Friday, October 30, 2009

World Series Game Two: Yankees Learn from Phillies About Confidence

"He talked about belief in his stuff, and all I told myself last night and today was the same thing. I went out tonight with confidence, and just, you know, the game just rolled by."

--A.J. Burnett, New York Yankees pitcher, who learned from the Philadelphia Phillies' pitcher Cliff Lee, about how to mentally prepare for his appearance in the 2009 World Series.

Prior to Game 2, Burnett was walking through the home clubhouse when he noticed Lee, Wednesday's winning pitcher, giving an interview on a nearby television. Burnett stopped to listen as Lee talked about trusting his stuff, pitching with confidence and using positive self-talk.


"All I told myself last night and today was the same thing," Burnett said. "I went out tonight with confidence, and the game just rolled by. I was in a good rhythm."

Burnett found himself in a pressure-packed situation in game two of the World Series. The Yankees did not want to go down 0-2 at home.

Rather than fail under the pressure, Burnett succeeded, outdueling Pedro Martinez, Phillies' starting pitcher and leading the Yankees to a 3-1 victory, evening up this best-of-seven World Series.

"I knew I had a big task ahead of me with Pedro on the mound, and I wanted to go out and pitch the best I could," Burnett said.

“You try to prepare for yourself for these games and this city and this crowd, but I think I fed off the crowd tonight,” he said. “They were up every time I got one strike, they were up every time I got two, and instead of over throwing, I kind of just stayed within myself. I was just trying to keep that going for them.”


"Nothing compares to today," Burnett said. "That was the funnest I've ever had on the baseball field."


"You know what you have and what you can do. It's always difficult to pitch in those situations, but you have to do your job."

--Mariano Rivera, who came in as a relief pitcher to close out the win against the Phillies.

Excerpts from Yahoo and (October 30, 2009)

For more on mental conditioning, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Philadelphia Phillies Open World Series in Grand Fashion

"We have confidence. We know we have a good team."

--Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies' slugging secondbaseman, who hit two home runs to lead the way to victory in game one of the 2009 World Series. Utley set a major league postseason record by safely reaching base in his 26th straight game.

Utley also became the first left-handed batter to hit two home runs off a left-handed pitcher in a World Series game since Babe Ruth in 1928.

“I guess that’s pretty good,” Utley said. “But like I said, you try to take it game to game and keep working. So no, it doesn’t really matter that much.”

Pitcher Cliff Lee also contributed a pitching masterpiece.

"To be honest I really never have been nervous in the big leagues. This is what I wanted to do my whole life. This is what I take pride in. For me there is no reason to be nervous.

"Game time is the time go out there and have fun and let your skills take over. It's kind of weird. Boils down to confidence and trusting your teammates."

--Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, who opened the World Series with a six-hit, ten strikeout, 6-1 win over the New York Yankees.


“What I call, he handles the flow of the game, if you know what I mean, everything about it,” Manager Charlie Manuel said. “Not only does he have command of the game, but he has the flow of the game. To me he sets the tone by his rhythm, getting the ball back, and he knows what he’s going to do and he knows what he’s going to throw. I like the way he pitches. I like everything about how he goes about it.”

Ryan Howard of the Phillies, the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player, also contributed with two doubles.

The Phillies have won 19 of their last 24 postseason games and the first game in six consecutive series. But, it is only one game in a seven game series.

"They're a great team," first baseman Howard said of the Yankees. "Believe me, we still have got a long ways to go."

The Yankees are already trying to put the game behind them.

"You think about tomorrow. You don't think about this game."

--Jorge Posada, Yankees' catcher said of the first game.

Excerpts USA Today,, the New York Times and Reuters, October 29, 2009.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Ultimate “Kein Ayin Hora”: The Clipper Curse aka Klipper Karma Lives On

“Kein ayin hora !!"or "Kenahora !!"...It literally means "There is no evil eye" or “without the evil eye” in Yiddish. It is said after complimenting, as in “not to jinx it.” It's a response to someone saying something that, if it would happen, would be very,very good or very,very bad.

And, so, here is an excerpts from an NBA season preview article “Welcome to the NBA Preview" by Bill Simmons from October 23, 2009, The article discusses Blake Griffin, the NBA Los Angeles Clippers rookie and the first draft choice of the 2009 NBA draft.

Flicking channels earlier this week, I stumbled across a Clips preseason game and ended up watching the first half for my first taste of the Griffin Era. You know what? Blake Griffin is just good. It's one thing to talk about it, think about it, sketch out the fake lineups … but you can't really know until you watch a blue-chip rookie play with NBA guys for the first time. Even if it's the preseason. It's a series of tiny checkmarks on an unofficial mental list.

