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The Practice of ‘Mindfulness’ for Optimal Performance and Well-being in Sport and Business


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Whenever we evaluate current levels of stress, anxiety, debilitative factors affecting confidence, or blocks to achieving optimal performance in a variety of vocational tasks and domains, whether that be human functioning in operational business, or collective team performance in sport, such conceptions of these barriers are atypically?a result of past experiences or future events. Furthermore, from?personal experience, within any life domain, when individuals are asked to reflect on their?three highest sources of stress, ?the responses often related to past experiences or future events. In business this may be hitting weekly/monthly targets, in football, goals per game ratios. To elaborate in more detail, using football as an example, it is a common occurrence to witness? teams ‘crumbling’ under pressure. Whether that be teams in the relegation zone, or underdogs with a shot at the title. What often happens in these situations is rather than being in the present moment and focusing on the tasks and resources needed to complete a specific task or game to the best of their ability, the egoic mind is all too often reliving past experiences or worrying about future outcomes, which reinforces (quite often negatively – due to negative tendencies in though processing) our current levels of self-worth and ability in that present moment.

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For the individual saleswoman pitching to a CEO, her direction of thoughts on securing the deal (end result) and potential future business generation (future event) from this pitch debilitates her ability to pool resources together for; building high levels of rapport with the CEO in question, focusing on the tonality, language and pace of the pitch, the details and intricacies of the product. For the footballer who is taking a penalty kick in the cup final, he is often distracted by the consequences of success or failure rather than the decisions needed to succeed in the present moment (i.e. target, ball placement, shot choice, pace, power, wind direction, position of the goal keeper). The fear of not attaining the cup, letting down team mates, comparing this situation to the last time he missed and/or scored a penalty, is preventing the individual from optimal headspace needed to achieve success.

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From my experience of working with business leaders, C-suite, employees, football managers, sport coaches, and athletes/players, what separates the best performers in the world, to the average ones, is an ability to recognize the direction of their thoughts, and an even stronger recognition to disassociate specific thoughts, thus allowing them to maintain in the present moment. Sport and business psychology consultants have long dedicated time to helping individuals change such thought processes, their attention, focus and direction, and the direct and indirect influences on performance and well-being. Traditionally, this?has been addressed through models of practice such as CBT (thought stopping, cognitive reframing) NPL (reducing the impact of thoughts and feelings) and PST (increasing the use and applicability of psychological strategy).

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A more contemporary approach which has aimed to help individuals with such thought processes relating to their well-being,?is mindfulness. Practitioners are now incorporating such models of practice?across a range of performance domains. For those that may not yet be fully aware of the way in which mindfulness works, Buddhism (the origins of mindful meditation) places?emphasises?on ‘being’?in the present moment. However, by identifying with the egoic mind, an illusory distinction is made with our past experiences and future events. Such identifications are the difference between being mindful or mindFULL. That?s not to say that we can not recognize our past, as inevitably it has made us who we are today, but continual recognition of past mistakes, missed opportunities, broken relationships etc., or conversely, solely focusing on future opportunities, and promotions, and living the future significantly impacts upon well-being by not allowing us to recognize the present moment for what it is.

Mindfullness

It is not surprising to know that through clinical research and reports, looking back is directly associated with depression, whilst looking forward (for some) is directly related to anxiousness. ?Having worked with individuals with such tendencies, I feel that ultimately what causes such performance decrements and well-being issues (depression, anxiety, anger) is the lack of control which we have over events which have happened, or going to happen in the future. Mindfulness recognizes that all we can control is the present, by not evaluating thoughts of previous or upcoming events, we allow ourselves the freedom to enjoy the present moment. It is in this moment we see people flourish in performance and they experience feelings of content (not happiness – dictated by external sources). It is also during these episodes, elite athletes report being ‘in the zone’. With the ‘quiet mind’ being reported time and time again as a characteristic during such peak performance. Through neuroscientific evidence, we know this not to be 100% accurate. Whilst there is a significant reduction in brain activity, what actually is happening during such episodes is that the individual does not directly associate with his/her thoughts. He/she actively becomes an observer of thoughts through non-evaluative means. This allows him/her to be truly present in the moment.

A great example of someone who currently lives in the present moment is Claudio Ranieri – Leicester City FC Manager. His ability to not focus on the outcome of the season and to approach performance on a game-by-game basis, he is a prime ambassador for advocating the positive effects of being mindful (as opposed to mindFULL). Through a deep understanding that team performance will be dictated by the resources he has at any given moment in time, through his language, communication and actions, he instills a positive mentality in players, whereby their focus is intensely on the present moment for the following 90 minutes, and nothing else. Though we cannot examine brain activity and recall accurately during a football match, it could be assumed that players?mindfulness on the pitch is exemplified in their behaviours i.e. logical as opposed to emotional reactions, ?verbal and non-verbal communication and body language after successful and unsuccessful outcomes.

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To illustrate this through a practical example (and in an attempt for you to understand your current levels of mindfulness, or mindFULLness) if you took your dog for a walk this morning, ate breakfast with your family, or grabbed a take-out coffee on your way to work, take time to relate back to the direction of your thoughts. Were you thinking about upcoming bills at the end of the month, the potential promotion at work? Or, were they solely focused on experiencing that laughter of your two year old son as he dribbled porridge down his chin, or the fresh crisp air at 6am when you walked your dog through the park, with the trees damp with the thaw of overnight frost? The layman will often volitionally accept the direct relationships between thought, feeling and behaviour without conscious attention. As a result, this lack of self-awareness often necessitates living (not being) in the present moment through?thoughts of past circumstances or future events.

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Being a Mindfulness Practitioner, I am fully aware and endorsing of the many ways that mindfulness could assist the well-being of the general population (feel free to ask me any questions you may have), but for the purpose of this article we will focus on the holistic benefits for individuals and teams in both sport and business.

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By combining Mindfulness Diploma training with clinical, business and sport psychology education, practicum knowledge and experience, I have devised a mindfulness strategy (applied through either individual consultations and/or groups workshops), which follows the three stage process of; recognition, observation and acceptance.

