Thursday, August 30, 2007

How I got into Sports Psychology

How I got into Sports Psychology.
By Paschal Baute.

There were several turning points. Fist fights were common in my grade school, anywhere and anytime. I was not very successful, either in these or other competitive games, even marbles.
There were no opportunities for team sports, no Little Leagues of any kind, and no swimming pools. I did not learn to swim until summer camp, Camp Fort Scott, near Cincinnati til I was 12 years old. I felt very much the outsider with other boys and gangs. And was bullied and terrorized by one large boy who used to surprise me with rock throwing on the way home f rom school.

In my sophomore high school year, I had a friend who introduced me to the joys and challenges of distance running. I was hooked and began running distances just for the sake of doing it. At home in Lebanon, I would run to the swimming hole (nearest place then to swim) and back just for the sake of running and doing it. I continued this practice for 20 years well into my thirties, and often averaged 20 miles per week. During some very difficult and stressful times in my monastic life, I feel my running is probably what kept me sane.

In boarding school my senior year, I went out for all the sports I could. I earned varsity letters in football, track, swimming and riflery. A high point of my life, at age 17, with that background, was being one of two seniors in my senior class who earned four varsity letters my senior year.

I had picked up boxing gloves in high school, and by that time, learned to use my fists, with a good left jab and right cross. In college I entered the Bengal Bouts, boxing tourney at University of Notre Dame, and won one or two. I had my choice of several schools in the U.S. Army in 1948 and chose Physical Training Instructor School at Fort Bragg, N.C. Graduating, I was sent to Guam, Mariana Islands. in the South Pacific.

There in that M.O.S, I worked in Special Services to organize, conduct and referral sports for all the Army units on Guam, of which there were many. I organized volleyball and Six man flag football with round robin tournaments. I refereed boxing matches for pocket money. I participated on the swimming, track and boxing teams. I went to Japan twice once on the Swimming team and once as track coach of the Track and Field team from Guam. I think it was also then that I became qualified as a Red Cross Life Saving and also First Aid Instructor.

I won the welterweight Far Eastern Command Boxing Championship while there. Have pictures.
Returning to college, I majored in Physical Education at University of Notre Dame, became #1 man on the USAFR rifle team, participating in swimming (high point man on the freshman team, gymnastics, wrestling and won the welterweight Bengal Bouts Boxing Championship.

I was hired by the University of Michigan Speech Improvement Camp, near Traverse City, Michigan as a camp counselor and athletic instructor. I learned first hand, how athletics and sports could increase the self-image and confidence of boys of all levels who were handicapped in their speech, sometimes terribly handicapped. The camp was a powerful experience not only for the boys but for the diverse staff of both speech language teachers but athletic coaches. It was such a powerful and rewarding experience that I later considered doing my graduate work in speech.

When I joined the Benedictine monastery at St. Leo in Florida, we had a first class College Preparatory school, (now it is St. Leo University). Soon I was organized physical education programs for the entire school, grades 7 through 12., intramural sports, (each boy played on six teams each year and regular sports skills classes. Soccer was not well known. We organized our first high school soccer team, spiced with Latin students from Cuba, Venezuela and other Latin countries. We competed against adult soccer clubs from the surrounding towns, Orlando, etc, in the absence of any high school competition, but soon found more competition because soccer was growing nationally. We had the first high school soccer team and one of the first college soccer teams in the state of Florida.. When I took over as Athletic Director of our Prep, that also involved helping coach our high school football team.

After a disastrous beginning of that first football season–we lost the first two games by large scores and did not score a single touchdown–I decided I needed to go psychological, that is, to undertake how to get this discouraged team “back in the game,” more specifically up for the third game of the season, which was scheduled across the state with a team that was undefeated in the last ten games, St. Ann’s of West Palm Beach.