Does he look like he belongs? Do things come easy for him? Does he have the right level of confidence? Athletically, can you see that elite DNA at all times? Does he have an innate feel for the game? Could you see him becoming a star? Is he compelling to watch? Does he seem like a good guy? Does he know how to rotate on D? Does he help instinctively when his teammate gets beat? Does he look like an professional out there?

Griffin nailed every checkmark for me. All of them. He's just good. He's a pro. You know it when you see it. You would want to play with Blake Griffin.

Now …

I hate the lottery system because it puts good rookies on bad teams, then expects them to turn those teams around. Sometimes it happens; other times it doesn't. But those young players end up assuming an enormous amount of pressure during a point in their career where, actually, they'd be much better off blending in with a good team and easing along into whatever they end up being. Of the past 15 years of blue-chippers, only Duncan and Kobe were given this luxury. Griffin is the luckiest blue-chipper since them: not only does he play for a potential playoff team, but he doesn't have to fight with someone for minutes or carry the scoring load. He just has to worry about running the floor, rebounding and finishing. A cushy situation, to say the least. For once, it appears as if becoming a Clipper was the BEST thing that could have happened to someone.

(Note: Please don't e-mail this paragraph to me in three weeks if Blake is rolling around on the floor holding his right ankle. Thank you.)

Cut to October 27, 2009: Yahoo……..

Headline: Clippers Lose Griffin to Broken Kneecap

LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin's NBA debut has been pushed back indefinitely after the Los Angeles Clippers revealed late Monday night that their No. 1 overall draft pick has a broken left kneecap.

The stress fracture could sideline the Oklahoma star for six weeks, the team announced, promising further information Tuesday.

Griffin, who averaged 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during the preseason, won't be in the Clippers' lineup when they face the Lakers in their opener Tuesday night, and he could be out much longer. The Clippers play 20 games in their first six weeks of the regular season.

Griffin apparently broke his kneecap during the Clippers' final exhibition game against New Orleans last Friday, perhaps after a dunk that left the power forward wincing in pain. The team initially said Griffin only had a sore left knee, making him questionable for the opener, before revealing the break.

The Clippers had planned on passing out Blake Griffin jerseys at the game.
Do we blame Bill Simmons? Some fans blame the frugal , long-suffering, and insufferable Clippers owner, Donald Sterling? I say bring on the exorcism. By the way, the Clippers lost to the Lakers in the opener. There is an evil eye.

What is the antedote, you ask? Spit three times...pfft....pfft....pfft. That should take care of it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Confident New York Yankees Win ALCS, Head to World Series

The New York Yankees are American League Champions for the first time since 2003 because of their talent, their skills, their preparation and their confidence level. They were also aware of the danger of complacency despite leading 3 games to 1. They were keenly aware of the need to finish, to close out the Los Angeles Angels.


"We came in here with a goal in spring training of winning a championship and we're a step closer. It's really not a surprise that we're here. I hate to sound like that, but we're really a good team."

--C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees' pitcher and MVP of the American League Championship Series. Sabathia will probably start Game 1 of the World Series again the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.

Sabathia pitched 16 innings in his two starts in the ALCS, giving up only two runs , one in each game, and nine hits. In his three postseason starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a five-year-old boy to play in the World Series, and it’s been a long time waiting. In order to the win the World Series, you have to get there first, and this is pretty incredible -- especially with all the stuff I’ve been through.”

--Alex Rodriguez, Yankees' thirdbaseman.

Through nine postseason games, Rodriguez is batting .438 (14-for-32) with a .548 on-base percentage to go with five home runs and 12 RBI. In the Division Series, A-Rod’s homered twice and tied the score each time, once in the Yankees’ final at-bat.


"The danger against a team like that is they can just sort of let things go, as far as the pressure, and just go out there and actually start to play to their ability because they have nothing to lose. So the important thing is to make sure to close it out, to understand there could be that kind of danger. We have to make sure we're aware of that.

"We believe we're playing at a high level in all aspects of the game. I think it's important to have that attitude, and I truly believe that we are a team that is very capable."

--Hideki Matsui, New York Yankees outfielder, discussing their mindset against the Angels, even with a 3-1 lead in the series.


Andy Pettitte was orginally scheduled to start Game 6. Then, it rained. Manager Joe Girardi decided to start Andy Pettitte for Game 6 even after Saturday's rainout rather than going with his hot pitcher, C.C. Sabathia. Girardi would then have fellow left-hander Sabathia ready for Games 1, 4 and 7 of the World Series.

"We stayed with our plan," Girardi said. "We were going to use CC in Game 7 if we needed it. We didn't need it. And now we have him for Game 1 [of the World Series], and that's good for us."