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This first step to becoming more mindful (as opposed to mindFULL) is understanding the cognitive behavioural hypothesis. By comprehending the cyclical relationship between thoughts, feeling and behaviours, we become more self-aware of the direction and intent of our thoughts, and the resultant impact on feelings, emotions and subsequent behaviours. If we relate this to business, as another example, due to the cut-throat nature of sales in high performance environments, a salesman’s typical response to each and every telesales call may be “I need to hit my target” (which could be a result of self-worth, paying bills, evaluation apprehension or all of these factors). This thought directly results in feelings of nervousness and tension, and the subsequent unconscious (sometimes conscious) behaviour of pressurized selling, not accurately listening to the customers queries and demands, poor memory of product features and applications etc. By focusing on future events (outside of his control at this present moment) he is unable to be in the present moment, resulting in a whole host of debilitative factors. From my own consultancy experience, when individuals who understand (even at a low level) such relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviours, this recognition is a powerful enough tool for initiating change.

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Through intense self-refection and analysis, individuals will become more aware of both positive and negative cyclical relationships through the cognitive behavioural hypothesis. It is here (or should be) where CBT therapists may use thought blocking or cognitive reframing for changing faulty thinking processes. At this stage, mindfulness opposes traditional therapies by allowing thoughts to be (as opposed to controlling?them) which results in reduced association with such thoughts, removing?the negative impact on feelings and behaviours. Using quicksand as an analogy, this approach frees individuals from identifying and wrestling with their thoughts (sometimes debilitative, sometimes facilitative).?For visual representation of this process, please refer back to the figure above.

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For this to be achieved successfully, I have developed a bespoke introductory mindful meditation, which supports individuals and groups to become mere observers (and not evaluators) of their thoughts. This practice to the layman may seem ambiguous, however mindfulness is an art form that needs to be practiced practically. Once doing so, the self-awareness individuals?experience will far supersede any retrospective reflections. Not only does this process support individuals to disembody thoughts and the typical volitional relationships with feelings/emotions and behaviours, it actively promotes individuals to experience ‘being’ in the present moment.

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Finally, once an individual has experienced and achieved observing thoughts in the present moment, positive behaviour change will become both conscious and unconscious. Subsequent mindfulness sessions with clients are therefore aimed at further disassociating with the egoic mind, allowing thoughts to be just thoughts (and not subsequent feelings and actions) through objectification and non-evaluation, resulting in acceptance of thoughts and intense focus upon the present moment. For the salesman with the recurring thought of ?I need to hit my sales target?, whose typical responses are nervousness and debilitative behaviours, he has now become consciously?aware?that he is not controlled by his thoughts and as such can actively be?in the present moment. Not only will this transpire to more effecting performance (asking the right questions, listening to the wants and needs of the client, recalling the product features and applicability) and well-being (confidence, recognition of character strengths, presence) in this specific sales pitch, a significant positive shift will occurs across all contextual domains of the individuals life.

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By Luke Whiting

Elite Mindset Coach at Norwich City FC, Life Coach and Mindfulness Practitioner

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PPD MagThe Practice of ‘Mindfulness’ for Optimal Performance and Well-being in Sport and Business
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Stephen A. Smith, Hearts and Souls of Men in Sports

Stephen A. Smith recently discussed his feelings and thoughts regarding the Rooney Rule.? For those that don’t know, the Rooney Rule requires National Football League teams interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. It was established in 2003.

Although the rule has been in place for 13 years, many argue the rule, has not had the intended effect on hiring minorities.

What does this have to do with Personal Player Development?? Simple, the urgency to provide training and development for professional athletes and helping professionals in the personal development arena has lagged, just as hiring practices have.? Stephen A. explains why?

 

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Kristy Belden, The Reality of Athletics

“Here today.? Gone tomorrow”

Today you are a key part of an athletics department staff.? Your cell phone doesn?t stop ringing. Your inbox is forever full.? To put it simply, you are getting things done and the program can?t run successfully without you.? In a blink of an eye, you have been replaced.? And just like that, your student-athletes are depending on someone else and you?re left questioning, what just happened?!?? This, my friends is the reality of athletics.? As professionals in this ever-changing field, we are often the ones preaching to our student-athletes to get their degrees because their athletic careers won?t last forever; to select a school based on everything BUT the coach because we know all too well that those change like the wind.? Yet, here we are in the same boat having to take our own advice.

“The reality of athletics is that often change comes swiftly with lots of collateral damage”

The nature of athletics is that EVERYONE is replaceable, from the Athletic Director, to the Coaches, to the Staff, the Graduate Assistants, the Student-Athletes, and EVERYONE in between.? In many cases, change in athletics often is a trickle down effect and has little to do with YOU (or your r?sum?, your accolades, and how long you?ve been at Athletic University College).? The reality of athletics is that often change comes swiftly with lots of collateral damage.? In the high-profile sport of football alone, a head coaching change can immediately effect upwards of 100 lives, when you add in support staff, spouses and children.

The business side of athletics encourages change in many regards.? The myth is that a shiny new coach fixes everything?the ?boo bird? fans are excited again, donations start rolling back in, there?s a ton of media coverage.? It?s a win-win for everyone except the old staff.? In many, many cases, any and everyone associated with the previous regime is let go.? It?s not personal, and you?re fooling yourself if you think it is.? Why do you think turnover in athletics is as high as it is?? People try to move up, move out before they end up unemployed when the writing is on the wall that change is inevitable. Nowadays, spending more than five years with the same program is an anomaly.? An old coach once told me, ?if you haven?t been fired, you haven?t been in coaching long enough.?? As the pressure to win gets higher and unreasonably higher, the reality is that you will be fired.? Just as our current student-athletes get replaced by the latest 5-star stud, the sad truth is you will be replaced at some point in your career as well. ? You can pout about it or you can be prepared.

