Jump Ball

The current basketball strike is simply about two sides looking for the best deal. On the surface, isn't that what everyone wants in life, the best deal?

How can anyone criticize the players or owners for trying to get the best business arrangement for themselves?

Owners spend a lot of money and assume the responsibility for all debts and costs, including payroll. Fortunately, the owners are used to risk as most large fortunes come from taking chances. While there are certainly lots of perks with team ownership, it is safe to say that owners are not purchasing a professional team to simply give away their hard earned money.

Professional athletes are given the opportunity to live out a childhood dream. Imagine having the skill and talent to make money playing the game that provided endless fun and enjoyment during your youth. Anyone who grew up playing the game of basketball has had the dream of sinking the winning basket at the buzzer, in game 7 of the championship series. Yet, only a tiny percentage of those dreamers ever get the opportunity to make a living playing basketball.

The players want everything possible for their hard work and dedication. While first class travel is fun, a plane eventually is just a metal tube with seats and a hotel room is just another place to unpack your bags for the night. Why leave money on the table, if there is extra money to be made? Like owners, the players have also worked extremely hard and have taken risks. Also, like owners they are extremely competitive.

It seems that both sides have an over inflated sense of what they deserve. The owners want to earn more money on their investment or perhaps reduce some of the risk and the players want to earn more money to play the game. Yet, based on what one might observe or read in the media both groups seem to have plenty of choices when it comes to material desires. If these assumptions are correct, no wonder the teams and players have so many critics amongst the fans.

After all it is the fans who ultimately pay all of the salaries and expenses. Without someone willing to purchase the tickets, the jerseys, the expensive food and all of the products that are sold in association with professional basketball, the NBA would not exist. Talented athletes and wealthy, potential owners would have to find some other venue to ply their skills, compete and take chances.

Perhaps the players and owners should rethink their arguments and why there is so much money to even cause such disagreements. While it is true that the players are the show and the owners are the vehicle that allow the show to happen, it is the fans who pay everyone's salary and they just want to be entertained.

Greg Norman comments on Tiger Woods

Whether or not Tiger Woods wins another major will only be answered in the future and any current opinions stand a 50/50 chance of being correct.

However, what is 100% certain is that every time Tiger is playing golf, winning is a possibility. Winning and winning and winning is a "sweet spot" in time. The words of an old friend, Topper Hagerman. Tiger had discovered that spot for a number of years. During that time it was all about playing golf. Now Tiger's life has changed.

As Greg Norman said during a recent interview, published by golf.com on 9/28/11, "Tiger, when he dominated, had a single-shot approach. It was only about the golf." "Now there are so many distractions..." A key factor in a champion's ability to win and win and win is having the skill to focus and the ability to do away with all distractions. In the case of Tiger, there are now many new distractions which he must reduce or eliminate.

These new distractions are more powerful than the superficial comments and criticisms and sponsorship questions, as they come from within. Tiger has been forced to question himself to the very core of his humanity. His entire personal operating system must now be reprogramed. He had the recipe for winning at will, but that piece of paper is now lost. It now must be recreated and this will take time.

The good news is that Tiger has the ability to focus - perhaps better than any athlete in the world. Finding the internal balance will be the key to Tiger Woods returning to the top of the golfing world. If he can find this balance, we will see the return of a champion.

NCAA Miami Decision

Eight student athletes from the university of Miami were recently asked to repay the money they illegally received from university booster Nevin Shapiro and athletics personnel. They also were given various levels of game suspensions based on the amount of money and benefits that they received.

While there are larger questions regarding student athletes and their status in the college environment, one has to applaud the NCAA for making a decision that supports its rules and still allows the athletes to return to sport. It is important to remember, that these were kids/young adults corrupted by adults and by the larger society in which we all live.

It is easy to look at a college kid and wonder what he or she could possibly be thinking to accept something that is obviously against the rules. However, who are the adults influencing these kids? What is their role in tempting a kid, who perhaps did not grow up with many choices and maybe did not even have what most people consider to be the basic material needs in life covered?

In this particular case, it took an apparently corrupt adult willing to take advantage and a kid looking for some fun. These young student/athletes might be talented, but they are still young and in need of direction, which if I understand correctly is one of the goals of college. For most college kids, maturity is suspect and the potential vulnerability to nefarious adults is high.