"We worked hard, since spring training, for this and we are here. I can't be more proound of my teammates and the organization."

--Mariano Rivera, Yankees' relief pitcher.


"You go in there, you see Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada," Sabathia said. "Those guys have been through this situation a lot. You have to lean on those guys and talk to them in situations."

Excerpts from, The New York Times,, The Hartford Courant, (October 26, 2009).

For more on mental conditioning, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Michael Jackson: "This Is It" Sets The Most Challenging of Visions

"The show we create here has to have people leaving and not being able to turn it off. They shouldn't be able to go to sleep. They have to see the sun come up and still be talking about it."

--Michael Jackson, as recalled by Kenny Ortega, the director of the "This Is It" concerts. Ortega said that the goal was to produce something unforgettable.

The "This Is It" film is opening on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 for a two-week run. It was drawn and edited from 120 hours of rehearsal footage.

Excerpt from the New York Times, October 22, 2009.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Visualization in Sports Breeds Success

"Considering the stage, this was the best game I've played. It's something you visualize before the game. I saw myself making shots and those shots went in in the second half."

--Derrick Byars, 2006-2007 SEC Player of the Year from Vanderbilt University, who scored 27 points and made five 3-point shots to lead his team to an NCAA basketball tournament double overtime upset of 3rd-seeded Washington State in 2007.


A few years ago on television, a close-up shot of former world motor racing champion Damon Hill showed him in his Formula 1 car as his head swayed from side to side. The most interesting thing about this shot was that Hill was sitting in a stationary car, waiting to exit the garage in an attempt to qualify for the race.

Like many other championship athletes, he was using his time leading up to a performance to mentally rehearse and imagine steering the correct racing line through each corner.


Throughout the major league baseball postseason, television cameras have caught Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies in a trancelike state before his at-bats. He sits in the dugout with his head down, eyes closed, hands resting on the knob of his bat and visualizes what he's going to do at the plate.

"I think that's his way of focusing and basically getting ready," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think that he's thinking about his at-bat and things that he has going for him and how he wants to feel and everything when he gets up there.

"Visualization is part of hitting. You can do it once you walk up to the plate and you can step out and look around, things like that, and kind of gather your thoughts, or you can sit in the dugout there, too, and kind of visualize things and really concentrate on what you want to do. It depends on the person and how he feels."

Howard is visualizing results and getting them. No one has driven in more runs this major league postseason than Howard. He set a major league record Sunday by driving in a run for the seventh consecutive game in one postseason. After a home run in his first at-bat in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night to extend that streak, he had 14 runs batted in this postseason, more than he had in 17 playoff games the past two years. After Monday’s 5-4 victory for the Phillies, Howard was batting .379 with seven runs scored and two homers in eight postseason games.

“He goes to his quiet place,” the Phillies’ hitting coach, Milt Thompson, said. “When he’s there, he’s ready to hit.”

Thompson said Howard had been using visualization techniques all season, as a way to focus on the present, to enjoy the moment. When players see him meditating on the bench, they know not to interrupt.

“I’ve noticed it,” Manager Charlie Manuel, who is an advocate of positive thinking, said. “I haven’t talked to him about it because it’s something I think — that’s his own thing.”

Howard is in a zone, but it is simply the continuation of his impressive regular season, in which he had 45 home runs, with 141 runs batted in.


To augment the hours and hours of time spent honing fundamental skills and developing peak physical readiness, world-class elite performers from all kinds of sports complete many practice throws, catches, swings, laps of the track, lengths of the pool or throws of the javelin in their minds before major competitions.

Training your mental skills can also make a better athlete and winner out of you. We encourage more businesspeople and professionals to use and develop their imagery skills and to advise them on how to use these skills to maximum effect.

Creating, or recreating, an all-sensory experience can have profound effects on physical performance and psychological functioning. However, recent research evidence suggests that to achieve maximum benefits athletes and coaches should select the content of their images very carefully.

Imagery can be applied in many different ways to aid sports performers, and is one of the most regularly used tools of sport psychologists. It should be the tool of all executive coaches as well.

What performance psychology has to teach us about imagery

Scientific research strongly supports the use of imagery in sports and business as an adjunct to physical practice.

· Elite athletes and coaches use imagery regularly. Do you really think world-class performers would devote time to a technique that didn't aid their performances?

· Case studies of the use of imagery programs tailored to individual needs have demonstrated some dramatic performance improvements.

· Most importantly, a number of controlled scientific studies have shown that imagery can significantly benefit the learning and performance of a variety of sports skills.

