Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Po-ZZer: The Love of the Fame, not the Love of the Game

"Won't call no names cause that's not my job.  It just applies to whom it may concern.  You know who you are, but if you don't you never will."
 --Outkast, lyrics from "Mainstream." 

You all know the drill.  We live in a society of instant gratification.  We like swag.  We learn to posture and pose early. We have parents who have been brought up to believe that everybody deserves a medal just for showing up. You might even demand a medal even if you didn't show up. We perceive and expect success to happen overnight. We have few effective role models.  We never see all the hard work they did to achieve success. Often, those few role models we do have eventually, tragically, crash and burn. So, success seems sudden and short-lived and, thus, based on celebrity and fame.  Face time is important, substance isn't necessary.

We move and talk fast and often, perhaps to hide the lack of substance.  Sustainability and the long view doesn't matter.  The ice caps are melting anyway.  

A good buddy of mine talks about Po-ZZers.  Yes, that is how he spells it.  Po-ZZers are the guys who wear the t-shirts that have the slogans.  You know the slogans:  "Witness."  "Watch My Swag."  "We Are Gonna Shock the World."  "Shock and Awe."  As if the t-shirt is all they need to impress and intimidate. But, when it is time to perform, they don't, they can't.  They haven't earned the jersey, then just wear the t-shirt. Po-ZZers.

I get it.  If we work hard, it might not pay off.  The lizard brain rules.  Pleasure and satisfaction should be immediate.  I get how it should work.  But

However, success doesn't really work that way.  Excellence is achieved through repetition and the difficult and slow development of competence.  It takes time, it can be repetitious and tedious.  It's not exciting.  It's not fun.  The 10,000 hour rule is real.  What counts is the love of the game, not the love of the fame.  

Stanford University Psychologist Carol S. Dweck's 2006 book 'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success' focuses on the positive implications of what she calls a ‘growth mindset’ – the belief that success is determined by hard work. This contrasts with what she refers to as a ‘fixed mindset’ – the idea that talent is innate and there is nothing we can do to change it.
So, put the work in.  If not, it will show.  You will get embarrassed.  You can't  expect the outcome without going though the process. If you take the easy way when preparing,  it's probably because you haven't really seen anyone work hard to succeed or you don't really want the outcome.  You just want the attention that comes with being a Po-ZZer. 

So, do you just want attention or do you really want to win?  Do you want to achieve excellence?

Did you leave it all on the practice floor today?  Did you give it all you have?


Monday, August 04, 2014

Your Fitness Identity

All elite athletes and, the teams they play on, seek, refine and try to maintain an identity. The most successful are able to achieve greatness as a result of being successful in establishing and maintaining that identity.  Often, the difference between winning and losing is often a matter of the battle of identities.  A battle of strength and wills comes down to a battle of identities.  

This identity acts as a guide map that assists them to perform at the highest and most efficient level. It helps them stay on course and maximize focus.  It improves their ability to stick with their strategic vision as well as consistently make good decisions, even under the most stressful and extremely competitive conditions.

Even weekend warriors and other recreational athletes can benefit from developing an identity to help optimize performance.

For example, as an aging recreation athlete, I have had a more and more difficult time with physical conditioning, maintaining a healthy weight, and performing at a satisfying level.  I recently realized that despite my continued involvement with sports as a participant, fan, coach, and psychologist, that I had lost my identity as a fit individual.   

That lack of identity as a fit individual has greatly affected my performance as an athlete.  This crisis of identity contributed to a very subtle, but clear lack of vision that translated into an inconsistent workout schedule, sleep habits, and nutritional choices.  It also contributed to a unclear set of priorities and a lack of mindfulness in daily activities and behavior. 

It became easier and easier to believe that I lacked motivation and needed to find "it" fast.   What I really needed was to regain my fitness identity.   At this point in my life it is more important to have that fitness identity than to be an athlete, but without it I had no chance to continue to perform satisfactorily at any level (nor to regain any significant level of fitness).

My fitness identity serves as a basic component of a solid foundation on which "motivation" stands.  If I have a strong identity as a fit individual, motivation takes care of itself, because actions are not made up of micro-decisions that may or not connect with my mood or "motivation."  With a strong fitness identity, my actions flow and are consistent with my identity.  Conversely, without a fitness identity, I am leaving my actions to chance and a flow inconsistent with fitness.