” You will not be the Senior Associate of ABC?s at Athletic University College forever”

If we?ve heard it once, we?ve heard it a thousand times??it?s not what you know, it?s who you know.?? This too is the reality of athletics.? The best advice I can offer is to stay connected with as many professionals (coaches, administrators, support staff, etc) as you can on multiple levels (high school, collegiate, professional). You never know when your guy knows a gal who knows a guy that might need a gal like you.? And just as we teach our student-athletes to not be tied to their identity as a student-athlete, we must take heed to that advice as well.? You will not be the Senior Associate of ABC?s at Athletic University College forever.? The blunt truth is that if you plan to have a long, successful career in sports, then you must understand that change is the Reality of Athletics.? Embrace it and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts.

?Kristy Belden is currently the Dean of Students at Bishop Moore Catholic High School and spent 5 years as the Director of Player Development with the UCF Football program. ?She was one of the first female full-time player development directors for a NCAA Division IA football program. ?Prior to that role, Belden spent 9 years as the Associate Director for Multicultural and Academic Support Services, and Academic Services for Student-Athletes at the University of Central Florida. ?She is a former collegiate track athlete and has her Masters degree in Educational Psychology-Sport Psychology. ?

Follow Kristy on twitter @KristyBelden

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Notre Dame College, Humiliation, Pt 3

How did you go from being a division one quarterback to a division two punter and not even a quarterback?

It is?hard to revisit my experience at Notre Dame College. For a while I would refuse to revisit it, I could not do so without feeling bitterness or extreme pain that tainted the overall experience. Ultimately, the feelings evolved into numbness and a sense of not being able to acknowledge the fact that the experience occurred. It was the only way possible that I could move on and live. I am grateful that today, I am able to speak of the experience in terms not tainted by feelings or numbness.

Commitment is something that must be fulfilled to preserve friendship and relationships. The impact friends have on our everyday life can be so great that decisions are often made out of obligation. Unfortunately, decisions made out of obligation to our friends can lead to a traumatic experience and or humiliation. However, adversity even of the worst kind leaves one with a lesson to grow from and become a better person.

Before graduating from high school and upon committing to Miami University, I gave my word to four friends/teammates/brothers who were going to be student-athletes at Notre Dame College. I gave them my word that if things didn?t work out at Miami I would join them at NDC and once again play football with them. January 2011, I committed to Notre Dame College accepting a full ride scholarship. Once again, I had a duty to fulfill and a commitment to something much bigger than myself. I can recall my best friend who I also happened to room with stating, ?man I didn?t think you were serious about the promise you made last year?. Of course when I made the promise I wasn?t planning on a time where I had to follow through with it but when the time came I did and was glad?. At first.

?At the time I felt nothing more than excitement and a sense of happiness. I thought to myself ?this is like a home away from home?. I had anything and everything a collegiate student-athlete could ask for. I felt like I not only belonged but more importantly I felt like I was wanted and needed. All was good. I was the big man on campus, only an hour away from my family and hometown, classes were manageable, and I was more than happy with my decision. The first year had a couple of bumps in the road but nothing that couldn?t be overcome by persistence and sticking to the commitment of the process for success.

Entering into the 2011 football season I was in a quarterback battle with a talented returner. Eventually I would not be chosen as the starting quarterback for the first two games, however, this would soon change during halftime of our second game. I became the full time starting quarterback and one of the team captains after leading the team to victory the second game. As the season progressed, I became more comfortable as a student-athlete and leader at Notre Dame College. We ended the season with a better record than the previous year and had a lot to look forward to going into the offseason. Still, things were going well and I was a happy or as the saying goes at NDC ?Falcon for Life.?

Spring 2012 was what I have previously labeled the beginning of the end. My best friend had decided to leave the school for personal reasons. This crushed me and at the time I considered it betrayal and selfish. I recall thinking, ?how could you leave when I came here because of you?” After that I was never the same. You see, he was the person who I could always count on whenever I needed anything. When times were hard and I felt the weigh of the world on my shoulders, he would make sure I didn?t falter. He never allowed me to do anything stupid or reckless. He cared about me more than I cared about myself. To sum it up in a word, he was my brother, and when he left a part of me left with him.

A couple of weeks before spring practice was to begin, I was punished for breaking team rules. Allow me to explain? One night my suitemates and I decided to host a little get together in our suite involving refreshments of a kind that weren?t permitted on campus. But we were too cool and too much of a big deal around campus to ever get caught, let alone written up. Well, we got caught. When the time of confession came my new roommate and I took all the blame. If I hadn?t then?a few guys in the room would have been caught, they would have been immediately dismissed from the team and possibly school. So, knowing this and being a team captain I decided to take the blame.

A captain goes down with his ship. Our team policy was that if at any time a player got in trouble with the school or team, that player would automatically be moved down the depth chart at the start of spring ball. As always the first string gets more reps than the backups, this is a fact even if coaches preach otherwise. Accordingly, as the spring season progressed coach and I became more and more hostile. It seemed as if I was not getting a fair shot to compete for the position. Many Teammates including the three teammates I had made the promise to, saw and felt this was the case. Often times behind closed doors where they could not be heard by anyone of authority who could punish them, my teammates would say, ?Rob I know how they are treating you and it is wrong, but things will get better.?

Things never got better, only worse and worse. At the end of spring ball and the semester before summer, Coach called me into his office and told me I was being moved to wide receiver but still staying as the punter. I wasn?t going to be given a chance to compete over the summer and into fall camp. The decision was made that my days of being the starting quarterback were over and done. So began the summer of 2012, I came home and broke the news to my family. Upon hearing the news and thinking about what comes next, my parents pushed me to transfer elsewhere and that I didn?t come there to be treated in such a way. Most of the summer I spent weighing out options and trying to decide what I should do.

Eventually I would return to Notre Dame College as a ?full ride? student athlete. I put emphasis on ?full ride? because this was the main reason I decided to go back. How could one not turn down a full ride scholarship being a student-athlete? Everything was paid for which meant upon graduation I had no student loans to pay back. Common sense would tell anyone to not pass up the opportunity of a lifetime. However, the price I had to pay for this decision was something that would become a lifelong lesson. A lesson that not many people consider as a good lesson because the impact it has on the heart and psyche of a person.

