. At this stage, mindfulness opposes traditional therapies by allowing thoughts to be (as opposed to controlling them) which results in reduced association with such thoughts, removing the negative impact on feelings and behaviours. Using quicksand as an analogy, this approach frees individuals from identifying and wrestling with their thoughts (sometimes debilitative, sometimes facilitative). For visual representation of this process, please refer back to the figure above.

 

For this to be achieved successfully, I have developed a bespoke introductory mindful meditation, which supports individuals and groups to become mere observers (and not evaluators) of their thoughts. This practice to the layman may seem ambiguous, however mindfulness is an art form that needs to be practiced practically. Once doing so, the self-awareness individuals experience will far supersede any retrospective reflections. Not only does this process support individuals to disembody thoughts and the typical volitional relationships with feelings/emotions and behaviours, it actively promotes individuals to experience ‘being’ in the present moment.

 

Finally, once an individual has experienced and achieved observing thoughts in the present moment, positive behaviour change will become both conscious and unconscious. Subsequent mindfulness sessions with clients are therefore aimed at further disassociating with the egoic mind, allowing thoughts to be just thoughts (and not subsequent feelings and actions) through objectification and non-evaluation, resulting in acceptance of thoughts and intense focus upon the present moment. For the salesman with the recurring thought of “I need to hit my sales target”, whose typical responses are nervousness and debilitative behaviours, he has now become consciously aware that he is not controlled by his thoughts and as such can actively be in the present moment. Not only will this transpire to more effecting performance (asking the right questions, listening to the wants and needs of the client, recalling the product features and applicability) and well-being (confidence, recognition of character strengths, presence) in this specific sales pitch, a significant positive shift will occurs across all contextual domains of the individuals life.

 

By Luke Whiting

Elite Mindset Coach at Norwich City FC, Life Coach and Mindfulness Practitioner

 

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PPD MagThe Practice of ‘Mindfulness’ for Optimal Performance and Well-being in Sport and Business
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Stephen A. Smith, Hearts and Souls of Men in Sports

Stephen A. Smith recently discussed his feelings and thoughts regarding the Rooney Rule.  For those that don’t know, the Rooney Rule requires National Football League teams interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. It was established in 2003.

Although the rule has been in place for 13 years, many argue the rule, has not had the intended effect on hiring minorities.

What does this have to do with Personal Player Development?  Simple, the urgency to provide training and development for professional athletes and helping professionals in the personal development arena has lagged, just as hiring practices have.  Stephen A. explains why…

 

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PPD MagStephen A. Smith, Hearts and Souls of Men in Sports
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