I will report only the outcome. I worked for days to get these young men so up, so ready, so believing in themselves, that they would not be denied victory that Friday night in September. It was a massive defensible battle played almost entirely in mid field between the 20 yard lines. Our guys would not let their guys score. We could not move the ball consistently against them, except on one single play which caught them off guard. We won 6-0, against a team that had been undefeated ten straight, and it was the turning point of the season for our players . I think we lost only one other game that year. I used a variety of sports imagery and imagination to ‘psych” our guys, but also allowed each one to buy in or not.

Being a distance runner early in high school, I was always fascinated with TIME, and beating my previous times, stretching myself each time. I knew that I could push myself, set a slightly faster paces, and if the conditioning were sufficient keep it til the tape. The four minute mile fascinated me, as I was a miler in high school, and determined to reduce my time each match. The world record for the mile had hovered at 4:01 for decades, and I was sure that it was a psychological barrier, one that was sure to be broken soon. College came along, then miliary service, then college again, and I did not stay focused on the mile run. Roger Bannister, born the same year as myself, broke the four minute mile record in May of 1954. After that psychological barrier had been passed, it was repeatedly lowered again and again. So challenging oneself to go beyond what others think is possible has been a fascination with me.

From the age of 18 to 23, about five years, I climbed into the boxing ring some 29 times, in from of crowds from a few hundred to several thousand, in the U. S. Army and back at University of Notre Dame, winning 21 of the matches. As stated earlier, I won several championships in the welterweight (147) class. Most of those times, 28, I did not know the skill of the other boxer . Once I was beaten in a boxing match with an Air Force guy, but I knew I did not bring my A game that night, so I challenged him to a re-match, and decisively beat him. That is the only time I knew ahead of time the actual skill of my opponent. Several times, I took some lickings.

My wife and I loved water skiing and slalom. We were often at the lake when the kids were growing up. I did not consider the day at the lake a real success unless I had slallomed 4 or 5 times, each time as long and hard as I could. My wife got us into downhill skiing for her 50th birthday. It changed out lives. We have skied 6 countries, ten states and about 40 resorts, Midwest, West Virginia, Vermont, Colorado, Utah and Canada. We are still crazy about it, and go weekly from December to March. I have raced in the NASTAR downhill competition against by age group and won the silver and the bronze. Each time I went for the gold I wiped out and about ruined my ski season, so no longer compete. I did have some real crashes and broken ribs. We have introduced many persons both to water skiing and downhill skiing and both were family sports.

I know first hand that sports performance is about attitude. I have been able to ski on bad knees for about four years, ever since the VA was ready to give me total knee replacement. No, no5 like I used to, but I ski and still have some awesome days on the slopes. We love the outdoors, particularly in the winter time.

Perhaps the above can explain how sports psychology became not merely a professional interest, but a passion and intimate part of my life. I learned first by teaching myself sports skills, e.g. diving, by imaging and rehearsing imagery to do the one and a half, and other such, and then later via the use of professional hypnosis to give athletes the imagery they needed to excel, also over many years.

I have been honored to share this enthusiasm and skill in programming attitudes with many others. . . Thanks for listening. Questions?



Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales quits. . .

What a toadie! Typical of Bush appointments They had to suck up. And were given more power and endorsement by W. on their wilingness to suck up. Gonzales, Rove, Miers, Bolton, and many others.

Gonzales will shine as an example of one characteristic theme of the Bush admiistraiton:

Good riddance.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dark Night of Soul of Mother Teresa, new book.

Mother Teresa’s hidden faith struggle, laid bare in a new book that shows she felt alone and separated from God, is forcing a re-examination of one of the world’s best known religious figures.

The depth of her doubts could be viewed by nonbelievers and skeptics as more evidence of the emptiness of religious belief. But Roman Catholic scholars and supporters of the woman who toiled in Calcutta’s slums and called herself “a pencil in God’s hand” argue that her struggles make her more accessible and her work all the more remarkable.

“It shows that she wasn’t a plaster-of-Paris saint who never had a doubt about God or the ultimate meaning of life,” said the Rev. Richard McBrien, a University of Notre Dame theology professor and author of “Lives of the Saints.” “This can only enhance her reputation as a saintly person with people who aren’t easily impressed with pious stories. Those who think otherwise have a lot of learning to do about the complexities of life and about the nature of faith.”