Reconnecting with my fitness identity has quickly and dramatically affected my physical posture, my body language, energy level, and my exercise calendar.  It has also had an effect on the perceptions of friends and colleagues, who have noticed a difference.  Most importantly, I do not have to agonize about whether or not I am going to the gym..  I just go.  It is a part of my daily activities and I no longer put myself in a position to decide on a day-by-day basis.  It has affected my stress and relaxation level.  It has been a huge boost to my exercise routine in that it has affected the energy level that I bring to my workouts.

Fortunately, a majority of us had a strong fitness identity at one time (even if we have lost it). Youth is a natural source for a strong fitness identity.  However, some of us are not so lucky. A greater number of people in our digital, sedentary society, are no longer influenced, instructed, nor encouraged to develop a fitness identity early in life.  Many of us are not mentally or physically conditioned for a fitness identity.  It is much easier to develop a fitness identity as a child than it is to try as an adult to regain one.      

Do you have a fitness identity?  Have you lost touch with your fitness identity?  How helpful do you think it is to have a fitness identity?  What will you do to retain a fitness identity?            

Monday, July 28, 2014

The WNBA's Shoni Schimmel: The New "Pistol Pete" in Atlanta?

"I definitely think at the beginning of the season a lot of things were flowing, and I had a rhythm of everything and was getting used to everybody and playing with them.  I don't know exactly what happened, but something happened where I got the short end of the stick, and I'm trying to figure out my place. I'm just dealing with it. It's a business here in the WNBA." -- Shoni Schimmel, WNBA & Atlanta Dream rookie.  

The WNBA Atlanta Dream's Shoni Schimmel was voted the MVP of the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game after a 29-point explosion. Those 29 points are an WNBA All-Star record.

Schimmel was voted a starter on the East All-Star team by the fans, despite being a bench player for the Dream. She averages 7 points per game during the regular season. Schimmel's seven three-pointers also set a new All-Star Game record. Her eight assists were the most of any player on the court, and she also grabbed three rebounds and two steals.

A collegiate star, who led her team to an impressive run in the NCAA tournament, the rookie guard has a huge following of fans across the country, particularly with Native American fans, so it's no surprise that she had the highest selling jersey so far this season.  Schimmel grew up on a reservation in the tiny, rural, northeast Oregon town of Mission.

Obviously, Schimmel was in a zone at the WNBA All-Star Game.  One of the reasons may be that she started the game, voted in by the fans, endorsed and cherished by the masses.

Schimmel felt she belonged, felt she could be free to perform and shine.
"The hoop kept getting bigger and bigger.  I wanted to lay it out on the line and that's what I did," Schimmel said about the game.  

In the first regular season game after her MVP honor, Shoni followed up with a solid 17-point, 8-assist effort, again in a reserve role.  However, in that game and beyond, her minutes continue to be limited and she has yet to start.  Certainly, Schimmel has much to learn.  She is prone to rookie mistakes, turnovers, poor defense, and streaky shooting.  She is experiencing a typically difficult transition from college to professional basketball, in which physical and mental conditioning can be a challenge.  She is not a physical specimen. She is not particularly strong, fast, nor does she jump well.  

Nevertheless, Schimmel brings a flamboyant, unique style of play to the game which she calls "rez ball." 

While some players have a starter's mentality and some can more easily come off the bench, it is beginning to be clear that Shoni has a starter's mentality that consists of a strong ego, extreme pride, and irrational confidence, etc. 

Some players need to analyze the situation, size-up the opponent, come in and provide energy by coming off the bench.  That type of player may be extremely rare.

By contrast, to play at her best, Shoni needs to feel unleashed, unfettered, alive, free to improvise and create. Somehow, coming off the bench does not foster that feeling. As with any elite athlete, if Shoni sits too long and thinks too much, she loses her edge, her effectiveness, her natural feel for the game. If she doesn't start, she doesn't feel that she has the coach's blessing, a "green light."

“Just have that killer instinct and go out there and just play whatever you’re feeling,” said Schimmel.  “Hey, you’re open? Pull up. Throw a behind-the-back pass? Why not?”   