Humiliation has such a stinging ring to it when spoken. Try feeling it and experiencing it even just a little, I promise you or whoever experiences being humiliated that it will change your life and the outlook you have on life. Throughout the 2012 season at Notre Dame College there were times that I thought about getting in my car and just driving away to somewhere far away from there. But I didn?t, for some reason I was meant to be there at that time. I was meant to be that guy who transferred from a division 1 school where he won a championship, who then transferred down a division to become the quarterback of Notre Dame College, who then was knocked off his pedestal and brought down to become not even a quarterback let alone the starting quarterback at a school who couldn?t even break the five hundred mark of a football season. It was humiliating to show my face in public and know that everyone knew what happened to the once ?big man on campus.? It was humiliating to be the starting punter every single game that season and after the game shake hands with our opponent and be asked by players and coaches ?what happened to you being the starting quarterback? or ?how did you go from being a division one quarterback to a division two punter and not even a quarterback?? Such questions at first angered and hurt me to the point of tears flowing down my face. Eventually the tears subsided as did the anger and hurt. What they became was nothing or a sense of numbness with no feeling at all. I had reached a point of no return and kind of died inside.

Friends, teammates, coaches, fellow students, etc. felt bad but did nothing to help. Not even those I made that promise and commitment to in high school, they knew and felt the position and psyche I was in but did or said nothing to me or anyone because they feared that what happened to me would happen to them. And so there I was humiliated and miserable. I needed some type of release from the hell I was in.

A week after the season I received a call from a past teammate and friend who had transferred from Notre Dame College (NDC) to Hiram College the summer of 2012. We talked for a bit just catching up on each other?s lives asking how things are going, then he asked if I would come down and visit him at Hiram College. I figured sure why not, it was somewhere away from NDC. So I visited him. We had a great time and I met a lot of good people? different people than what I was used to at NDC. People who acknowledged me and said hello and asked how I was. During the day we ate in the dining hall where I ran into a football recruit, he immediately recognized me and began talking to me. He asked questions about my experiences at Miami and NDC, then he asked my opinion on several matters. Of course I gave him my opinion, why not, what did it matter? It was just my opinion about what he asked me. Or so I thought?. Little did I know this conversation would cost me a full ride scholarship leading to my dismissal from NDC.

After the weekend on Monday coach called me into his office saying he needed to speak with me. Our meeting lasted for fifteen minutes and consisted of him asking if I visited Hiram College over the weekend, If I spoke to a recruit and what I said, and then my scholarship being pulled. That was the last straw, I was completely humiliated and a fool in most people?s eyes. However, a sense of relief and hope came over me as soon as I walked out of his office. I remember thinking, ?its over? I was free.? At the end of the semester I left the place I once called home, my three teammates I made that promise to, and the worst experience of my life. I had been humiliated and broken. However, the lesson of humiliation and being humiliated was something that would be vital to me becoming a better person, a better student-athlete, and the leader Hiram College needed.

To be continued…

Written by?Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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Miami University 2010: Commitment and Paying the Price for Success Pt 2

December 7, 2010, I committed to Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) accepting a full ride academic/athletic scholarship. Upon committing I didn?t know how much of an impact on my life this would make. While a student-athlete at Miami University, I was part of a team that made history by winning the Mid-American Conference championship and finishing the 2010 season with a record of 10-4. A substantial improvement from the year before where the football team finished the season 1-11. However, what is less known or advertised was the price that had to be paid by each team member individually. At the base of success is a degree of commitment to an idea or goal. It is often that the slogan/motto ?there is no ?I? in team? is shouted among teams and organizations. Selfishness serves as a monkey wrench in the operation of collective actions. Individual commitment to the team is a necessity to success.

As I reminisce and think back five years ago, I cannot help but come to the realization that the overarching theme for my experience at Miami University surmounts to one thing. Commitment. Not only commitment to the institution and its football program but also and more importantly, commitment to the process of success while paying the price for success.

I understood as an eighteen year old freshman what it meant to be committed to goals/aspirations, the process of success, and the price for success. However, the commitment I was previously responsible to fulfilling was something I had rooted and engrained throughout childhood. In fact, this commitment only added to the childhood dream. College was an entirely different animal. An animal that I knew had to be confronted and dealt with accordingly. For though I made the decision and commitment to Miami University, I did so na?ve/ignorant to the process and price that came along with success. I committed to being a student-athlete because that was what I was good at and that was what those around me expected of me.

?I was a collegiate student-athlete at Miami University for six months. During this time, I, like any and all college freshman, evolved in many aspects of life both positively and negatively. At the time my major or field of study was undecided, however, I did find a course or two interesting. Throughout my time at Miami I struggled academically. I continually asked for tutors and or academic coaches, never was I granted one. Nonetheless, I made it through the season and did what was asked.

Athletically, I competed every morning during practice at five a.m. I was privileged enough to travel with the team for away games and sometimes having the chance to play. Additionally, I was voted by teammates to be a member of the Redhawk leadership council, which was a group of guys who met weekly to discuss team issues and come up with solutions to produce positive outcomes for the program. These weekly meetings were the highlight of my week. I had the opportunity to get to know my teammates on a different level. Without the once a week leadership sessions I would not have made it through the season and semester. The lessons I would learn from those meetings I would carry ?throughout college and still carry with me today.

I mentioned previously how I evolved while at Miami University academically and athletically, but I did not touch on how I evolved personally. The purpose of the?next section?is to speak of this subject. And so let us begin?