This revelation about Mother Teresa’s dark years of the soul is not new. Her ordeal, laid out to a series of confessors and confidants, became public knowledge in 2003 during the investigation into her cause for sainthood, a process fast-tracked by Pope John Paul II.

But “Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the ’Saint of Calcutta,”’ to be released Sept. 4 by Doubleday, collects her thoughts in one place for the first time, inviting a closer review of her life 10 years after her death.

A ‘deep longing for God’
The book was edited by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, a priest who knew Mother Teresa for 20 years and is the postulator for her sainthood cause. It depicts Mother Teresa as a mystic who experienced visions of Jesus speaking to her early in her ministry, only to lose that connection and long for it like an unrequited love for most of her last four decades.

“I have no Faith — I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart — & make me suffer untold agony,” she wrote in an undated letter.

In 1956, she wrote: “Such deep longing for God and ... repulsed empty no faith no love no zeal. ... Heaven means nothing pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything.”

Mother Teresa acknowledged the apparent contradiction with per public persona, describing her ever-present smile as “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.”

Some writings seem to suggest she doubted God’s existence. She wrote in 1959: “What do I labour for? If there be no God — there can be no soul — if there is no Soul then Jesus You also are not true.”

Inspiration through pain?
In an interview, Kolodiejchuk argued that, read in context, Mother Teresa’s faith remained. Her unwavering belief that God was working through her shows that while Mother Teresa lamented missing that feeling of connection with God, she didn’t doubt his existence, he said.

“There’s always a risk in publishing like this that some people will misinterpret it,” Kolodiejchuk said. “But the far greater good will be for those consoled and encouraged by Mother and her example.”

Many other saints and revered religious figures have experienced doubt and struggle; Mother Teresa’s namesake, St. Therese of Lisieux, described a “night of nothingness.”

What makes Mother Teresa’s journey so striking, Kolodiejchuk said, are the depths of her pain, the extraordinary length of it and its documentation in the letters she left behind.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Todfay is a happy day. Thank you, Lord.

Today is one of my happiest days.

We spent four months, conceiving, planning, preparing and land-scraping, then building and finally LANDscaping, with cairns, our Labyrinth. Turner Lyman's help was crucial. He is a minor genius at what he is able to do, both conceptually and as a craftsman.

Today, ten persons at our annual 18th birthday anniversary of SGN of Ky, we blessed and dedicated it, and enjoyed it.

Such a sense of completed work, about 140 hours, 24 truckloads of dirt, mulch and sand brought in, shoveled and shaped, pressed and carpeted, then Turner starting in July was able finally to put down the pathways.

Every time, I gaze on it, I am surprised at the beauty of it, and the place we together chose. It is mostly in the shade, but bubbles of sunlight dance over it all day long.

Today we also constructed the SGN cairn, and it is lovely in its diversity

Barbara Lyman said today was a "Camelot day." It was, truly. A touch of September in the air after a blistering week,. I have a strong sense tonight of giving something really beautiful back to the world that can be most meaningful for the personal spiritual journey.

I closed the blessing with my favorite prayer, Mary's song from Luke, the Magnificat, which I often pray and sing to myself during the day.

Thank you, Lord, for today. Thank you for Janette, and all of my life. I am blessed beyond all deserving. Amen.

8:30 p.m. Saturday, August 18


Earlier this month, Steve Skvara, a disabled, retired steel worker who can't afford his wife's health care, shook the AFL-CIO's Presidential Candidates Forum by asking tearfully, "What's wrong with America?"

We should all be asking that question today.

We've got six coal miners trapped beneath more than 1,500 feet of Utah coal and rock, three brave men who struggled to rescue them are dead and six more are injured.

And it's not because of an act of God. It's because of the acts of man.