Eerily, the situation is frighteningly similar to the one basketball legend, Pete Maravich, found himself in as a rookie as a new member of the Atlanta Hawks. Like Schimmel, Maravich joined a winning team, with a veteran roster. After a record-breaking college career, Maravich, was brought along slowly. Despite a huge contract and even bigger expectations, Maravich did not fare well. Fearing that Pete would alienate the veteran players, most of them black, the coaching staff chose to bring Maravich off the bench and limit his minutes. Losing his confidence and not fitting in, Maravich and the Hawks never developed a chemistry.

Maravich played poorly and inconsistently, soon lost his confidence, losing the trust and patience of his team and the coaches. Unable to find a comfortable role, he was quickly deemed an expensive bust.   He was labeled a spoiled, insecure, collegiate gunner who played for his coddling father, Press Maravich at LSU; not ready nor made for the NBA.  Critics emphasized his lack of natural ability, speed, quickness, and jumping ability.

Once traded away; however, Maravich found his groove with the New Orleans Jazz, becoming a perennial NBA All-Star and a true legend.  Despite his well-know, off-the-court struggles, Maravich, once set free, displayed a unique creativity, artistic flair and true gift for the game of basketball.

Could history be repeating itself?

Of course, the current medical condition of  the Dream head coach Michael Cooper, complicates the situation.  Cooper is on medical leave following surgery for tongue cancer.  A member of "Showtime" as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers, Cooper is no stranger to successfully dealing with a legendary, creative, unique point guard.  Cooper played many years with "Magic" Johnson.  

Clearly, prior to his surgery, Cooper cautiously chose to bring Schimmel along slowly. Ironically, Cooper coached the East All-Star team and had no choice but to start Schimmel.  Her outstanding performance created a dilemma for Cooper.  Although a strong supporter and believer in Schimmel, he now had to decide her short-term future. Keeping her development slow and deliberate or setting her free, were the options. Cooper had to either admit his mistake or save face.   However, the decision was now even more complicated, with Cooper gone on medical leave.  If interim head coach Karleen Thompson chose to start Schimmel, it could be seen as undermining Cooper's strategy and make him look bad. If she continued to keep Schimmel in a reserve role, she would be seen as a supporting Cooper, potentially maintaining team order and cohesion.

So, for the meantime, Cooper is recuperating and Schimmel sits, as the Dream suffer through a current four-game losing streak.      
Can the Dream bounce back and can Schimmel shine once more?  Stay tuned.  Don't forget the lesson of Pistol Pete in Atlanta.

Excerpts from,, and

Monday, May 19, 2014

The New Basketball Scorecard: Influence and Impact

The NCAA Basketball Tournament is over and the UConn Huskies have taken both the men's and women's trophies home. The NBA Playoffs have come down to their Final Four in the Conference Championships. Perhaps, once again, it is time to ask the question:   How do basketball players and teams get measured and evaluated?  How should they be measured?  What does it take to win?
Points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, fouls.  Double-doubles, Triple-doubles.  That is the traditional currency in basketball.

A further analysis might take a look at the numbers in a different way, such as:  vertical leap, speed, bench press, wingspan.  Those are the basic characteristics a scout or coach might look at when recruiting or drafting a player.  

However, I have been working with some talented players over the years and have begun to look very closely at what some coaches would consider to be the intangibles.  These are ways that players contribute to a team effort to produce results:  Wins and championships.

Let's break it down.  My observations have been focused on how to impact and influence a game, individually and collectively.   

It used to be called dirty work. What if you found a way to label it as something other than dirty work? Could it become more popular?  If you don't like dirty work, you don't like your sport. And you certainly will not excel. All sports require dirty work; lots of it. So, what are the other ways to influence and impact a game?  

Role Players.  What about  player who can consistently disrupt an offense or make an opponent miss a shot without necessarily blocking the shot or without getting a foul called on him/her?   What about a defender who is so annoying and disruptive that the other team begins to bicker among themselves rather than pay attention to their coach?  What about a team that values forcing an opponent to turnover the ball or throw a bad pass as much as making a 3-pointer?  What about a team that values and rewards a teammate who boxes out their opponent or executes an offensive play to perfection as much as a high-flying rebound or a ESPN highlight-worthy slam dunk?  

A good team has what it needs to meet the moment: A clutch performer, a grinder, a utility player, a flashy star. An effective team is one that finds places for each to make a contribution. When success ensues, everyone is happy.  