Academically, I was scratching the surface of becoming a student. Athletically, I was learning the intangibles and sharpening the skills needed to lead a program. However, though both academics and athletics are key subjects in a collegiate student-athletes life, one subject that is often times forgotten is personal development. While at Miami I failed to grow as a person and think about who I was becoming. Never did I tell myself ?one day your football career will end and you will have to enter into real life?. Never did I question who I was as a person and what I wanted to become. While I was living the life of a student-athlete, I failed to embrace who I was as an individual. This was the something that was swept under the rug along the process of success. This was the price that I paid for success. Yes, I went out after games, hung out with friends, and tried to ?live it up?, but not without second-guessing myself thinking ?how could what I am currently doing effect the team and disappoint those who trust me to represent the program? ?.

Coach always told us that we as athletes (football players) have a duty to be great ambassadors for the athletic program and football team. Every action anyone or I committed either on or off the field was a representation of the team NOT JUST YOURSELF. Coach made this very clear by demanding before practices and every game that we ?look around, to our left/right/front/behind, and say to our brother I TRUST IN YOU?. As a team leader (leadership council member), quarterback, and varsity player, I had an obligation to the team, both on and off the field. I assumed this duty upon committing to the institution whether knowingly or unknowingly.

??????????? As the semester and season came closer to ending, as did my time at Miami University. And so upon the semester ending I made the decision to leave Oxford, Ohio. I would close a chapter in my life and begin anew. Though I would depart Miami, the lessons I learned while there wouldn?t depart me. Above other lessons, I learned what it meant to be committed and the price that came with it. I would carry this lesson with me to Notre Dame College.

To be continued…

Written by?Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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The Bob Knight Experience with Mr. Bill Cook

My rock star attitude took a toll on the IU assistant coaches at the time. Dan Dakich and Joby Wright both challenged me with intense verbal confrontations on separate occasions. Ron Felling simply ignored me most of the time unless I humored his jokes. Tates Locke, on the other hand, was the one coach who was able to relate to me. One day Coach Locke and I sat high in the stands in Assembly Hall, and he asked me why I was attending IU? I think he expected me to say something along the lines of “to become a professional basketball player? or “to earn a degree.” My reply was one in which I stood by: “to experience all that college has to offer.” Coach Locke laughed, and as the conversation continued, he gave me much needed insight on how college coaching is designed and how the system was affecting my playing time as well as basketball players just like me all over the country.

Coach Locke quickly began to explain his view of coaching at the division 1 level. He said that every student athlete has an advocate on staff trying to get their player minutes on the court. They do this because in most cases they recruited that player. When a player does not perform to expectations on and off the court, the head coach usually blames the assistant coach who was responsible for the recruitment process.

When that assistant coach gives up on the athlete, dealing with that player becomes the responsibility of another assistant coach. The process continues until the team runs out of assistant coaches.

Then a decision is made to either encourage the player to leave or to let the athlete ride the scholarship out. When I said I understood, he said, “I am the last assistant coach on the list to deal with Mark Robinson.? Whether this was true or he was just trying to get me to leave the rock star mode, based off the behavior of the other assistant coaches, his reasoning made complete sense. We I left Assembly Hall, I felt much better about my interactions with Coach Wright and Coach Dakich. I understood that these assistant coaches were under extreme pressure, and it is sometimes easy to forget that the players dealt with are 18-21 year old kids. I also came to understand that as a player, once practice was over I could go back to my rock star world, and they had to continue to stay in the world of Bob Knight.

While at IU, Buzz Kurpius was the team’s academic advisor, and she did a wonderful job of keeping the team eligible. I majored in General Studies, but I had no clue what I could do with a degree in General Studies and neither did anyone else. Buzz was a sincere person, and most of the time it was clear that she wanted the best for the guys on the team. Her job was to make sure players attended class and passed classes. However, her oversight did not extend beyond our class work. At the time, everyone assumed athletes were gaining the necessary personal development and becoming better people through the basketball experience. Understanding the personal needs of the athletes on the basketball team was not a high priority, and the importance of personal development was unknown. I would argue that many academic?advisors today are still unaware of the needs and benefits of personal development for athletes.

Bill Cook

Bill and Gayle Cook

During the spring semester of 1988 my GPA did not meet the standard that Coach Knight believed to be acceptable. As a punishment, he assigned me to work during that summer at a company called Cook Group Incorporated. I did not know much about the company or what I would be doing, but since the work assigned was a punishment, I assumed it would not be pleasant. I reported to work and sat with Mr. Bill Cook, the CEO. I remember seeing Mr. Cook around Assembly Hall from time to time and had exchanged pleasantries with him and his wife, Gayle, on several occasions without ever realizing he was the CEO of a major company. On my first day we talked and laughed for a little over an hour while watching his marching band on tape. While I was enjoying this opportunity, Mr. Cook received a call from Coach Knight asking what job I would be doing? Mr. Cook replied to Coach that we had not yet begun that discussion. Coach Knight asked Mr. Cook to give me the dirtiest job he could find. I ended up cleaning bathrooms, maintaining a bird pool in front of the office, and sand blasting vents on the roof of the building all summer. However, every time Mr. Cook and I had?an opportunity to chat, we would. After the summer job, I did not see much of Mr. Cook until I finished my degree……

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The Bob Knight Experience

Playing for Bob Knight at Indiana elevated one’s status in the community and on campus, and no one loved the recognition more than myself. This was the first time I truly felt entitled as a result of the hard work and commitment I made at the high school and community college level. Now this might sound silly, but the fact that people recognized me and wanted my autograph, fed into my ego. The social life of an Indiana basketball player could take one of two courses. You could a: take the student athlete route and focus on academics and basketball, or b: take the rock star route while focusing on academics and basketball. Most of my teammates took route A. I, however, took route B. Yes, the rock star route. I think my decision was due to my ignorance regarding what IU basketball was all about. I did not grow up in basketball culture like most of my teammates, and I suspect they knew what signing up for IU basketball entailed. I had no clue.