The disaster still unfolding at the Crandall Canyon mine did not have to happen. It was preventable--as were the deaths of 12 coal miners last year in the Sago Mine in West Virginia. As have been many, many more deaths of workers in America's coal mines and factories, fishing vessels, offices and construction sites.

Safety concerns about the Crandall Canyon mine surfaced months ago, and safety experts warned of particular dangers in the "retreat mining" technique used there after it was approved by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

In retreat mining, coalminers essentially pull out roof-supporting pillars of coal as they work their way out of the mine. The retreat mining plan at Crandall Canyon, says United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts, "appears to have been flawed, to say the least. In our opinion, that plan should never have been approved."

No one should be surprised it was approved, though. The Bush administration has been systematically dismantling and cutting funding for workplace safety rules and oversight since it came into office.

Paschal: Bush got his "fox in the henhouse" Director of Mine Safety by bypassing review of Congress, by a recess appointment. His appointment had been rejected by AFL=CIO and congressional Democrats (see separate articles on this) This Director earlier rejected additional Safety rules.

Every day in 2005 (the most recent data available), 16 workers died on the job and 12,000 were made sick--and that doesn't include the occupational diseases that kill 50,000 to 60,000 more workers each year. In many if not most of these cases, one of two things occurred: An employer disregarded the law, or the law wasn't strong enough to protect workers.

Something is deeply wrong with America today. Working men and women have lost their value to the people who have been running this country for too long. Ruthless CEOs wring working people dry and the neocon ideologues in the White House help them.

Our wages are stagnant, our benefits are disappearing, the middle class is shrinking and, for the first time, there's a good chance our children will not be better off than our generation. We're the most productive workers in the world but we have to work more hours, more jobs and send more family members into the workforce just to keep up.

The heroes who rushed to Ground Zero to save lives and who dug and sweated and struggled for months after Sept. 11, 2001, are suffering today from neglect and indifference. Neglect and indifference left thousands stranded on rooftops and in a dark convention center after Hurricane Katrina. Neglect and indifference meant deplorable conditions for veterans recovering at Walter Reed. Neglect and indifference kill far too many of us on the job.

There's a reason so many people who never will step foot in a coal mine are riveted by the story of the trapped, dead and injured miners. There's a reason Steve Skvara's comment at our presidential forum moved so many people. There's a reason candidates committed to improving the well-being of working men and women took back Congress last year and will take back the White House next year.

Working men and women--the great majority in this country--want to fix what's wrong with America.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Inside a new anti-war campaign. Eleanor Clift, Newsweek.

Inside a New Antiwar Campaign
By Eleanor Clift

Friday 03 August 2007

Inside the antiwar movement's effort to embarrass the GOP into changing its position on Iraq.

Remember President Bush's summer from hell? Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan had camped out in Crawford, Texas, igniting the nascent antiwar movement. Two years later, as Congress heads off on its August recess, antiwar activists are waging their Iraq Summer campaign. The idea: to bird-dog 40 lawmakers, all Republicans, much the way Sheehan did Bush.

Unlike Californian Sheehan, these protesters are homegrown. When Minnesota's Republican Sen. Norm Coleman looks out his picture window, he sees a sign directly across the street on his neighbor's lawn that says, SUPPORT THE TROOPS, END THE WAR. Coleman has spoken out against the war effort, but has yet to break with his party to join the Democrats in setting a timetable for withdrawal. He is one of 10 Republican senators on the target list for the campaign.

The proximity of the sign to the embattled senator's home in July became the backdrop for the neighbor's press conference, which ran on the local evening news. She was polite about her differences with Coleman, but she wanted folks to know where she stands. "It was all very Minnesota-nice," says Tara McGuinness of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), a coalition of progressive and labor groups that united under the antiwar banner and is behind the Iraq Summer campaign. Their model is the Mississippi Summer Project, the 1964 effort that pushed for civil-rights legislation.