Additionally, one cannot ignore the general society in which we all live as part of the problem. Our current society has been overrun by the "take as much as you can mentality." In the business world there are the CEOs and upper level managers demanding enormous sums of money and at the bottom there are the unions asking for as much as possible. Literally, every level of our society is infected by this concept of taking as much as possible and the continual need or lust for greater material and personal gratification.

In an ideal situation, it would be nice to blame the individual. After all, we are all ultimately responsible for our own actions. Unfortunately or fortunately, we are also greatly influenced by the surrounding environment in which we live. The current environment in which we all are living has seen an extreme graying of the lines between right and wrong or the ethical and unethical. In fact, in most instances, with justification as the goal one can make a case for both sides being right or both sides being wrong.

College sport has fallen victim to these attitudes of society. College kids, especially high level college athletes are no longer insulated or protected from the outside world. Even the colleges themselves are guilty of allowing for this exploitation. It is not just the errant booster. There is a systematic failure. After all, we live in a world where money talks - actually a world in which money screams at the highest decibels for attention. With corrupt adults and the temptations of society, perhaps the kids who break NCAA rules and accept money are not cheaters, but victims?

Should you play through an injury?

For every great champion who plays while injured or sick, there should be a disclaimer: "Professional athletes only. School kids and any other nonprofessional should follow doctors order's: stay home and get better."

Playing through an injury is often touted as just another level of skill and toughness displayed by a champion athlete. Any basketball fan alive in 1997 will remember Michael Jordan's epic performance in Game 5 of the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz. Sick with the stomach flu, one moment he could hardly move, and the next he was on the floor scoring 38 points in 44 minutes and clinching a 3-pointer to lead the Bulls past the Jazz.

Fast-forward to Tiger Woods' 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines. Advised by doctors that he had two stress fractures and should be on crutches, he instead competed, winning after a 19-hole playoff. Eight days later, he had major knee surgery.

Virtually every great champion will have his or her own story of competing and winning while not healthy. Pushing the body beyond the limits normally defined by physiology happens every day in the life of a champion. Champions play at only one speed and with one goal: the speed is full throttle, and the goal is victory. Sickness or health, these goals do not change.

The flip side is that a champion would never compete if he or she knew that victory was not possible. Taking one for the team in order to perform at a mediocre level, with no chance for victory, is not part of a champion's approach to sport.

As for those athletes who are not at the champion level (and that's virtually everyone, whether on a team or as an individual), competing while extremely sick or injured is not the right decision. Take it from the playbook of a champion: why would you ever compete if you or your team did not have an absolute chance and ability to win? Furthermore, what is the risk-to-reward ratio when considering the rest of your career?

In the rarified world of the champion, the decision to play or not play has its own set of rules and parameters. A champion's reasons for playing or not playing should not apply to everyone, and certainly not if you are anything but a professional who is getting paid to go to practice every day.

With rare exceptions, playing at any level other than full capacity brings on the potential for additional injury, not to mention a subpar performance. For the mortals of sport, show your strength and mental fortitude by missing the game, recovering, and returning to your sport at full capacity - when your body is ready .

Is aggressive sports training worth the price?

As adults over 50, we all "remember" how hard we used to work and practice our sport. Many of those workouts ended with the coach asking for one more sprint, just as we thought that we had nothing left. Presently, many high school athletes are asked to do the same workouts that we remember, but their seasons last for twelve months not two or three. Kids sometimes play on two teams, the weekend team and the school team. One program leads to another program. Additionally, there are conditioning coaches and a plethora of private coaching and training programs available to increase a child's chances for athletic success.

While I am the first to say that being in shape is a requirement for success and injury prevention in sport, I am also next in line to say that intensive training is a primary cause of injuries among high school athletes. What I have observed over the past 20 years with youth training are two concepts that have been pushed to the limits: More is better; and doing more means working harder. Working harder translates into doing everything faster, higher and stronger. When combined with increased volume, the potential for injury is greatly increased.

In the book called Until it Hurts, by Mark Hyman, Dr. Lyle Micheli from Children's Hospital in Boston estimated that in 2009 75 percent of the kids who came through his office had overuse injuries. In the early 1990's that figure was about 20 percent. This means that even with all of our knowledge and advances in physical training and coaching, the system is failing. Kids might be in better shape and able to perform at higher levels, but they are also sustaining serious injuries at ever increasing rates.