The College Basketball Rock Star

Taking the rock star route had serious consequences because Coach Knight and his staff knew everything players did after practice and games. Some students would even call the basketball office and leave messages for coaches alerting them that some of the basketball players were out at a party. My social life affected my playing time. Although the consequences frustrated me at times, I still made my choice. Once I was able to accept the coach’s decision, it did not matter how much I played during games. I believed my personal time existed before or after the games, and I loved each and every minute of that lifestyle. My job was to give 100% on the basketball court in practice and in games, and I did that without question. However, I felt once basketball was over, my time was available to do as I pleased. If IU granted a degree in the area of being a socialite, I would have not only made the honor roll, but I would have been the valedictorian of my class.

The College Basketball?Luxuries

As part of a nationally recognized athletic program, athletes are afforded certain luxuries, and one extravagance was having team managers around. Many on the outside do not realize the difficulty involved with being a team manager nor do they see the long-term benefits. Lawrence Frank, who would later become an NBA coach, and I established a great relationship. He was a guy who would tell you how he felt in a joking, yet sarcastic way and did not care about who you were and how many minutes you were playing. I enjoyed laughing and talking to “L,” as we called him, because he could put a tough practice or loss in a humorous perspective even when you did not want to laugh. He would also give you a certain look at times to alert you that Coach Knight was not in the mood for playing around and that locker room jokes needed to be shut down.

The Bob Knight Relationship

My relationship with Coach Knight was not like the relationship I had with my previous two coaches to say the least. Coach Knight would often ask me to just leave and go back to California. Although I gave that option some thought, I enjoyed being in the Rock Star mode way too much and going back to California was not an option. During my tenure, players like Rick Calloway, Dave Minor, Chuck White, and Lawrence Funderburke transferred for a variety of reasons. At the time, I could not understand why a player in his right mind would leave Bloomington Indiana. I developed a relationship with all of these guys and each time one of them transferred, I was hurt in the same way a person feels the loss of a family member.

Coach Knight, while misunderstood by many on the outside world, treated all players, starters, and reserves the same. His methods of motivation were nothing like I had ever seen. He placed a big emphasis on diversity and would often go into a rage if he walked into a pre-game meal and the room was segregated. No table with black-only players was allowed, and vise versa. Additionally, there were two issues that were not debatable with Coach Knight: alcohol &?drugs and academics. Players would simply no longer be at IU if they had trouble in either of these two areas.

As players transferred from the team, my compassion for them and my curiosity in athletic behavior began to grow. The one thing I noticed when these athletes left IU was the amount of isolation the institution quickly, yet unknowingly placed them in. Once a player made the decision to leave IU, they were on their own and kept a distance between themselves and former teammates. None of the players? departure hurt me more than when Jay Edwards left IU and entered the NBA draft after his sophomore season. Jay Edwards had the best jump shot and highest basketball IQ of any player I had ever worked with, but when he decided to turn professional, I questioned the rationale for his decision. He and I spent two years together regularly, and we never discussed the possibility of him playing in the NBA. I believe playing in the NBA was one of his long-term goals, but leaving after his sophomore year was the result of his family’s expectation. Once the decision was made, the IU basketball community turned on Jay and he was placed in isolation..

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An Account of a Collegiate Student-Athlete?s 5yr Experience: Part 1

Someone or something inspired me, like many young people. Sooner or later, this someone or something evolved into a burning desire or dream of sort that I could not go a day without thinking about. We all have fallen under the spell of such phenomenon that has captured the heart and consequently directed our actions with the purpose of making the dream into reality. No matter how little or large said dream may be, the pursuit of making the dream into a reality can only be justified by the dreamer.

Some of us are fortunate enough to see our dream become a reality. Others let go of the dream and are able to shift focus elsewhere either by creating a new dream or abandon the act of dreaming altogether. Through commitment, humility, and resilience the dream that made up my childhood came true. Personally, becoming the starting quarterback of the storied Massillon Tigers was my dream come true. Since I can recall, all I ever dreamed of was becoming the starting quarterback of the team my father coached and the only thing I knew growing up. However, the purpose of this writing is not to narrate the process of my childhood dream becoming a reality. Rather the purpose of this writing is to share what came after the dream, the trials and triumphs that constituted a five-year journey, and ultimately made me into the person I am today.

I, like most recent college graduates, am adjusting to this thing commonly labeled as the ?real world? or simply put? Life after college. After five years of being a collegiate student – athlete at three different institutions (Miami University, Notre Dame College, and Hiram College) I have matured and come to the realization of what defines my passion. The time to utilize the lessons I have learned throughout my youth and experience as a student- athlete up to this point are now being put to the test.

I am aware that mistakes are evident and will come as I begin and go through the next chapter of life. However, the key difference is now I can?t accept points off for a late assignment submission nor can I merely run a gasser for every minute I am late for a team meeting. For in real life, a late assignment submission or tardiness to a meeting could result in termination, unemployment, and lack of an income to payback student loans.

My name is Robert Partridge; I am a recent graduate of Hiram College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a minor in public leadership. I desire to develop student-athletes through strategic leadership development and tactful team building. Since graduating this past May 2015, I have meticulously researched ways in which to best grasp, understand, and mend to my liking; the ?Real world?. I have found a full time job that I am blessed to have and am learning lessons from everyday. However, not a day goes by that I don?t think about what burns inside constantly evolving into what could be labeled a dream or something along those lines. For now, it is my duty to stay committed to the job and team of co-workers.

At times, taint thoughts formulate within my mind of what other job I could be doing; but I quickly diminish these, for it would be humiliating for such thoughts to produce an attitude and ultimately, actions. When times like these occur I think back to my playing days, more specifically, a time when I had to be resilient and overcome adversity for not only myself but also more profoundly, the team collectively as a whole. Having revisited such a time along with remembering the process and what it took to overcome adversity, I then am able to relate it to myself currently in the work place and do what needed to be done to refocus and execute the job.

As previously mentioned in the previous paragraph, ?I desire to develop student-athletes through strategic leadership development and tactful team building?. Accordingly, over the past several weeks I have meticulously researched and sought out people who can guide me in the direction needed to go for my desire to come into fruition.