The campaign aims to push Republicans to take a stand on withdrawal, in defiance of Bush, whose approval rating specifically for his handling of the war is stuck at a miserable 24 percent, according to the NEWSWEEK Poll released today. Roughly two thirds (68 percent) of Americans thought taking military action against Iraq was the right thing to do in July 2003 (not long after Bush declared his "mission accomplished"). Today that number is roughly half that (35 percent). Only 16 percent of the public think the situation in Iraq is improving, while 41 percent think conditions are getting worse.

So Iraq War veterans on the AAEI payroll are confronting recalcitrant members of Congress about their ongoing support for the war. Tom Matzzie, AAEI's campaign manager, says he relishes these face-to-face contacts when "the target" gets the "hard ask" to take a stand to help end the war. Scenes of lawmakers evading protesters have become a staple on YouTube. Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk got a taste of the tactic when his aides barred a man wearing a sticker that says IRAQ WAR, WRONG WAY from a meeting in his home district. The man, an Iraqi War vet working with AAEI, waited outside as Kirk brushed by to duck into a waiting dark sedan. Kirk looks evasive dipping into the car while saying he won't talk to someone with the DCCC, which is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. All the while, the video camera is rolling.

These tactics are having an effect. When grassroots canvassers were in the Kentucky neighborhood of Senate leader Mitch McConnell, the Capitol police who protect him wherever he goes asked how long they planned to be there. Suspecting that McConnell didn't want to venture out until they were gone, they stayed well into the evening in what turned out to be a nine-hour vigil. Counter protesters showed up but left after an hour. McConnell ended up switching his flight back to Washington because of the bird-dogging. And this was after he declared on one of the Sunday shows that the vast majority of people in his state support the war effort. "Not in his neighborhood," says Matzzie.

Admittedly, this is small-bore stuff that doesn't make it onto the radar in Washington. But it's unfolding in real time on the Internet and it's just annoying enough that it might make a difference. The targeted Republicans have all changed their tune about Iraq; they just haven't adjusted their votes. "We see the softening of their rhetoric as movement, and now we have to tip them over the edge," says Matzzie. AAEI has a paid staff of 130 and a budget that has ballooned to $12 million, a quarter of which was raised online, with a principle underwriter. Internet donations spike when things look the bleakest in Washington, says Matzzie. "People at the grassroots say we just have to work harder, we have to double down. People really care a lot."

Back in Minnesota, Coleman, who is up for re-election in 2008, is certainly feeling the heat. His poll ratings are anemic. He faces a challenge in the Republican primary and potentially a race against the comedian Al Franken, a Minnesota native who's returned home to challenge the Brooklyn-born Coleman. If the AAEI tactics succeed, Coleman should be carrying enough bruises from the brutal coverage that he'll be ready to take more than baby steps away from Bush. And he may not be the only Republican to decide that he cares about his party's position on Iraq, but not quite as much as his own political survival.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sports Psychologist

Young Athletes Try New Coach: The Psychologist

A competitive gymnast for most of her life, Heather Benjamin has traveled the country and won her share of awards. But last year she developed a fear of jumping from one bar to the other in the uneven bars event. So she did something familiar to professional sports stars — she talked to a sports psychologist.

“It made such a difference,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Lynn Haven, Fla. “We worked through the fear, and that has let me relax. I would tell anyone that it’s worth it.”

Heather was 9 at the time.

For $225 a session, Alan Goldberg counseled her during 12 hourlong telephone conversations across five months. At recent national and Junior Olympic competitions, Heather surpassed her previous scores by three ability levels.

“It was a phobia,” said her mother, Donna Benjamin, who had decided Heather would benefit from the counseling. “A mental block that hindered her ability to compete.”

The idea that mental coaching can help the youngest athletes has pervaded the upper reaches of the country’s zealous youth sports culture. In the pursuit of college scholarships and top spots on premier travel clubs, the families of young athletes routinely pay for personal strength coaches, conditioning coaches, specialized skill coaches like pitching or hitting instructors, nutritionists and recruiting consultants. Now, the personal sports psychologist has joined the entourage.