What is too often forgotten is that kids are still growing and their bodies are not meant to take the continual physical stress of organized and ultimately repetitive training programs. It does not matter how knowledgable the conditioning coach is or how perfectly the program is taught. The act of continually putting kids through year-round aggressive training is not the right approach, and it has not been the right approach for the past 2 decades.

I am working with an injured college senior who had to stop rowing one year into her college career. Four years ago, her high school team was second at nationals and she went to college with the expectation of continuing her successful ways. Unfortunately, her career was cut short due to a back injury caused by excessive training.

Her year round program consisted of rowing at various intensities, along with participation in one of the local, well known and highly regarded private conditioning programs. Her trainers pushed her hard to develop the necessary strength and power for rowing, and her coach made sure that she put in the necessary practice on the water. She took on all of this work with a body that was still growing.

The result was that her team almost won a national title and her rowing career ended.

My client is now bothered daily by back problems that make sitting or standing for long periods of time uncomfortable and she can no longer row. While no one can say for sure that this was her destiny, training or no training, it can be said that she worked extremely hard year-round, nearly achieved the ultimate goal for a high school rower and paid a heavy price.

5 Napkin Burger

Thus far, I have written about disciplined eating and taking care of your health. Now I would like to make a departure that may surprise you, and say a word in favor of the occasionally unhealthy meal. In general, what causes weight problems is not the meal you ate last Friday night, but the meals you are eating every day. If you have control over your diet and you are losing weight or have reached your desired weight, having a hamburger with french fries every six months will only be a blip on your overall diet plan. Simply stated: "With discipline comes freedom". We can use this mantra for many things in life, but with dieting and our desire for eating, it means an infrequent splurge is okay.

For example, this past June, I had the pleasure of eating the best hamburger of my life. It tasted very good and it came from Five Napkin Burger, an aptly named establishment on Manhattan's West Side. This burger oozed with taste. I did not ask for the cheese to be put on one side, the meat on the other side and the empty, special low-calory bun in the middle. This was a burger with all the things normally associated with a hamburger: cheese, onions, french fries etc. I even started with a lemonade and finished with a cold beer. In the end, I left nothing on the plate.

Knowing this meal would be filling, I walked the 15 NYC blocks to the restaurant and at least that many back to the hotel. It was all part of my plan for a guilt-free, glutenous evening of taste bud satisfaction. I do not have weight problems and I do not want to develop them. That's why I walked to and from the meal - my way of allowing myself to have such a meal. I also ate my normal breakfast and just a snack for lunch. I had heard so much about this restaurant. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

Comfort foods are necessary for our mental health. They make us feel good and take away the stresses of life. Unfortunately, most of those foods do not sit atop any weight loss plan. If you want to lose weight, start your diet today and stick with the plan created by your nutritionist or doctor. Do not splurge or deviate from the plan. Then set yourself up for an early evening gustatory delight. If possible walk to your meal and back home. Cut back on your lunch and be sure to exercise, then enjoy a guilt-free evening. This will only work if you have the discipline and plan to keep you on track and honest with yourself and nutritionist for the next 6 months. On a human note, having patience, working and waiting for something ads to the pleasure and success of the experience.

Time in the doctors' office

I recently walked into the doctors office for my yearly physical. While sitting and waiting to see the doctor, I wondered if the people who sit in their doctors' offices or pass through hospitals know that exercise will help them feel better and prevent some of their ailments. When I see someone with what appears to be muscle weakness, I know that with just a little strength training, their life would be so much better. I see people who are overweight and wonder if they do regular aerobic exercise. If not, why?

Superficially, it appears that the majority of people seeing their primary care doctor could use a dose of exercise and a reduction in food intake. These observations make me wonder why more people do not take care of their health. Why spend time in a doctor's office if many of the reasons for going can be prevented? Why rely on pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications for your daily health when, in many cases, exercise and proper nutrition can help to render you prescription medicine-free?

At some point, we will all start suffering from the advance of age. Why not slow that process and do everything possible to avoid the suffering? If you fall in the no-exercise, unhealthy-lifestyle category, you can keep up with business as usual and increase the chances for an undesirable end to your life - which only increases the chances for your loved ones to spend many hours of their time and energy helping you through the final days or years. Knowingly increasing your chances of needing help in your later years, I cannot think of a more selfish way to go through life.

