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Play is Universal and Unifying

When you think about play, what comes to mind? Maybe you think about little kids running around playing a game, or your own memories of playing with friends or in team sports.

Recently I was interviewed by Blake Hodge with the North Carolina News Network, and we talked a lot about play. Every human being plays, and sport is one form of play that we all can share. We are so wired to play that we’re willing to pay to watch other people do it!

On a deeper level, there’s much more to sport and play than the game-to-game life. Play is like wisdom. It’s contemplation of higher things and done for its own end, not for some other reason. That’s part of what attracts us to sport. We are drawn to excellence, we love watching sports highlight reels of incredible plays. When we watch a world class athlete perform, it makes us wonder on a higher level how we were made to do something this awesome.

Sport can unify. For example, if you’re at a baseball game you’re not thinking about who the person sitting next to you voted for in the last election. You’re simply enjoying a common experience. Think about all the times a sporting event has brought people together after tragedy, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina or a Red Socks game after the Boston Marathon bombing.

Blake asked how sports can be used to advance social issues. What this brought to mind was the Olympics. I was in the Olympics trials myself in 1980 when I learned the U.S. had boycotted the Moscow Games. The history of the Olympic Games has a number of examples of countries protesting or boycotting over social issues, including the upcoming Sochi, Russia Games. It’s the nature of politics to use such high profile events as a platform because sport is such a universal commonality.

When we watch athletes who compete and perform at the highest levels we can enjoy the experience as if we’re playing ourselves. Too often the focus on the negative aspects of sports, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If your perspective is on sport for the pure joy of play, it is easier to focus on the virtues instead of the sensational, negative aspects.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized||

Do the intangibles in sport offer an advantage or disadvantage?

Are there intangibles that can give a player or team an edge? I recently spoke with Greg DePalma on Prime Sports Radio about what makes world-class athletes stand apart. Our conversation included a couple of interesting exchanges on intangible factors that can impact performance.

I told Greg about an NFL wide receiver I worked with who would shout a big-bomb word if he dropped the ball in practice. His emotions would run high in the moment, and he didn’t see that the negative outburst was a distraction. When he was cursing and kicking the ground, he lost that precious fraction of a second where he could reflect on why he dropped the ball – making him more likely to drop the ball again for that very same reason.

Watching him run a play, I noticed he didn’t always snap his head around to look for the ball. Sometimes he would bring his head around slowly, blurring his view. Once he focused on that specific skill, his performance improved. Instead of being distracted by negative emotion, I coached this athlete to focus on gratitude in the moment, to be thankful in all things, whether he caught the ball or not.

Greg also asked for my thoughts on University of Texas football coach, Mack Brown, who is stepping down after 16 years coaching the Longhorns. His last game will be the Alamo Bowl against the University of Oregon, a strong opponent that is favored to win. Greg asked if Texas has an advantage because they want a win for their coach in his last game.

In the case of the Texas players, their emotion will be evident. Especially at the beginning of the game, they will really be going for it. Will it lead to better performance? Maybe in the short term, but that can only carry them so far. They will have to maintain focus for the entire game. In the end, intangibles such as emotion even out and the better team will win. The better team is the one that can overcome distractions and maintain focus through shifts in momentum.

What makes a world class performer stand out is the ability to focus on the task at hand. Losing focus for even a split second can make the difference in winning or losing. There will always be distractions, the key is to maintain focus and allow your mind, body and spirit to work together towards the goal.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized||

Do the intangibles in sport offer an advantage or disadvantage?

Are there intangibles that can give a player or team an edge? I recently spoke with Greg DePalma on Prime Sports Radio about what makes world-class athletes stand apart. Our conversation included a couple of interesting exchanges on intangible factors that can impact performance.

I told Greg about an NFL wide receiver I worked with who would shout a big-bomb word if he dropped the ball in practice. His emotions would run high in the moment, and he didn’t see that the negative outburst was a distraction. When he was cursing and kicking the ground, he lost that precious fraction of a second where he could reflect on why he dropped the ball – making him more likely to drop the ball again for that very same reason.

Watching him run a play, I noticed he didn’t always snap his head around to look for the ball. Sometimes he would bring his head around slowly, blurring his view. Once he focused on that specific skill, his performance improved. Instead of being distracted by negative emotion, I coached this athlete to focus on gratitude in the moment, to be thankful in all things, whether he caught the ball or not.

Greg also asked for my thoughts on University of Texas football coach, Mack Brown, who is stepping down after 16 years coaching the Longhorns. His last game will be the Alamo Bowl against the University of Oregon, a strong opponent that is favored to win. Greg asked if Texas has an advantage because they want a win for their coach in his last game.

In the case of the Texas players, their emotion will be evident. Especially at the beginning of the game, they will really be going for it. Will it lead to better performance? Maybe in the short term, but that can only carry them so far. They will have to maintain focus for the entire game. In the end, intangibles such as emotion even out and the better team will win. The better team is the one that can overcome distractions and maintain focus through shifts in momentum.

What makes a world class performer stand out is the ability to focus on the task at hand. Losing focus for even a split second can make the difference in winning or losing. There will always be distractions, the key is to maintain focus and allow your mind, body and spirit to work together towards the goal.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized||