Fifteen years ago, I made a startling discovery: When athletes
have high feelings of self-worth, and their lives are in harmony,
they will perform closer to their skill levels on a consistent
basis. And it is only then that visualization techniques become
I applied this concept to my own sport, handball, and soon
after I found myself finishing in a tournament among the top
players in the nation in my age group.
the subtitle of this book, you will note that I use the phrase
"Helped the St. Louis Rams." When a team wins, there
are many factors at play. But one of the most important is that
of self-image of individual players. This also applies, even
more importantly, to the coach and his staff.
In May of 1999, I received a phone call from a friend of mine
who formerly lived in Kansas City, Missouri, but who had taken
a job in St. Louis with the St. Louis Rams as Vice-President
of Player Programs. I had written to my friend, Kevin Warren,
and asked if it would be possible for him to set up a meeting
for me with then Head Coach Dick Vermeil. My letter triggered
a call from Kevin asking if I would be interested in participating
in the team's Rookie School scheduled to take place June 4, 1999.
Needless to say, I immediately accepted.
After presenting my program, which included each rookie taking
a self-esteem, self-evaluation test, I was immediately surrounded
by five or six players who shared with me the fact they didn't
do well on the test. They were all downcast and felt badly about
their scores. But, as I pointed out to them, that was actually
a good thing, since number one, they were obviously being honest
in their self-evaluation, and number two, in order to have achieved
the level of performance at which they were presently playing,
they must possess a tremendous amount of talent. And more than
likely, as they deal with issues in their lives and resolve important
problems hovering over their heads, their performance levels
will increase considerably.
I make this point only because I believe low feelings of self
worth are more common among NFL athletes than we would like to
believe. And I am also of the opinion that much of the off-field
violence experienced by NFL teams can be directly related to
an individual player's self-esteem. Many of these players are
keeping their feelings and emotions bottled-up, which has a devastating
effect on their lives.
The enhancement of
performance in sports has gained wide interest throughout the
world at almost every level of competition. And yet, very little
is known about how athletes can best prepare themselves mentally
to perform close to their skill level on a consistent basis.
Many sports psychologists are eager to take credit for the
successful performance of high profile client athletes, but their
failures are too often kept hidden from media scrutiny. I do
not take the position that sports psychologists are wrong; but
perhaps they are only half-right.
This book embraces the concept that athletes who carry with
them unresolved issues and psychological baggage will not perform
at their skill level, no matter how much they practice visualization
and other generally accepted mental techniques. Reluctance to
deal with and resolve conflict often results in the lowering
of an athlete's feelings of self-worth thereby, directly affecting
his or her performance.
I once recall reading a quote from a well-known NFL football
coach who, when referring to Sports Psychologists, said: "I
ain't never seen one of them guys put on a helmet." I think
it's important that I point out: I am not a Sports Psychologist,
nor have I ever put on a helmet. I was, however, a former high
school point guard who made it through to the last cut on the
freshman basketball team at Missouri University, then played
semi-pro basketball for Simmons Furniture in Columbia, Missouri.
Later, I played guard for the Brook Army Medical Center's basketball
team at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
During this time, I never experienced the enormous potential
of this principle. But then, in 1986, my basketball career ended
and my sport became: handball. It was in that year that I propelled
myself from being ranked approximately number 500 in the country
(in my age group) to making the final 16 in a national tournament.
Later, after returning home, I was allowed to implement these
new found principles with an NCAA Division I basketball team
that, halfway through their season, had a dismal 3-15 record.
I worked with them during the remainder of their season and they
won 8 out of their last 10 games. They had the skill, but had
never developed the team chemistry. They had never addressed
team and coach related issues. They were withholding their emotions
It wasn't long before I began to question the validity of
some of the accepted theories involving the enhancement of sports
performance. I began to understand that an athlete's personal
issues powerfully impact performance. This may seem obvious to
many of you reading what I have written, but even today, in the
professional ranks, especially, coaches and general managers
believe that motivation results from financial compensation rather
than an athlete's feelings of self-worth. The reason for this
is they have a clear understanding of how to initiate a compensation
plan, but are generally unaware of how to go about creating an
environment that builds individual feelings of self-worth and
produces team bonding.