We only have one chance. Why not live every day with the idea of winning in life?


Changing a personal habit is probably the most difficult task for any of us. Unfortunately, some of our most difficult habits to break, including smoking, overeating, and poor food choices, relate directly to our health. There are also habits which form our responses to situations and events that impact our ability to live, work and interact with society, colleagues, friends and partners. Habits enable us to get to work on time and "do the right thing" when required. Some habits are considered bad and others good. We relish habits and even take comfort in the fact that "somethings never change."

Habits give us comfort. They are known quantities, our friends. They allow us to act and respond without thinking. Early in life, most of us learn what is right and wrong; from those lessons, we develop good living habits. Habits can also give us excuses for our actions. We can say, "I'm sorry, it was just one of those old habits." Habits can lead us to both success and failure.

However, when it is perfectly clear that a habit is bad and changing it can only be an improvement, why are some of us unwilling or unable to change? Is it fear? Lack of self-respect? Has the habit become an addiction?

Fortunately, change is possible. We are able to adapt and learn new habits. However, this takes a lot of work and effort. This is where most people fail, because they are unwilling to do what is necessary to change or improve habits. Ironically, some people are even unwilling to change habits detrimental to their health and life.

Habits are internal and independent of the thoughts and actions of others. They require a personal decision to change. A personal decision by you. For example, an old friend and life-long smoker who loved to smoke, decided that he would quit smoking as soon as one of the athletes he was coaching won a World Cup Ski Race. All of us who worked with this man constantly pushed him to stop smoking. We were just as repeatedly frustrated in our efforts. Then one day in the early 90's, one of his downhill racers won a World Cup event in France. On that day, he kept his promise and smoked his last cigarette.

Those of us willing to change or reshape our bad habits will move forward in all aspects of life - personally, professionally and athletically. We are the ones who learn from our mistakes, a key element to success. With a little luck and hard work thrown into the mix, we can then reach our personal goals, achieve greatness and perhaps even a level of distinction in our lives.

Success & Internal Desire

A recent client of mine was relatively healthy (blood pressure controlled by medication) and physically strong and fit for someone over age 80. He came to me at the request of his daughter. His goal was to improve his general fitness, and to fulfill a long-held dream to get back on his skis - a sport that he loved through much of his life.

As I soon discovered, the real challenge was not his physical fitness and strength, but his desire to live and to make the best of his remaining life. His wife had died, taking the wind out of his sails 6 months before our meeting. Prior to her death, he was quite active. Before he underwent hip surgery in his late 60's, he was an avid skier.

Initially, each of his workouts was a struggle. His caring and supportive daughter had to literally force him to exercise and move his body. Despite being physically strong and with working joints and good muscle mass throughout his body, he had gone from a walk to a combined walk/shuffle almost overnight. He was only a shell of his former self. His eyes were often distant; rarely was he fully present during a workout session. He came to his private sessions and attended some of our classes to appease his daughter's desire for him to experience as much time as possible with his kids and grandchildren. The problem was that it was not his desire to attend, nor to exercise.

His obvious joy for skiing and love for his daughter and grandchildren were still not enough motivation to get the best of the remaining years. I pushed him and did my best to cajole him into making an effort at his exercise and to improve his walking. During this time, I learned that organized exercise had never been part of his life. Furthermore, spending money on himself did not come easy, compounding his lack of enthusiasm.

During his workouts, I often wondered about his thoughts and feelings and where his memories were taking him, even though I just wanted him to exercise. Part of me yearned to shake him awake and back to the present; another part practically demanded that he desire and choose his current life. Even though I pushed and pushed, it was impossible for me to break him away from his thoughts for longer than a few moments. I could see that he was enjoying the images of his life as he gazed out the window between sets.

Suddenly, I noticed a slight change in his approach. He was coming on his own two days per week and seemed interested in improving. He made some progress in his balance and coordination and had stopped being so obstinate with his daughter. He was engaged more with the moment and with the others in class. He had stepped on the path towards improving his fitness.

So it seemed. Six weeks later, he did not come to the club as expected. His son-in-law found him lying peacefully on the floor. He'd left this world to join his wife.