Several weeks ago, I came across one person in particular who compelling caught my attention. Dr. Mark Robinson is a global leader, pioneer, and expert in ?Personal Player Development?. The weekend of my birthday I had the privilege and honor of speaking with Dr. Robinson in a phone conversation. Dr. Robinson and his words of wisdom not only inspired me to write this discourse, but more importantly, the result of my time with Dr. Robinson was a sense of direction and spark to a much needed idea. Thus, I am morally obligated to give thanks to him and dedicate a great part of this discourse to him. Thank you, Dr. Robinson.

In a recent interview with fitacrosscultures.com, Dr. Mark Robinson profoundly stated, ?The sport industry needs to stop using athletes only for their skill, but start to support them to be better people. It?s a challenge because it?s an area that is often overlooked. Athletes sacrifice a lot of their free time to get better players that they could invest in their own development?.

Being a former student-athlete at three different institutions of all three NCAA divisions, I confess that Dr. Robinson?s words are indeed true and shine light on a key issue.

Furthermore, Dr. Robinson?s statement provides a lens to another key question/issue that I consider vital to understanding the nature of a collegiate student- athlete?s personal development. As collegiate student- athletes go through the college experience and assume roles amongst their team, athletic program, and institution certain tasks are demanded of them. Such tasks include becoming the best athlete possible, hosting recruits, going to class and doing the work ask of them by the instructor, and being a good representative of their team/program both on and off the field. Ultimately, their task is to develop themselves as a student-athlete so that in turn the program is developed so that it can attract recruits in the future.? After all, collegiate sports are a multi-million dollar business and the more a program wins the more revenue the school brings in and is able to attract students. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality of the situation.

I assert that the problem a number of collegiate student-athletes are faced with is not only the ?sacrifice of their free time? but more problematic and conflicting, the athlete sacrifices personal development and a loss of self-identity past his or herself as just an athlete. In other words, while collegiate student-athletes pursue and achieve objectives and goals set forth by their athletic teams, programs, and institutions; the student-athlete loses track of his or herself personally.

The price can be seen among ?thousands of NCAA student-athletes who struggle with the emotional and physical transition from a life centered on athletics?. This is a topic that must be deeply considered, spoken of, and dissected rather than abandoned. Statements such as, ?Unfortunately, we don?t really talk about it very much or prepare athletes for it? are disgusting, vile, and not acceptable.

In this discourse, I will share with the reader my collegiate student-athlete experience with the intent of helping solve the issue of loss of individual student-athlete identity and resolving the conflict of collegiate student-athlete transitioning into the ?real world?. To do this I have structured the article?into four installments.

In section one, I will begin by giving an account of the time I spent and what I learned while a student-athlete at Miami University (NCAA, division I). Next, in section two, I will discuss my student-athlete experience and what I learned at Notre Dame College (NCAA, division II). Following this, in section three, I will provide a narrative of time spent and lessons learned while a student-athlete at my alma mater Hiram College (NCAA, division III). To conclude this discourse, in the fourth installment and crux of the writing, I will take the previous three sections along with their themes, and correlate them with the above issues and conflicts intending on providing a possible solution…..

To be continued…

Written by?Robert Partridge, follow Robert on twitter

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England Academy Football and the Pressure

In recent years youth football/soccer has grown tremendously in England. The game has always been popular but with the growth of sports channels and the internet the following of the Premiership League and the enthusiasm for the game has gone to another level.

Every local park has children as young as five dribbling through cones, a few years after these children are moving into playing in mini/local leagues. Football interest developed into neighborhood teams and now football academies have blossomed all over England.? These academies are looking for talented players to continue developing the game as well as making the academies attractive to the next generation of footballers.

All Professional clubs run youth academies and are also seeking the best of the best to groom for first team or the professional level. Due to the footballers salaries and fame attached to being a professional footballer, the competition is fierce. Professional club academies attract large numbers of young kids from various backgrounds with a variety of personal player developmental needs.

Through my years of coaching football and mentoring young athletes I?ve encountered? academy players missing a developmental component.? Most recently I?ve had an opportunity to get to know a young footballer who was willing to share his thoughts on what it?s like to play football at the academy level in the United Kingdom.? The name of the player has been withheld because we want to make sure he is not judged by his comments regarding the UK youth football academy sector and the area of Personal Player Development.? This young man is 13 years of age.

Mr. Gentle: When it comes to football what is your ultimate goal and what steps are you taking to reach it?

Academy?Footballer: My goal is to make it as a professional footballer, in order to reach this goal I will work hard, focus and try my best to play well.

Mr. Gentle: How do players join a football academy?

Academy Footballer: Most players get spotted by a scout when they are playing for a well known local team or in borough competitions. Many local coaches also work for or have contacts in academies. If you play for a team that?s unknown I?m not sure if there?s any way of being spotted.

Mr. Gentle: What have you realized since you have been in the academy?

Academy Footballer: You realize that you?re not playing for each other you?re playing for yourself, because when you get offered a contract it?s for you not for the other person… just my name.

Mr. Gentle: How tough is the competition between players?

Academy Footballer: It?s a very big thing, if you?re not doing well you?ll be let go and around my age it?s harder to get into an academy than it was a few years ago. Academy teams already feel like they?ve seen the best players. If you started playing for an academy at a young age (8 or 9 years of age) you will have developed a lot quicker than someone who is joining at a later age.

Mr. Gentle: What support do academy Footballers receive from the club or organization?

Academy Footballer: They pay for your expenses and if you?re having issues in school they?ll visit the school to speak with the Head Teacher.? You really don?t receive any support regarding social media use or relationship development.

Mr. Gentle: Do you think players need support in other areas off the pitch?

Academy Footballer: Yes, encouragement and motivation. Particularly in my age group because one or two will make it and the rest will probably be released. I feel a great deal of pressure to get it right every game so I can make my family proud. A lot of academy players focused on nothing but football without consideration of other possible career options.

Mr. Gentle: Do you have a backup plan and how important is having one?

Academy Footballer: Yes. I think all Footballers should have a backup plan because it?s very hard to make it as a Professional Footballer. I think 10% of elite academy players make it in the whole country, the rest get released, but that number could be lower. If they have a backup plan they can go with that? but if they?re fortunate enough a lower league team may want to sign them.

