Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Texas Longhorn QB Colt McCoy Finally Learns to Relax

In his last home game, Colt McCoy, the University of Texas Longhorns' quarterback, burned the Kansas Jayhawks for 396 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on 32 of 41 passes, one incompletion short of 80 percent.

In that game, McCoy set a record by winning more college football games than any other quarterback in the history of the sport. He has completed a higher percentage of passes in one season (76.7, in 2008) than any other quarterback in the history of the sport.

The 6-foot-3, 214 pound McCoy, from Tuscola, Texas, has led the No. 3 Longhorns to an 11-0 record and the Big 12 South championship. He is 3-0 as a bowl starter. He is 3-1 against Oklahoma.

Until recently, however, McCoy never satisfied; and driving himself crazy.

"You come back for your senior year after a good year," McCoy said. "You have the opportunity to go to the NFL. You win a bunch of awards. You almost win the Heisman. All those things you accomplish, and you come back as a senior, and you have to do this and do that and play perfect."

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis has preached for five seasons, that McCoy could be a better quarterback and leader by relaxing.

McCoy not only set that completion percentage record last season but also led the Longhorns to a 12-1 record and a No. 4 finish in the final poll.

"I called him in January," Davis said. "I said, 'Look, you just completed 77 percent of your passes for the season. I just completed 36 years of coaching. I've never had a guy do that.

"'Now, let me go a step further. Nobody who has ever coached quarterbacks has had a guy do that. So to think you're just going to walk back out here next year and it's going to go to 80 is unrealistic.'"

But, McCoy entered the 2009 season trying to be perfect, do everything right, but ended up playing too cautiously. The team continued to win, but wasn't playing well, and most certainly wasn't having fun. The entire team was tight and underperforming.

"I was playing good and giving my team its best chance to win," McCoy said, "but at the same time it was not fun. I was beating myself up. I kept digging myself deeper and deeper in a hole that I couldn't get out of."

"You put so much pressure on yourself and expectations on yourself to be the best, to complete all your passes and throw three or four touchdowns and throw for 300 yards," McCoy said. "When you don't, and you decided to come back for your senior year and come back and have an up-and-down year and you don't do all that, it hurts you mentally. You end up not having fun. You stress out all week. You think, 'I'll do better next week.'"

"It's easy to say, 'I'm going to get out of it,'" McCoy said. "But to get out of it, physically and mentally and completely, was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

"I wasn't losing it on anybody else but myself," he said. "I wasn't being myself around the facility, around my teammates. I was most pissed off at myself. When you're a quarterback, a leader, you've been here for four years, you can't do that. That's something I know. I wasn't trying to act that way. I was in a hole. I was concerned."

Nevertheless, Texas kept winning. The Longhorns went into Dallas to play Oklahoma with a 5-0 record.

"I could have been so much better," McCoy said. "I could have been such a better leader and teammate. … I was frustrated and trying to figure out what was wrong with me instead of helping the young receivers, staying after practice, making sure they knew where I want them to be."

McCoy had his worst statistical game of the season against OU. He completed 21 of 39 passes for only 127 yards. He lost two fumbles, one at the Oklahoma goal line. With Texas trying to extend a 16-13 lead, he threw an interception to Sooners cornerback Brian Jackson at the Oklahoma 9. McCoy chased Jackson down and made the tackle.

That might have been the play that saved McCoy's season. After Davis broke down the video of the game, he called McCoy into his office.

"I said, 'Of all the records you've broken, of all the things you've done, I'm probably more proud of you for this ballgame than I am for any ballgame,'" Davis said.

"He said, 'Why?'

"I said, 'Just because of the way you competed and the way you put the team first. You throw the interception, and a lot of guys would have been over there kicking the dirt. And you went and made the tackle. We ended up getting the ball back. You competed for 60 minutes against a quality defensive football team, and because of that, we won the game.'"

"The week after Oklahoma, I let myself go," McCoy said. "Forget about everything. I walked up to Coach [Mack] Brown and Coach Davis and said, 'As far as I'm concerned, we're 0-0. This is going to be my first game. I'm starting over completely.'

"I've been so much better since," McCoy said. "I can feel my teammates following me, responding to me, and I'm feeling confident."