With such a caring family, this man was still unable to muster one last stand at life. I realized yet again that success begins with an internal desire. It seems that even with every secret, key, approach, exercise regimen and tip to life sitting at our fingertips, the true power to live life still comes from within. It is an internal decision that must be accepted and relentlessly pursued; otherwise, we are destined to go through the motions and perhaps dying while we should still have some time on the clock

Developing Your Skill - Lessons From a Violinist

During a sporting event, have you ever let your mind wander beyond the competition to observe the pure skill being displayed on the playing field?

Have you ever wondered how many practice hours that an athlete completes before taking his or her first run down the Olympic downhill course? The hours build up over many years. Each succeeding hour layers atop the preceding hour; when combined, they result in the seemingly effortless performances, we watch every weekend.

Recently, I experienced the same wondrous feeling at a different venue. My friend, Bob Childs, makes violins. Every year, he puts on a series of concerts in which the musicians perform on his instruments. At the particular concert I attended, there were ten violinists and a squad of other musicians playing various instruments to fill in the symphony of beautiful and mesmerizing sounds.

I sat in the front row and watched each musician intently. I watched the violinists' fingers move up and down the neck of their instruments, hitting every note. I wondered how they could return their fingers back to the exact same place on the neck to repeat the same note over and over again, without looking. And while moving their bows in rhythmic progressions over the strings - slow to fast, titillating to exquisitely tender.

There are no frets on a violin or cello to guide the fingers into position, as there are on a guitar. A violinist or cellist learns to produce such beautiful sounds and notes through thousands of hours and many years of practice. He or she learns, refines and masters a piece, or a series of pieces, much like an athlete trains and prepares for a sporting contest.

At this particular concert, it was not just an individual playing, but a group, much like a team of athletes. The musicians worked both individually and together. One would start out and the others would fill in with rhythms, much like a well organized team supporting and working with each other all the way to the goal - a complete team effort. A symphony of moving skills and dynamic performances on the playing field.

Of the many thoughts I entertained during the night, I came to the realization that in my life time, I would never be able to learn how to play the violin or cello at the concert level. Yet, I am thankful that some people chose to develop a skill to such a level that it can entertain, move and inspire everyone who comes to see them perform.

ATP Rankings are for the fans

Can Federer return to the top of the tennis world? For those interested in tennis or competitive sport, this is the debate. Given that Federer has a proven track record of dominating the men's circuit, his skill and ability to win cannot be questioned. Thus, where might Federer look to regain his advantage and return to the number 1 spot?

In my soon to be published book, The Champion's Way, I identify a variety of factors that separate the champions from the winners and the winners from the rest of the field. Federer certainly qualifies for the champion category and even at the number 2 level in the ATP rankings Federer is still effectively at the top of the tennis world.

An athlete of Federer's caliber is not interested in the rankings. Winning is what matters to the champion and if winning puts a competitor atop the world rankings, then being number 1 in the rankings is a result not a goal. Thus, the first step in Federer's return to the number 1 position, in the ATP rankings is to ignore the rankings and focus on winning tennis matches.

Next, because winning at the level of Federer takes such an enormous amount of energy and effort, reassessing the structure that makes it possible for the champion to win is necessary. For example, it could be as simple as changing the conditioning and practice routines or something more complicated such as assessing the desire to win and the requirements behind that desire. Does Federer still have the desire to put out the effort it takes to continue winning?

Every athlete wants to win, but only a select few are able and willing to put in the necessary effort that makes it possible to win and especially to win regularly at the highest levels of sport. Federer remains a threat in every tennis match he enters. Barring physical injury or retirement, his days of winning the tennis majors and other tournaments have not ended. Whether or not he retakes the number 1 spot in the ATP rankings is irrelevant to his career.

What drives your life energy?

In my previous blog relating to diet and exercise, I ended with a handful of questions that I will start to address in this blog. The first question is a rhetorical question that really is asking what drives us every day to get out of bed and live life?

To answer this question, there are two sets of factors one external and the other internal. Externally, there is your job, relationships and the basic need for food. Internally, there are your personal goals and aspirations. Satisfying either of these two factors takes a conscious effort. For example, you must get up and buy food if you want food or you must call your friends if you want to have friends. If you have a personal goal, you must do the work to reach that goal. If these are the things that drive your life energy, then what are you doing to improve your chances of success?