 


 

It seems from this interview England football needs to start looking at a different approach to educating young footballers.? Personal Player Development is clearly an area all sport sectors in the UK need to address from three perspectives.? Personal Player Development training for helping professionals working within sport, implementation of programs and an awareness campaign of the issues and challenges athletes experience.

Interview submitted?by Anthony Gentle

 

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Memoir of an Athlete: When the Invincible Meets the Invisible

[av_dropcap2]T[/av_dropcap2]errier Activity Board Vice President, four year letter-winner on an Offensive Line that led Hiram College to its best record in 26 years, orientation leader, 2015 Most Outstanding Senior at Hiram College, 2015 nominee for Who?s Who In Colleges and Universities Magazine. Sounds impressive right? I?ll just start by being real and saying this; no one cares. This is a world where people only want you for what you can do and not for who you are. All of the college accolades I just mentioned mean nothing to anyone other than my family and myself.? The one thing I am always criticized for is being ?too real? with my friends, family, and colleagues. I?m about to drop my experience and knowledge for you to have a better understanding of where I am at this point of my life.

My name is Nick Sebastian and I am recent graduate of Hiram College in Hiram, OH where I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Management with a focus in sports and played football.? I made it to the top of the figurative mountain when it came to my involvement outside of football. Don?t get me wrong, I?ve had severe struggles from freshman to junior year that you can ask me about, however, if I put all of them in this memoir, it would be 27 pages long. I don?t believe anyone wants to read something that long. I wouldn?t want to read it, and I?m writing it.

I am also a proud alumni of Poland Seminary High School in Poland, OH where I played four sports throughout my four years and earned three letters in varsity football. Poland is a great community that I would love to start a family in one day myself. The community is phenomenal and they love their sports just as much as Odessa, TX loves Friday Night Lights.

I?m guessing many of you have never heard of either one of those places until now. I come from an extremely privileged background where basically I was given anything and everything I could ask for. I remember specific moments during my High School career when I would ask: ?Hey Dad, I need some tape for my cleats, can I have $20?? or ?Hey Mom, do you have my Gatorade, pads in my football pants, and jersey ready for tonight?s practice?? Basically I was spoiled. Heck, I still am spoiled. But I am very fortunate and grateful for my parent?s involvement in my athletic journey. Without their help, I would not have come close to where I am today.

Where am I today you ask? Well, I work for a third party logistics company in Pittsburgh, PA. Although I am only a couple of months removed from my collegiate experience I have managed to learn a great deal about life in the real world. How does a student- athlete from the greater Youngstown area, who attended college in the greater Cleveland area end up in Pittsburgh, PA? Easy answer; I chased the money. I was told there was a great opportunity in a new city where I could make a name for myself. How awesome does that sound?! This is where the pampering and being put on a platform my whole life turned into more of a curse than a blessing. Yes, I know and display the value of hard work, team work, commitment, discipline, and all the life skills that football taught me over the years, but nothing could prepare me for what I couldn?t see but more importantly never experienced or was exposed to.

After exhausting my eligibility and graduating, I thought my plan moving forward was solid and in hand. I soon realized it wasn?t. My transition landed me in sort of a shock mode. I don?t expect anything to be handed to me but I thought I would at least get some direction.

Something everyone wants to do is build his/her own path right? Take the world by storm. Show everyone just how tough and knowledgeable you are. For some, this concept is easier said than done, some of us are fortunate enough have a path laid out for them when it comes to career choices after athletics. Some of us go into the medical field, political field, stay in the sports field, engineering, etc. Some of us make it in the 1% and compete in professional sports. But for the majority of us, we have to feel around for what we want to do. I am a firm believer that in order to know what exactly you want or don?t want to do in life, we have to try a number of things to determine where is the best fit. The only problem with this philosophy, it involves some type of short or long-term commitment. Commitment is a word and action that we have a hard time grasping and dealing with outside of a sporting environment. Or at least it was for me.

Why would I want to commit to a career path in which I am unsure of the passion and excitement it will bring me on a daily bases? Commitment in life is much different then selecting the college of your choice on signing day. This type of commitment to the real world was one I never experienced until about two or three months ago. It was much more than signing a piece of paper and wearing a cool hat at a table with your family. This commitment involved bills, taxes, 401k?s, 403b, saving accounts, spending accounts, so on and so on. I was clueless and surprised such things existed, mainly because so much was given to me in the past and my collegiate experience did not cover the real world experience. I was overwhelmed, I felt like I did my freshman year of college all over again.

One of the main differences that I haven?t come to terms with is life not revolving around football anymore. No more ball on the one yard line, 11 seconds left to win the game, no timeouts, one more play to run, adrenaline pumping, and a game winning touchdown run in front of thousands of screaming fans going wild because we just won a game. I am sitting at my cubicle, eight hours a day, five days a week making a ton of phone calls.? All to pay bills and impress my boss so he can analyze the amount of revenue and numbers generated. Coaches, Teachers, and Professors consistently reminded me that the skills and experience I have in college would carry over to the real world. They never expressed or explained how my passion, desire, and excitement would not carry over to the real world.? Nor did they give me the tools necessary to build a path full of similar feelings I had towards football.? Maybe they themselves did not experience entering into the real world as a former? student athlete and their advice was the best they could give.

The life that I once knew is slowly changing and I am currently experiencing what I imagine is something most athletes ultimately encounter during the transitional process.? The invincible joy and passion sport provided to us is being overshadowed and interjected with the invisible difficulties (athletes are ware of) of the entering the real world.? When the invincible meets the invisible, student athletes require assistance adjusting to the real world.? Although this memoir is about me and in many ways for me, student athletes experience the meeting of invincible and invisible across the nation. Preparation, focus and time must be allocated in building a new path and student athletes from all backgrounds can benefit from guidance and direction as they move closer to exhausting their athletic and academic journey.

By Nick Sebastian

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