“Parents tell me that they’ve put so much money into their child’s athletic development that they’re not going to leave any stone unturned if it might help them achieve,” said Marty Ewing, a former president of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology. “And obviously, we do have ways to help enrich performance.”

But many sports psychologists, including those who see young athletes, say they wonder if the treatment is not overkill in a youth sports landscape bursting with excess.

“On the one hand, it’s foolish not to teach kids mental skills they may need,” said Daniel Gould, a sports psychologist who is also the director of Michigan State’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports. “On the flip side, is it just contributing to the professionalism of childhood? Because these kids aren’t playing for the New York Yankees. And worse, I worry that some parents are doing it just because their neighbor did it for his kid.”

Several sports psychologists said their primary work with young athletes was counseling the parents or coaches.

“The root of the problem is often the triangle of parent, coach and athlete and the conflicts created,” said Jay Granat, a New Jersey sports psychologist who said 40 percent of his practice dealt with athletes ranging in age from 11 to 18. “The parents have the right intentions. They want their kid to be the next Tiger Woods. But those fantasies are getting in the way.”

The trend toward specializing in one sport at an early age has also led more young athletes to seek counseling.

“If an 11-year-old is told that focusing on one sport is all that matters, it obviously puts a lot of pressure on every outcome in that sport,” Dr. Ewing said. “We are asking that 11-year-old to play a game at a level that is disproportionate to his or her cognitive development. That’s development you can’t rush, but people try.”

Dr. Gould said the parents of a 14-year-old tennis player were concerned their son was not focused all the time. His response was, “ ‘Yeah, he’s 14 — that’s pretty normal.’ ”

He added: “Just because we can dress up a 14-year-old like Andy Roddick, he’s still not as old as Andy Roddick. He’s 14, and he’s going to do some dumb things.”

Sports psychology is a thriving business, and not only for children. Elite professional athletes have consulted with psychologists since the 1980s, and now top college players and recreational weekend warriors also want to fine-tune their mental muscles and pay $125 to $250 an hour to do so. The Internet is awash with Web sites that promote sports psychologists who promise to cure choking under pressure and other competition failures.

Much of the hype, however, is focused on the youngest athletes, with psychologists offering catchy slogans for their therapy. Many sites also promote books and educational CDs costing up to $100.

Professionals who offer sports psychology services are generally classified in two groups: educational and clinical. Many in the educational group are college professors of sports psychology. Those in the clinical group are often licensed psychologists who treat patients besides athletes and may work in areas like depression, eating disorders or alcoholism.

What sports psychologists say they deal with most is performance problems, usually linked to pregame nerves or postgame frustrations.

Sarah Mott, a 15-year-old swimmer, said she was filled with negative thoughts before races, so much so that she contemplated quitting what had been her favorite sport since she was 4. Mott, who lives in Frederick, Md., contacted Dr. Goldberg at his office in Massachusetts on the recommendation of a teammate.

“He changed the way I thought about my races,” Mott said. “He gave me techniques to relax and focus that I worked on for weeks in practices. Some of it was like homework, things I would write down to focus my goals or ways to better understand why I wanted to swim. My results got a lot better, but the best thing is I love swimming again.”

The lessons, sports psychologists say, are useful beyond sports.

“Learning to concentrate, to relax and have confidence, to deal with frustration, to set goals and stay focused on the task at hand, these are life skills,” Joel Fish, the director of the Center for Sport Psychology in Philadelphia, said. “They will help you take an English test, not just get a hit in a baseball game.”

But Dr. Fish, like many of his colleagues, said some parents seemed to be having their athletic children see the sports psychologist too soon.

“They’re coming in at 7, 8 and 9 years old, and usually I say: ‘Just give it some time. This will work itself out,’ ” he said. “Sometimes I tell them it’s O.K. to take a season off.”

To Donna Benjamin, the timing was right. She recently watched Heather in a competition and marveled at the transformation.

“It’s a drastic change and something that years of coaching and parenting did not accomplish,” Mrs. Benjamin said. “You watch the joy she has again, and I’m just so happy for her.”