Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dirk Nowitzki: "I am a Warrior"

"Dirk is all about German precision.  He’s like a surgeon out on the court. He sees the game in slow motion, he knows what’s going to happen and he knows what he needs to do.  And it’s that ability to understand not only what he needs to do but also context is what continues to make him special. 
"He makes it into a science. He’s a student of the game and, in a lot of respects, it helps him because, you know, you’ll see him all the time. He knows how to protect his body, which makes him look really awkward sometimes, but he understands context. When you’re younger, you don’t really understand the context of the short term and the long term and what’s going on. He’s smart. He understands it."
--Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, discussing his veteran All-Star, Dirk Nowitzki.

Nowitzki, 35, is in his 16th season with the Dallas Mavericks.  He has 11 All-Star appearances, 12 All-NBA selections, an MVP, two NBA Finals appearances and an NBA championship as a member of the Mavericks.  

Taken from BleacherReport.com (01/28/2014).

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Mental Conditioning Wins Again

Monday night, the Florida State Seminoles beat the Auburn Tigers, 34-31, on a last second touchdown to win the final BCS National Championship game in Pasadena, California to determine the college football national championship.

It was a hard-fought game that provided an exciting finish for the ages as the Seminoles overcame a 21-10 deficit in the second half.

The game was also significant in that the SEC champion did not win the national championship for the first time in the last eight tries.  Since January 2006, when Texas defeated USC (also at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena), the SEC champion has also won the national championship.  In fact, the SEC had won 8 of the last 10 national championships before last night.  Alabama, LSU, Florida, and Auburn had all been victorious in the BCS championship game.

What was also extremely important about the last 10 years of BCS champions, is that the Florida State Seminoles, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the USC Trojans, coached respectively by Jimbo Fisher, Nick Saban, and Pete Carroll have all totally embraced mental conditioning as a crucial part of their programming for their players and coaching staff.  Alabama leads the pack with 3 BCS championships in the past 5 years, USC captured one championship and one runner-up trophy during Pete Carroll's tenure, and Florida State won its first championship since January 2000.

Pete Carroll has continued to succeed as coach of the NFL Seattle Seahawks, who have been one of the league's elite the past two years, including having the best record in the NFC and being ranked as the best regular season team for much of this season.

This mounting evidence should be considered the "tipping point" for the establishment of mental conditioning and sports psychology as necessary, legitimate and credible components for attaining and maintaining individual and team peak performance.

Alabama has been at the forefront in the use of mental conditioning coaching.  Their relationship with Trevor Moawad, a mental conditioning coach and the director of the IMG Performance Institute in Bradenton, Fla., is very strong.  Head coach Saban met Moawad while coaching the NFL Miami Dolphins.  Not surprisingly, Moawad also consults with Florida State's football team.

Carroll has a long standing relationship with the Pacific Institute in Seattle and has also installed mental conditioning as a key component of the Seahawks programming, following his success with USC.

In effect, mental conditioning has played a significant role in the participation and performance of 6 teams playing in the last 10 BCS championship games.  This is quite a ringing endorsement.  

So, sports psychologists and mental conditioning coaches, get ready for the onslaught of calls from coaches and players.  The "tide" has turned.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays from the Valdes family.

Happy Holidays from the Valdes family.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

LeBron James & The Absent-Minded Athlete (VIDEO)



In the video above, LeBron James throws down a vicious slam against a capable squad of fellow NBA players defending the play.  How does he do it?

What if the difference between LeBron and most other NBA players is the frequency of his ability to, at least momentarily, forget what he isn't humanly supposed to do?  He forgets to fail.  He forgets his limitations.  

In other words, in a flash, LeBron's brain actually and suddenly malfunctions.  Rather than his brain's cortex filling his head with logical, reasonable reasons why he can't possibly beat his defender and the rest of the defending team to the basket, his cortex sends no message at all.  It short-circuits.  His ability to perform remarkable play after play is that his brain receives nothing to suggest possible (or certain) failure.  What if his brain's failure is the key to his success?  What if, at the moment of truth, LeBron and any other player in the NBA literally forgets what isn't or shouldn't be possible?  

By the same token, the opponents that failed to defend on the play allowed their individual cortex to work and their collective thinking functioned perfectly. Their experience with LeBron suggested that they wouldn't be able to stop him.  They were right, and, they failed.