In the past five games, McCoy completed 77 percent of his passes for 1,487 yards and 12 touchdowns and threw only two interceptions. Again, aainst Kansas on Saturday night, McCoy threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns.

So, what happened?

"He relaxed," Davis said.

Excerpts from ESPN.com, November 23, 2009.

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

The NBA's Kobe Bryant: Never Satisfied and Always Improving

“When you first come into the league, you’re trying to prove yourself as an individual, do things to assert yourself and establish yourself. But then once you’ve done that, there’s another level to the game that’s more complex than figuring out how to put up big numbers as an individual.”

--Kobe Bryant, 31, Los Angeles Lakers, discussing his evolution as a player and teammate.

Bryant has earned four NBA championships with the Lakers. He started his NBA career out of high school at the age of 17.

Kobe has refined his game by:

*Traveling with a portable DVD player queued to games to analyze and review.

*Working with Tim *Grover, Michael Jordan’s former trainer, to address weaknesses in the physical aspects of his game.

*Hiring a consultant to analyze various NBA teams' and individual opponents' weaknesses.

*Visiting the former Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon over the summer for a 5-hour tutorial on low-post play.

“The strengths that I have now were weaknesses when I was a kid,” Bryant said. “The strengths that I had as a kid may be weaknesses now. So you just kind of flip-flop and get the same results.”

“He’s always trying a new angle,” Knicks Coach Mike D’Antoni said about Bryant. “His work ethic is better than anybody I’ve seen, so he’s going to improve.”

D'Antoni added, “Whether he can do the same things he could do when he was younger, I don’t know, but he’ll keep getting to be a better basketball player.”

Excerpts from the New York Times, November 24, 2009.

For more on mental conditioning, peak performance and Kobe Bryant, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Atlanta Hawks on Top of the NBA: Patience and a Plan

"We've got the depth we need. We treat each possession as precious because we know we've got something good going here."

--Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks.

The Atlanta Hawks have improved their record to 10-2 with a win over the Miami Heat. They share the best record in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns. How have they improved and why?

Ownership: Brought Together by Adversity

Legal issues between owners have perhaps galvanized the organization and brought the entire enterprise together like nothing else could. This internal power struggle could have been deadly. However, despite the distractions, the owners also had a long-range plan and stuck with it. They allowed GM Rick Sund to build a strong organizational foundation and not panic. They didn't break up the pieces and start over when faced with adversity or criticism. When fans were clamoring for the firing of head coach Mike Woodson, ownership did not buckle. Now, Woodson is the longest tenured coach in the Eastern Conference.

Consistent and Incremental Improvement

The Hawks have gone from 37-45 in 2007 to 47-35 in 2008 to 10-2 in 2009 without changing a starter. To do this, the Hawks had patience and allowed existing players to continue developing confidence and chemistry amongst one another. They believed that they had a good mix of players that know their roles and play within a team concept.

Building Blocks

Of course, the Hawks started by successfully selecting talent and valuing athleticism. For several years, the Hawks were consistantly described as an athletic team. Opposing teams saw the potential, understood the challenge, but did not fear the Hawks

Continuity, Stability, Patience and Persistence

Using the draft, free agency to pick up the right role players and maintaining the team's core. They stuck with their nucleus and built a resilient foundation.

Putting the Pieces Together

Strong Rebounding

Inside players Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia are playing hard and going for every rebound.

All-around, Versatile Players with a Focus on Defense

The Hawks are forcing turnovers and taking advantage of opponents' mistakes. They are perfecting their transition game. In the win against the Heat, Josh Smith was all over the Philips Arena floor with 16 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and two steals.

"We're a tough team to beat when he's playing like that," Joe Johnson said of his teammate. "When he's rebounding, playing defense and diving down in the paint for dunks and layups, it makes the defense collapse. That's leaving guys like me and Mike [Bibby] open for shots."

Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson continue to provide an all-around game for the Hawks. Johnson continues to be a NBA force as a one-on-one scorer. Johnson can score from anywhere. His total of 30 points against the Heat included 5-for-11 from 3-point range, a dunk of a follow-up, put-back and a couple of layups on the run — plus many forays through the paint against multiple defenders.

Johnson also has become a defensive stopper — holding the usually dynamic and reliable Dwayne Wade to 2-for-9 in the first half, a total of only 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting, and a mere two free throws. Johnson is a position defender, who relies on strength, anticipation and a thorough understanding of his opponent's strengths and weaknesses.