All winning teams need the kind of player whose skills and talent are matched or exceeded by his ability to distract an opponent, someone whose performance can be as upsetting as it is functional. Someone you love having on your side, but someone you can't stand when he's playing against you.  In the old days that was the San Antonio Spurs' Bruce Bowen, now, consider Patrick Beverly of the Houston Rockets.  

Feel and Touch for the Game. A basketball player makes countless decisions during the course of a game. Most of them are barely noticeable: When to drive, when to hold the ball, when to shoot, when to pass, when to attack, when to slow down, when to set a screen, when to clear out. The game is based on the ability to read-and-react quickly, yet many players never quite establish a feel for the game that enables them to be great. A true feel for the game allows a player to figure out how to help his team win.

The same, incidentally, applies to coaches. Lots of coaches are intelligent, hard-working and skilled at motivation and preparation. But the very best coaches can immerse themselves in a game, sense how things are unfolding, and make a substitution or adjustment that alters the game in their team's favor, even if that decision goes against the book or the percentages. If you ask these coaches afterward what was going through their minds at the time, they would be unable to answer. That's because they weren't thinking. They were feeling.  That is also a talent, whether in a coach or a player.  

Work Ethic and Discipline.  Work habits.  Nutrition and training habits.  Rule compliance. Willingness to work hard.  Not only are these things a part of talent, I would argue it's the most important part. A player who works hard can overcome athletic or physical limitations. If he doesn't, all the talent in the world will not make him successful.

Leadership. What, exactly, makes a good leader on and off the court? Yes, one should have charisma and the ability to inspire.   You've got to be able to call a team meeting and set a good example. But a great leader must also be willing to give constructive feedback, and say unpleasant things, even if the person hearing it is a more senior or better player.

It takes a special talent to be able to take charge of one's teammates.  Friendships are on the line as well as making one vulnerable, thereby risking ridicule and hostility. If a leader sees something that displeased him, he lets his teammates know.  See something, say something.    

Energy and Intensity. At first look, it appears that some players and teams have a lot of talent. Some players are tall and graceful and quick off their feet, which is why they might be effective as a shooter, a rebounder, defender, or shot blocker. But even if a player lacks some physical gifts, they can be effective if they play with optimal energy. In my eyes, that type of energy makes him or the team more talented.

Tell me before a game which team is going to play with more energy, and I don't have to ask which one has more physical talent, better runners and jumpers. Chances are, the team with more energy is going to win.

Focus and Concentration. Physical energy is one thing. Mental energy is quite another. Of course they are linked, but only to a point -- it's harder to focus and concentrate when you're fatigued -- but they are two separate abilities. Being an effective player requires the mental ability and conditioning to read game situations, see plays develop, recall the scouting report or a coach's tip (assuming the player has listened to the coach or taken the time to learn) and make instantaneous decisions. Physical quickness is a wonderful asset, but if a player can think and react quickly, he will get to his desired spot before his opponent does.

Think about the number of times you have seen a team lose a tournament or playoff game because of a careless mental error on a late possession. Such mistakes are less likely to occur early in the game when the legs are fresh and the mind is clear. It takes a talented player to keep his mind sharp even when his legs are dead.  Recent games between the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets, as well as the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers, came down to last-second plays which decided the playoff series outcome.

Conditioning. Yes, this can be developed. If you work hard in the weight room, on the court and on the track, you are going to be in better shape. But some athletes have a physiological makeup that prevents them from getting tired the way others do. Much of this is due to biological and environmental factors.

Many basketball players put in the time to get into better condition, yet when a game enters its final minutes, some guys are tired, and others are not. The difference isn't always how hard they work. Some players are simply more talented.  But some players are more resilient and find something inside to meet the challenge and push themselves from within.

Footwork. This may not seem like an intangible, and maybe it isn't, but it is something that many players (and some coaches) ignore. The ability to react in a fraction of a second, move your feet, and apply your weight without losing balance is another rare and overlooked talent.  Footwork takes work and practice. Footwork is what made Hakeem Olajuwon great and many other centers, not so much.

Well, there they are; the intangibles.  Can you think of others?  I would love to hear about them? What else is there to impact and influence?   What intangibles do you consider as a player, coach or manager?

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 (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.