I will suggest that the basis for your life energy goes one step deeper and that is your health. It is not just the things that you must do or that you would like to do that drives you through life, but it is your daily approach to your physical fitness. What are you doing on a daily basis to ensure that you have the energy to live your life and pursue your goals? If you are like most Americans, you are not doing enough for your health, yet you push your body to the limits to satisfy your daily needs and to reach your personal goals.

When you are young, it is easy to get away with less focus on your health and more focus on your life needs and pursuits. What happens if you reach your goals and you no longer have your health? The answer is simple, you have nothing, unless health does not matter and the satisfaction of reaching your goals is your only pursuit. The irony is that you could have had both and you could have perhaps even achieved higher goals, if you had balanced your health along with the desire to achieve.

Taking care of your health will drive your life energy. The results are both immediate and long term. It will make it possible for you to strive for all of your life goals and ambitions and then enjoy that for which you worked so hard to achieve.

Exercise & Weight Loss

In 1979, my exercise physiology professor told me that, under normal circumstances, weight loss was a matter of calories in versus calories out. Fast forward 31 years; things have not changed.

This basic equation still governs weight gain and loss in otherwise healthy individuals. What has changed or evolved over these years are the many books touting special diets and exercise techniques along with different sorts of things to ingest including the latest pills that influence what your body absorbs.

The common thread with the many specialized weight loss techniques is the commitment to some kind of program. With such programs you commit your wallet and time to the latest fad or pill. Purchase the literature. Purchase the goods and take your chances that someday longitudinal scientific studies will not come out and say that those special pills and the diet du jour are the causes of an awful disease or condition.

You could also commit yourself to a simple program of regular exercise and eating less. This straight forward approach requires a physical commitment and mental commitment. Physically, one must make the time to start exercising and stop lifting copious amounts of healthy or unhealthy food into their mouths. Mentally, one must decide that living and striving for a healthy and comfortable life is worth the effort. If one were truly committed to their personal well being, it should be relatively easy to wake up one morning and change eating habits and start doing regular exercise.

Regular exercise and diet is an interactive system. On the surface a very simple system. It may or may not cost extra money. It requires a basic knowledge of how to exercise and what to eat. You could start with the simple mantra: Eat less - Move more! You could write this phrase on the back of your hand or on your kitchen table for a reminder. You are in control of bringing your hand to your mouth. You are in control of standing up and putting one foot in front of the other and moving. So why not take charge?

As far as what to eat, many books have been written on the amounts of proteins versus fats and carbohydrates that you should eat. Books have been written on the content of different foods, from natural to man made. All of this information is helpful as we do need a balanced and safe diet. However, in the end you could eat 3000 calories of meals containing the proper balance and types of carbohydrates, fats and proteins along with free range everything, hormone free, certified organic and healthy and do nothing for exercise and still gain weight because you did not use more calories than you ate.

Nevertheless, given everything we know about simple exercise and diet, fad diets, pills and special programs the statistics still suggest many people are failing in their attempts to lose weight. Healthy, highly intelligent and driven individuals capable of performing super human feats of hard work and effort to build successful companies are failing along with those individuals with less drive and motivation. Why are so many people failing in their attempts to lose weight?

Is it the industry? Everyday the industry is coming up with new fitness routines and fun programs to get people motivated. We tell you that strength and endurance training along with a healthy and balanced diet and 8 hours of sleep will help you to live longer and have more productive lives. We translate this into things like more time with your kids and loved ones. We tell you things like greater mobility and perhaps no need for assistance as you age. We tell you that the science says you are less likely to get the diseases that no one wants to get at any time in life. Yet all of this is still not enough.

Is it the fact that as a society we are getting soft....not just around the mid-section, but in our life energy? Have we all fallen into the trap of being so over worked and coddled and catered to, that we really just do not want to or cannot put out the effort. Is it that we would rather entertain ourselves and listen to our ipods? Is it the expectation that everything in life is supposed to be easy and when it is hard we give up? Why does everything have to be fun? Why does everything have to feel good in order for us to take part in an activity or to achieve a goal? Are there no longer things that we do just because we should? Perhaps this is the disease that needs to be cured.


In order to start writing about champions and winning, it is necessary to have an understanding of the terms that I will use throughout these blogs. I have found and observed that words associated with sport, like other words and such in our society have taken on shades of gray.