Role Players

Jamal Crawford provides energy and scoring off the bench. A sixth-man of the year candidate, he brings electricity to the court. He can shoot from anywhere, moves well without the ball and can get off quick shots from a variety of unexpected release-points. Crawford also demonstrates his confidence when in a recent game, as soon as a 3-point shot left his hand, he turned and headed downcourt. And, of course, the shot hit nothing but net.

He has developed maturity by being more interested in moving the ball than he is in shooting it. His defense has improved significantly since coming to the Hawks. He can light up a scoreboard. As the season progresses and he gets more comfortable with his role — backup point and shooting guard — Crawford will undoubtedly become more consistent. For the moment, however, he provides explosive point-making off the bench.


The Hawks have built a deep bench, immunizing them against injuries and fatigue over a tough game or a long season. The Hawks starters don't have to play excessive minutes to win a game.

Balanced Scoring

Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford, Marvin Harrison, Mike Bibby, and Al Horford can all score and, on any given day, can lead the team in scoring.

Mike's Woodson Coaching: Fostering Chemistry and Teamwork

Woodson has been able to reach Josh Smith and get him to focus on his strengths and minimize the effects of his weaknesses. He helped to turned Pachulia into a super-sub who rebounds, passes and comes off the bench to raise the energy level of his teammates. He’s refusing this year to overuse Joe Johnson and understands the importance of keeping him fresh. He trusts Mike Bibby to run the team on the court and be the coach on the floor. Woodson has confidence in Bibby's leadership and clutch shooting. He is realiable and steady; great characteristics in a point guard.

Future Questions for the Hawks

This is the NBA. There are many great players. It is a long season and many things can happen. Other teams can get hot. Coaches can figure out how to adjust and effectively stop another team from doing what they do best.

Can the Hawks play consistently well when fans', players', and opponents' expectations rise?

Will the Hawks respond when they become favorites, when other teams shoot for them or when they get behind against an elite team like the Lakers?

Only time will tell, but the Hawks have built something strong and there is much to be learned from this metamorphasis.

“It’s just a lot of growth, man. Two, three, four years ago, we would have lost a game like this [against the Portland Trailblazers].” With the growth and maturity of guys like Marvin Williams and Josh Smith, I think we can be as good as we want to be.”

--Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks' scoring leader.

Smith, who surprisingly has not attempted a three-point field goal this season after averaging 1.3 per game a year ago, echoed that same attitude.

“We don’t have any give-ups in us,” Smith said after his 20-point, 16-rebound effort against the Blazers. “We stay fighting and persevere. I feel confident. The team is confident. We feel like we can beat any team in the league.”

Excerpts from AJC.com, ESPN.com, www.hawks.realgm.com and FoxSports.com (November 19, 2009).

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Key to Long-Standing Patriots' Success: Stand Behind the Coach and his Decisions

”Coach has a lot of confidence we can make a yard and a half to win the game. They showed us the drive before they can go pretty fast and score. Coach was being aggressive and I love that about him. As a coach, you’re not thinking let’s punt it to them and see if they can do it again. He’s thinking, ‘We have 450 yards of offense.’ ”

-Tom Brady, New England Patriots' quarterback, defending head coach Bill Belichick's decision to go for it in fourth down deep in Patriot territory late in the game. The decision backfired, and the Patriots' opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, got the ball and scored to win 35-34.

"It was a really bad coaching decision by coach Belichick. I have all the respect in the world for him, but he has to punt the ball. The message that you are sending in the locker room is: I have no confidence in my young guys on my defense.

"This is the worst coaching decision I've ever seen Bill Belichick make."

--Rodney Harrison, sportscaster and former New England Patriot said on NBC's postgame show.

Still, in the Patriots locker room, there was no questioning the call.

”He’s the head coach,” Faulk said. “No matter what, to us that’s the right call. We are the employees.”

If the Patriots would have made the first down, they probably would have been able to run out the clock and win the game. If the play had worked, Belicheck would have been labeled a rogue genius.

Belicheck should have been applauded for his moxie and innovative, despite the play not working. This type of decision-making and play calling has led to four Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl wins.

"We thought we could win the game on that play," Belichick said. "That was a yard I was confident we could get."