What if mental conditioning is all about teaching your brain's cortex to malfunction?  What if LeBron James has learned how to conveniently forget what he can't or shouldn't be able to do?  Maybe what he is the best at is successfully shutting down his brain.  

Never mind, that's ludicrous.  I can tell people that.  That idea will never really take hold.  I wish I could make that thought go away.  I need to return to my senses.  I had better forget why mental conditioning works.  Wait a minute, what? Now, I'm confused.  More on this later.  

For more examples of possible brain malfunctions, watch this NBA.com Top Ten Plays Video from last night:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Applause: Lady Gaga and the NBA (VIDEO)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Handling Success as Important as Handling Failure

Over the weekend, several NFL television commentators discussed the issue of parity in the league.  As a result of a topsy turvy first 3 weeks of the 2013 season, these experts felt that many teams, coaches and players were not preparing themselves adequately from week to week.  The number of upsets by underdogs was considered as evidence of a lack of focus on the part of the favorites, not just the parity between teams. Their take on it was that many teams were having a difficult time dealing with early season success. Complacency and arrogance were likely to derail the most talented teams. according to the commentators. Early season success was followed by thoughts that all these teams had to do was show up against weaker opponents to take home the win.  It was pointed out that every NFL team can be beaten by every other NFL team on any given Sunday. Taking a team lightly is risky for any team at this point in the season.  

It is easy to see how early season losses can be demoralizing or, perhaps, help re-orient a team; however, on the surface, it is more difficult to see how winning can derail or stop momentum and distract a team as well.

My experience is that many elite athletes and teams have as much or more difficulty bouncing back from a win as they do bouncing back from a defeat.  Both wins and losses are risky in that they each require athletes to refocus equally after a game or any competition, regardless of the outcome.

Some athletes are more likely to understand that they can learn more from a loss than any win than others. Too often, complacency can occur when players feel post-game satisfaction but do not feel motivated to seek to improve on a win.  A defeat is often able to get our attention much more effectively than winning is able to do.  However, it is important to learn from success as well as failure.

Emotional resilience (which I have written about a great deal in recent blog posts) is typically associated with the adversity of defeat.  For mental conditioning to be optimally effective, we must consider true emotional resilience to also include how to deal with success.  How to sustain focus in the wake or success is more difficult that we typically think.  Complacency after a win is as commonplace as demoralization after a loss.  

Next time you feel the exhilaration of success; celebrate, enjoy, relax, and then, get back to work, analyze, debrief, learn and focus on the next challenge.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Surprisingly Mature Leadership of Jason Giambi


“His leadership, his presence, for me not to use that, I would be an idiot. I’ve leaned on him so much. He’s not making enough money, I tell him that all the time. He’s the best influence on players I’ve ever seen — ever, and I’ve been around some pretty good ones.”  
--Terry Francona, manager of the Cleveland Indians, talking about the value that Jason Giambi provides to his team.  

Terry Francona has been a player, coach, minor league manager, and a major league manager for 13 years. In all that time, Francona said last week, he had never met a person like Jason Giambi.

The Cleveland Indians are currently 86-70 this season, and have been in the thick of the division, wild-card and playoff races.  He has hit 8 home runs and has driven in 29 runs in limited playing time behind starter, Carlos Santana.

Giambi, 42, a designated hitter for the Indians, is the oldest position player in the major leagues. He weathered a steroid scandal earlier in his career to become a respected veteran who was a strong candidate last winter to be the manager of the Colorado Rockies. Ultimately, the Rockies hired Walt Weiss as their manager. So Giambi decided to continue his career as a designated hitter — and unofficial captain — for Francona’s Indians. And, he has Francona's back.

“I kind of call myself the ‘Protector.' I protect what he cares about, which is playing the game hard, playing the game right, making sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. Tito and I are one in the same. I care about my teammates like he cares about his team." 
“Every single guy — from the Latin players to the white guys to the black guys — I’m tight with everybody. I get to care about them with no ulterior motives. I just want to see them succeed. I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, and I want them to turn into the best players they can, because I truly believe that’s the gift you give back to this game.” 
--Jason Giambi
Who knew that Jason Giambi would eventually grow up?  Does your team have a Jason Giambi?

Excerpts taken from nytimes.com (9/22/2013).