With this muting and nuancing of words and their meanings comes confusion. Borders and parameters go away and virtually any meaning for a particular word becomes acceptable. With respect to sport, this hinders individual progress, dulls the outcomes and perhaps robs us of future great champions.

A sporting contest, implies a competition between individuals or teams where the performance is measured and scored. This means at the end of any single, completed contest there are only three possible results, a tie(no decision), a win or a loss. The individual or team who has the best score or time is the winner. Unless otherwise noted in a particular blog, winning is defined as first place.

The word champion has various meanings in sport. In the Olympics, there is the Olympic champion also known as the gold medal winner. This well earned title lasts a life time, but after 4 years there is a new Olympic champion replacing the victor from the previous Olympiad. For some, Olympic victory is the single biggest victory and potentially the only big victory in their careers and for others it is one of many victories. Similarly, for example, golf and tennis have their US Open Champions and defending champions and multiple champions.

There are end of season champions at virtually every level of team or individual sports. These champions are given such titles as club champions, league champions, city champions or NCAA champions. In general, the title champion is conferred on the winner of an end of season event or a single contest deemed worthy of producing a champion versus a winner. For the purpose of these blogs and unless otherwise noted, the definition of a champion goes one step further than the winner of a single event or season ending event as described above.

Champions are those individuals who win and win and win. They win throughout the season, they win the playoffs, season ending titles, Olympic gold medals, world championship gold medals and any major event that defines their sport. Further, they seem to do this on a regular basis, more than once. The champions are regularly on the top of their sport. They are on the top because they win. They are the athletes to beat.

The research for this book was based on individual sports versus team sports as individual actions were easier to measure. For example, we can look at the Los Angeles Lakers or the Chicago Bulls over certain periods and call them champions. When we start to pull those teams apart individually, we find Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. These are and were the individuals on their respective teams who represent the champion mentality that I found in my research. Yet, Kobe had Shaq and Jordan had Scottie Pippen. These two great champions were surrounded by teammates whose presence and skills made winning championships possible. In the case of Kobe, some have argued that it was Shaq and not Kobe who led the Lakers to victory. With team sports the one caveat is that winning and losing is dependent on an entire team.

Losing is a term that defines the other side of winning. Losing has nothing to do with one’s humanity. It is a result of a contest on any given day that presumably could even change after the next competition. After losing a competition, an individual or team then become the losers. Any reference to losing or loser is simply a definition of the other side of winning. With every winner there is a loser.

We can say that time just ran out for the losing team. We can say that it was a hard fought competition in which there are no losers. There are a variety of ways to describe the results of a competition, but for the purposes of these blogs the definitions will be kept simple.

Winners are the individuals who win a specific competition. Losers are the individuals on the other side of that victory. Champions are the athletes who win and win and win. They win at every level and they do so consistently over a period of time.

The Champion's Way

The Champion's Way is a book that was written based on my doctoral dissertation. The idea for this research came after leaving a coaching job with the US Ski Team to pursue a doctoral degree at Boston University. I went back to school for personal interests and to have an impact on how athletes are coached and developed.

At the time of my research, there was a dearth of information about winning in the educational, scientific and general literature data bases. In fact, at that time most sport psychology books rarely even used the word winning let alone defined winning as first place. Thus, I decided to focus directly on the concept of winning. I wanted to learn how and why some people win, while other seemingly very talented athletes never win.< /p>

Through this research much was revealed about athletes who win. In fact, I was able to differentiate between champion athletes and athletes who win occasionally or athletes who never win. Champions are defined as the multiple - expected winners. They are the athletes who win regularly at every level, including the highest levels of their sport.  There are differences between career champions and champions for a day. 

Understanding winning and defining winning are critical to discovering and staying on the path one must take in order to become a champion.  After reading The Champion's Way coaches of youth sport, beginners, elite and professional athletes will be able to better serve the individuals and teams that they are coaching. Parents of young and aspiring athletes may also benefit from this knowledge. Athletes themselves will have a better understanding of what it takes to win and to become a champion in their particular sport.

Lastly, understanding the path to becoming a champion can also help those in search of general fitness and potentially those who have high aspirations completely outside of the sports and/or fitness worlds. In the following blogs you will learn about champion athletes and the path one must take in order to become a champion. These blogs will be based on my original dissertation research and my continued research and interest in human potential. These blogs will give you a glimpse of The Champion's Way


Champions are comfortable with themselves

Looking back on his career, Miller spoke to Hicks about how he wanted to be remembered. "I hope people see truth when I ski," said Miller. "I don't have an agenda when I'm out there. I don't try to cover things up or look cool. Skiing is such a raw sport and people pick out what they want to see.