It is particularly impressive that the Patriots stuck together after the game and did not question the decision, despite the outcome. This is rarely seen in the NFL today. It is not typical in corporate America either.

How many organizations can say they do not second-guess their boss and their organization after a failure or defeat?

This type of team solidarity is difficult to find.

Should you reconsider your reactions to mistakes?

Note: The Colts are now 9-0 and have the inside track toward home-field advantage through the A.F.C. playoffs. The Cincinnati Bengals, at 7-2 and with an easy schedule remaining, seem headed for a first-round bye. The Patriots are now 6-3, and though they still have a firm grip on the A.F.C. East, their chances of a first-round bye are sinking.

Bottom line: There are seven games left in the regular season. There is alot of football left to play and many more decisions to make and plays to call.

Let's see which teams stick together and which implode.

Excerpts from the New York Times and ESPN.com (November 16, 2009).

For more on Peak Performance Teams, click on Team Pulse. For more on the New England Patriots, click on http://www.squidoo.com/patriotscasestudy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NBA All-Stars Show the Way to Victory Through Mental Mindset

Here are some notes from NBA games played on November 12, 2009. Much can be learned about success from listening to NBA players reacting to victory.

Focus, Maturity and Discipline

"We really did a good job focusing ourselves. They do what they do, and we try to stop it. We showed a lot of control, a lot of maturity. It was a very disciplined game for us."

--Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers' leader, after a 121-102 regular season win over the Phoenix Suns, who had brought a 7-1 record and four-game win streak into the Lakers' home arena.

Responsiblity and Accountability: Finishing Games and Being a Role Model

"It starts with me -- closing the games out. If I'm being lax, if I'm not being aggressive and putting pressure on the defense, the rest of the team is not going to do the same. I just tried to put as much pressure as we could offensively, tried to get as many stops as possible, and come out with a win. We had played so well for most of the game, you don't want to let a game like this get away."

--LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers' All-Star, on beating the Miami Heat, 111-104, in a regular season match-up.

Understanding History and the Importance of Legacies

LeBron James would like to see any NBA player who wears No. 23 to choose another number in homage to Michael Jordan, who also wore No. 23.

James said he plans to switch his number from 23 to 6 after this season.

"I just think what Michael Jordan has done for the game has to be recognized some way soon," James told TNT. "There would be no LeBron James, no Kobe Bryant, no Dwyane Wade if there wasn't Michael Jordan first.

"He can't get the logo [Hall of Famer Jerry West's silhouette adorns the NBA's logo], and if he can't, something has to be done. I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I'm starting a petition, and I've got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I'm not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it."

"If you see 23, you think about Michael Jordan," James said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "You see game-winning shots, you think about Michael Jordan; you see guys fly through the air, you think about Michael Jordan; you see fly kicks, you think about Michael Jordan. He did so much, it has to be recognized, and not just by putting him in the Hall of Fame."

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers are two of the teams favored to go far in the 2009 NBA Playoffs. Mental mindset and emotional resiliency will play a large role in the success of their teams and the success of the other contenders.

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

Excerpts from ESPN.com, November 13, 2009.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Owner of the New York Yankees Acknowledges the Champions

"The Steinbrenner Family and the Yankees Organization are extremely proud of the members of the 2009 New York Yankees for bringing a 27th World Championship to New York City and our fans, the greatest fans in the world. Every World Series victory is special, but this one is especially sweet coming in the first year in our new home.

"The 2009 New York Yankees proved that we are the best in baseball. We beat truly worthy opponents in the American League Division Series, the American League Championship Series and the World Series. As we did all season long, we fought hard, never lost focus and gave a true team victory. Our players have a lot to be proud of. This group will become legendary -- similar to the 26 World Championship teams that preceded them.

"Joe Girardi and his team deserve great credit for racking up wins over a long, tough season.

"We are so grateful to our fans. They have never wavered in their faith or enthusiasm through the good and bad years. This World Series belongs to them and to all Yankees, past, present and future."

--George Steinbrenner, New York Yankees' owner.

It is clear that the championship grew out of a vision, confidence, a need to prove their abilities and meet a challenge, a family atmosphere, a sense of belonging and teamwork, perseverence, pride, focus, and passion. This is a successful formula for championships. Congratulations to the New York Yankees.