Excerpts from the Associated Press (October 22, 2009) and New York Times (October 20, 2009).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Management Lessons: The Joe Torre Legacy Grows

"The thing I'm most pleased about, probably, is coming here after leaving New York and inheriting a team with a lot of talent, then being able to add some special pieces and being able to have the success we've had in the last couple of years."

--Joe Torre, Los Angeles Dodger manager.

Strong Track Record

After taking the Yankees to the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons as their manager, he has led the Dodgers to the postseason in his two years in Los Angeles. In his two seasons in L.A., the Dodgers have won consecutive NL West titles for the first time since 1977-78The 14 consecutive playoff appearances equal the record set by Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox. Just as impressive is that only 2 of those 14 Torre clubs made it to the postseason as a wild-card team.

Calm Sense of Urgency and Immediacy

“They’re the familiar fingerprints of being very, very steady,” Frank McCourt, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner, said of Torre’s influence. “For us, this was a very up-and-down season, and Joe provides a certain leveling ingredient that prevents the team from getting too carried away in one direction or the other.”

“The one thing that separates Joe from everybody else is he knows how to defuse a bomb before it goes off,” said Doug Mientkiewicz, a backup Dodgers first baseman who played with the Yankees in 2007. “Whenever you see a team not playing well, or he sees something happen that he doesn’t like, he gets it right there before it gets out of hand.”

He added, “You know when he’s not happy.”


"If the team is going in a certain direction that he doesn't like, he addresses it right away. He doesn't like to let things carry on," Randy Wolf said. "He doesn't get caught up in every moment, but at the same time, he realizes that you've got to keep the same attitude every day."

--Randy Wolf, starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Does A Manager Make a Difference?

"I definitely think a manager makes a difference," says Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, a special adviser to the Yankees who played for six different managers in 11 different postseasons. "Not nearly as much for the great players because the great players have a drive and are going to play for themselves, the spirit they respect, their family, their fans, the mirror they look in.

"All players attempt to do that. Some players don't have those ingredients in order. Some players' ingredients are different."

"Confidence, and knowing what to do in a crisis," Jackson, the Hall of Famer, says. "I know La Russa will be good with this. I know Mike Scioscia, Terry Francona, Joe Torre, Charlie Manuel and Jim Leyland are good with this. Jim Tracy. And Joe Girardi, he comes to the table with postseason history as a player.

"Watching those managers when things are difficult is much more interesting to me than when things are going well for them. Seeing a manager do something that's needed."

However, the manager's influence and leadership has its limits. The players have to perform.

"I think managers can make a difference in October because they've already established what they've done during the regular season," says Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa, who has played and coached under five different managers in six different postseasons. "In other words, they're not going to change what they do because it's the playoffs. They're going to be consistent with their players, they're going to treat their players the same whether it's a game in July or a game in October."

"If your guns don't do what they're supposed to do, it doesn't matter who's managing then," Bowa says. "Joe or Bobby Cox or Tony La Russa, you're going home. It's that simple. People don't realize that. They say, 'He's the manager, the guy should go further.'

"It doesn't work that way. He steers the ship, but it's the guys who go out there and make sure we get the runs for him to steer it and keep it in good waters. He can't make a guy go six innings if the guy doesn't have his stuff.

"That's how the playoffs are. If you don't get pitching, you're going to be in trouble. As great a lineup as the Yankees have, if they don't get pitching, they're going to be in trouble."

Management Experience

"He's just as relaxed whether we were winning 15-0 or losing 20-0. He keeps the same mentality," Hudson said. "When things weren't going well for us, he'd throw a speech in every now and then. But no matter what we were going through, he's seen it all already. So nothing that we do is new to him."

--Orlando Hudson, Los Angeles Dodgers' secondbaseman.

"I think it's harder to manage a team that's [expected to be] successful," said Jason Giambi, who spent seven years under Torre in New York. "It's tough to keep a team good year after year after year. It's like with Pat Riley when he was winning with the Lakers. People say 'Oh, it's easy to win with the Lakers.' It's not true. Sometimes you have a great team, but if you can't get that team to play together, it doesn't matter."

"The thing Joe is underestimated about is he has a great baseball mind," said Giambi, now a pinch-hitter for the Rockies. "He works well with people and puts people in successful situations. The biggest thing I've noticed is when we were [in New York] there was this aura about him where people feel comfortable."

"What Joe does day in and day out is deal with issues as good anyone I've been around," said Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly, who was also on Torre's staff in New York. "He doesn't let anything go. I think in New York people might have felt he wasn't tough enough on them, but that wasn't the case. He was on every issue that happens. ...

"That's as important as anything I learned from him, you can't let issues go. You have to address them right away and keep moving."

Excerpts from the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer, October 6, 2009; and Associated Press, October 5, 2009.

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance. For more on Teams, click on Team Pulse.