"That's would be something I would hope would stand out - the honesty of my skiing."

These comments made during an interview with Universal Sport's Dan Hicks, give a window into the mind of a champion athlete.

Champions are not trying to look like or be like anything or anyone, but themselves.

This means, that every time Bodie steps into a starting gate he has the absolute freedom to ski exactly the way he wants and the way he feels is best. The ability to be yourself and to act without hesitation or question is very powerful.

The moment an athlete leaves this mindset and try's to create a persona the distractions begin and the winning stops.

Shiffrin on pressure

"I truly believe that pressure is what you make it," Shiffrin said after coming from behind to win the slalom. "And if you work hard enough and you prepare well enough, no matter how much pressure you feel, you can still perform."
Quote taken from ESPN W. Feb 21, 2015. Mikaela Shiffrin talking about her gold medal in the World Championships in Beaver Creek Colorado.

The simplest approach to high level performance and in this case winning is to prepare better than any of your competitors. Through my research of champion athletes, a differentiating factor between those who win regularly and those who win on occasion or not at all, was their level of preparation.

There is a nuance here because "sweating" and time on task is not enough to qualify as being prepared better than the competition. The champion finishes a training session as tired mentally as physically. The champion finishes every training session having learned and/or perfected a desired skill. Each practice session has a distinct purpose.

It is this daily attention to detail which gives a champion the ability to stand at the top of the race course and be in control. For the well prepared athlete, it is just another race.

For a champion, every race is the same

"I try to win as many races as I can. Every time I'm in the starting gate I'm trying to win, whether it's 60, 61, 62 or whatever it is, I just try to ski my best. So it was more frustrating just talking about this record in the media. But for me mentally it was the same as any other race. Now I'm happy we can stop talking about it."
Lindsey Vonn, as quoted on the FIS-Ski.com website, January 18th, 2015

As Lindsey Vonn talked about win number 62, what stood out in this quote was her line: "But for me mentally it was the same as any other race."

Champions do not differentiate between races. In every race, they are competing with the same purpose, which is to win. This consistency of approach is a critical component of their mental strength. It helps to reduce or eliminate pressure, as it makes every race the same.

Give the water a try!

Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA's all time greats is experiencing what most athletes go through at the twilight of their careers, injury and physical breakdown fighting against the desire and ability to still compete at the highest level.

As things go, the aging body always wins this battle. Of the many questions one could ask, the questions - Could this have been delayed? If so, how? - seem appropriate.

Many years ago, I was giving a well known NBA player a series of pool workouts. The countless hours spent running and jumping had made his knees sore and like Bryant, he was doing everything possible to stay on the court. During one of our pool sessions, he exclaimed: "I wish that I had been doing these kinds of workouts earlier in my career. If I did, my knees would still be working."

While I have no idea what any professional basketball team is doing for their physical conditioning, I would bet that water training is not a regular part of their off season or in season program.

Whether you are a high school athlete, a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, the pool should play a major role in your conditioning and sports preparation routine. It will take a highly tuned body to the next level and it will reduce the inevitable wear and tear to your joints. It may even prolong your career.

I hope that Kobe Bryant has discovered the power of water. With a properly developed pool program, he will be able to stay in shape with the least amount of stress on his aging body and joints. Most importantly, he may just get another productive year or two added on to his already illustrious career.

Full steam or nothing

"If I don't have a sense everything is basically full steam, I'm not going to run,"
Bode Miller, US Ski Team January 2nd, 2015 AP article published on ESPN.

These are the words of a champion. Individuals who are the very best will not compete unless they believe they are capable of winning. "Full steam" for Bode means being able to compete at the level which makes winning possible.

This is a strong message for any junior skier or any other athlete who thinks that competing through injury is the way to winning gold medals. While champions may certainly compete with aches and pains, they will not enter the starting gate unless they know they can go 100%, which at Bode's level means competing to win.

The take home message for any injured junior skier or any other athlete, unless you can get into the starting gate knowing that you can give 100%, you are not yet ready for competition. You will not get your desired result and more importantly you run the added risk of further injury.