For more Team Peak Performance, click on Team Pulse.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

New York Yankees Win World Series as a Team

"Look, a lot of other people were going the other way and my teammates and coaches and the organization stood right next to me and we finished together as world champs. I couldn't be prouder.

"I just knew then that when I had the 25 guys standing next to me and the organization and general manager, it meant the world to me and I said that day [that] this is going to turn out to be one of the most special years of our lives, and it sure has.''

--Alex Rodriguez, discussing his teammates' support since February when he admitted to steroid use and faced the media at spring training.

"He's a world champion," general manager Brian Cashman said. "No one can say anything about him anymore. He's performed in October. He's performed on the biggest stage. He's got a World Series ring coming his way, and he deserves it."

Hitting .365 in the postseason, Rodriguez slammed six homers and drove in 18 runs.


Joe Girardi was instrumental in managing the talented Yankees.

"He lets us play, that's the thing. He writes down the lineup. He's open with us. He's honest with us, he communicates with us well. He gives us a chance to go out there and do our thing. He's done a tremendous job."

--Derek Jeter, giving credit to the managerial skills of Yankee manager, Joe Girardi.


"The joy is the same, but it's a different type of joy," Girardi said after the victory. "As a player, it's what you dream about ever since you were a little boy, and for me, it was listening to Curt Gowdy do all the World Series games. As a manager, you still have that joy, but the joy is for other people, because you know as a player what it takes to win a championship."

"It feels great," Rodriguez said. "I couldn't be more proud of 25 guys, coaching staff and an organization -- it takes everybody."

"I feel very blessed. I feel so lucky to be part of their fifth championship and my first. It's an honor to play with these guys."

--Mark Teixeira, Yankee firstbaseman, said of Yankee veterans Derek Jeter, Jose Posada, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte.

. . .was happy to be able to hit and contribute to the team's win but more than that, just, us as a team, winning the championship - by far - that is such a great feeling. I guess you can say that this is the best moment of my life right now. If I were to look back, yes, this would be the best.''

--Hideki Matsui, Most Valuable Player of the 2009 World Series, who drove in six runs in the sixth and final game and hitting .615 with three homers and eight RBI during the entire series.

"This is what the Steinbrenner family has strived for year after year after year and has tried to deliver to this city of New York and George Steinbrenner and his family are champions and to be able to deliver this to the Boss, the stadium that he created and the atmosphere that he created around here, um, is very gratifying for all of us," Girardi said.

Excerpts from USAToday.com, NECN.com, VOANews.com, ESPN.com and MLB.com (November 5, 2009).

Monday, November 02, 2009

Dallas Cowboys Gain Momentum and Confidence

"The thing with this success is that we just have to be even harder on each other, expect even more out of each other. With each win comes great expectations. We're not just talking about from the outside; we're talking about in our own locker room, from ourselves."

--Jay Ratliff, Dallas Cowboys' nose tackle.

The Dallas Cowboys are on a three game winning streak and have increasing confidence. Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo threw touchdown passes to three receivers, including his new favorite target Miles Austin, and didn't have an interception for a career-best third straight game, leading the Cowboys to a 38-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and into a tie with the Philadelphia Eagles for the division lead in the NFL NFC East.

"I feel good about the progress we've made, but we've still got a ways to go."
--Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys' head coach.


"You've got to make the most of the opportunities you can," wide receiver Patrick Crayton said. "That's the only way you can view it."

Since losing his starting wide receiver position to Miles Austin and briefly the punt return job to Allen Rossum, Patrick Crayton has scored three touchdowns in two games.

It's his third streak of at least two games with a touchdown over the last three seasons. On Sunday, November 1, 2009, he added three catches for 39 yards, including a big third-down grab on a drive that put the Cowboys up, 14-3, in the second quarter.

"He shows you how to be a professional, how to go about your job every day," Cowboy wide receiver Kevin Ogletree said. "Pat, I don't think he lets anything bother him."

Crayton, whose punt return average (16.6 yards) is better than his per catch average (14.6), should be applauded for how he has acted.

"Some may say, 'He's just doing what he's supposed to do,' " Crayton said. "That's how I look at it."

"Patrick's been nothing but a great teammate and player since he's been here," quarterback Tony Romo said. "He knows the competitive side of the game, the ups and the downs that go with it. What allows him to go forward and be successful is his mind and ability to keep working. For some reason, he always comes out on top. That's pretty good."

“He understands that he’s going to play a ton,” Romo said before a win over the Atlanta Falcons. “To think he’s not going to be a major part of this offense is wrong.”

“It’s a long season of ups and downs, and the mental side of the game is what it’s all about,” tight end Jason Witten said. “I think he did a great job of understanding those challenges and really just stepping up and being the same guy every day. And it showed on Sunday.”

"Week in and week out, you've got to prove yourself. If you don't they'll find somebody else. My job is to do whatever they ask me to do, plain and simple. I'm not going to ever lose confidence in myself and hopefully they don't , either."

--Patrick Crayton, about his role on the team after being demoted.

"It's never even been thought of mine that Patrick Crayton wouldn't walk out there and play like he'd just been named to the Pro Bowl. On any given play, I think he'll play that way. From my standpoint, thinging about this team, we shouldn't waok on eggshells over that kind of issue That's not the point here. The point is that we're all lucky to be here."

--Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys' owner, discussing the controversy that arose when it was reported that Crayton took offense to not being told about the decision to demote him by a coach, rather than the media.


"For us, it's just about improving and getting better," Romo said. "I can say it 55,000 times, but it's true."

"We want to keep improving and keep trying to win games. That's been our motto all season," Romo said. "We don't really think about other teams. Our season is about the things we can control."

"This team has a good chemistry. They are hard workers. We have a lot of guys that play a role, whatever that is. They accept it and they try to do really well at that role."

--Wade Phillips.

Excerpts from Dallas News.com (November 2, 2009), Associated Press (November 1, 2009 and ESPN.com (November 1-2, 2009).

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

Yankees Taking a Team Approach to the World Series

“There's no question, I have never had a bigger hit. But if you look at what Mark Teixeira and I have done in this World Series, it’s not much, and it just tells you what a great balanced team we've had all year, and we're getting contributions from all our guys. It just feels to go out and help the team win.”

--Alex Rodriguez, Yankee thirdbaseman, acknowledging the teamwork needed to compete and win as New York takes a 3-1 lead over the Phillies.

Rodriguez is hitting .143 (2-for-14) in the World Series, combining with Mark Teixeira (1-for-14, .071) to form a slumping 3-4 punch. Neverthless, Rodriguez' two hits were clutch hits that have propelled the Yankees to two wins over the Phillies. The hit also was the 15th RBI of the postseason for Rodriguez.

"He's the reason why we're sitting here in Philadelphia right now," Johnny Damon said of A-Rod, who tied Bernie Williams and Scott Brosius for the most RBIs in a postseason by a Yankee. "Without him, who knows where our road may have stopped at. He has the RBI numbers and he's been driving us through the playoffs."


"It's always been all about trying to win a World Series," general manager Brian Cashman said. "It's very special in that we just opened up a brand new ballpark, and considering all the history we left behind in the old place, it's nice to open this one with a trip to the World Series. Hopefully we can finish it off with a championship."

"A lot of great players have never had the honor of going to the World Series," Rodriguez said. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a 5-year-old boy to play in the World Series. It's been a long wait."

"When you put that uniform on with these guys, for this organization, it's about winning," said A. J. Burnett, who was a member of the 2003 World Series Champion Florida Marlins, but missed the entire postseason due to injury. "Somebody in spring training, I don't remember who it was, said if we don't win the World Series it's a failure. And I agree."

"When you think about Yankees you think about the word ‘winners'. To be able to be a part of this team, and to be able to be a part of this organization, it's an amazing feeling. This is a great team, and there's great camaraderie with all these guys. I couldn't be more happy, more proud. I'm really excited to put those pinstripes on for the World Series."

--Nick Swisher, New York Yankees.


"We haven't accomplished anything yet. We've won three games, but that's not what we set out to do. We want the fourth."

--Johnny Damon, New York Yankees outfielder, after the Yankees have taken the 3-1 lead over the Phillies.

"We've been down this road before," Rodriguez said. "We have to stay very focused. These guys are the world champs, so they're going to come out fighting. So are we."

Excerpts from ESPN.com, sports.Yahoo.com, and New York Post.com (November 2, 2009)

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