“Be in concert with one another in times of need.” ~ Phil Jackson
One afternoon when I was shuffling off to Buffalo at Jeanne Benson’s Dance Academy in Ocala, Fl, the entire Dunnellon High School Fighting Tigers football team slunk past the main observation window.
I’ve never forgotten the juxtaposition of my fellow classmates, dressed out in tights and heads hung low, lumbering toward a practice room while the most delicate classical music gracefully glided through the studio.
Certainly I would have rather impaled myself on the clarinet I played in marching band than have football players see me in dance attire but those guys looked so miserable I felt sorry for them.
When the Ocala Star Banner’s article (complete with a huge picture of the fellas in full on arabesque position) about Dunnellon coach Richard Kennedy making the Tigers take dance classes hit Marion County mailboxes, the community went berserk.
Oh the naysayers.
Well in 1978 and ‘79 Coach Richard Kennedy lead the Dunnellon Tigers to 36 straight wins and back to back state championships. Further, Mr. “He Done Lost His Mind” coached 104 games for Dunnellon – 49 of which were shutouts and 27 allowed for just one score from the opposing team.
Based on the article’s opening it would be tutu obvious for me to suggest Muschamp usher our Gators on down to the local dance studio and have ‘em twirl around it a time or two.
But I’m a woman. This means I have something far more ridiculous in mind.
Now, ballet classes certainly couldn’t hurt our team’s performance. If you’re rolling your eyes, stop long enough to read about Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon, who, yes, takes a weekly ballet class at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
However, where I’m really going with this is the forward and “there is no box” thinking that coach Kennedy employed, the results of which speak for themselves.
Kennedy is not alone in his adoption of ‘off the beaten path’ practices.
Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson takes his teams off the path of being beaten by utilizing mindfulness and meditation.
Oh, and FYI, I’m bringing Oprah to the table today, too. She is the mother ship after all.
BTW, I can hear you and the cacophonous, “This is why women shouldn’t be sports writers!” does not deter me in my mission.
Besides, I’m not a sports writer. I’m a Padawan of the psychological aspects of human performance.
And how could mindfulness and meditation help the Florida Gators and Will Muschamp?
Meditation and the Florida Gators
We may become legal adults at age 18 but emerging neuroscience tells us the human brain doesn’t “mature” until age 25.
In this, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that helps one inhibit impulses and plan and organize one’s behavior to reach a goal) of our player’s brains are not yet fully developed.
So now we have 85 young fellas a few years away from full brain maturity running around trying to get their own act together as well as work in harmony with the others who are trying to do the same.
Yeah. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a ball coach.
Rather than waxing scientific on lateral and medial prefrontal cortices or gray-matter density in the hippocampus and amygdala I’ll bottom line it:
Our brains are like silly putty (neuroplasticity) and we can morph them at will.
MRIs administered before, during and after meditation have shown remarkable changes to the shape and density of differing parts of our brain.
These changes of formation could allow our Gators’ brains to help them;
- alleviate stress;
- achieve longer-lasting emotional stability.
- look at potentially dangerous or upsetting situations in a more calm and rational manner;
Mindfulness and the Florida Gators
If you’re not familiar with the practice of mindfulness, it is the bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis and experiencing those moments without judgement.
There are those who would say potato/potahto to mindfulness/being in “the zone”. Though a subject for another day I disagree if for no other reason than practicing mindfulness is what gets you to the zone and gives you the ability to stay in it.
At 1:10 in the video below, Phil Jackson speaks of how mindfulness can help a player reseat after a bad call, bad play, etc.
Please don’t send hate mail because I posted an Oprah video. I practice mindfulness so I’m able to issue bans while looking through the eyes of non-judgment. ;)
We’re all in this Swamp together
Ray built this site because of his deep love and respect for UF athletics.
As Gator Country is the largest and one of the longest running (since 1996) Gators sites on the Internet, could there be any argument that GC and its online community is one of the ultimate supporters of the Florida Gators and their fans?
What’s more, just about anyone who has anything to do with the sports programs at Florida reads Gator Country – including family and friends of teams, coaches and staff.
Therein lies the rub.
In the four years I’ve been at GC, there’s been an awful lot of chatter on the forums about what the team/coaches did/are doing wrong but precious few offers of potential solutions.
That’s contradictory to mission of Gator Country.
If we’re true fans, we’ll each offer support in whatever way we’re capable.
When those players, coaches, staff, family and friends read Gator Country let’s let them see that we’re in this with them, not working against them.
Though my writing a sports related article for GC may seem to have come out of, well, left field I’ve done so in a sincere effort to offer helpful suggestions in my own fashion and based on my skill sets, passions and pursuits.
I’ve no idea what kind of cerebral calisthenics coach Muschamp has the team involved in, if any. Not that I didn’t try to find out but Spivey says they won’t tell me because the mind meld methods used by coaches are highly classified and noneya.
Nonetheless, I’ve contributed.
How about you?
Do you have an idea or practice regarding human performance that you can share?
I’ll bet you do. I’ll also bet someone in our Great Gator Nation will benefit by learning about it.
Will ya look at that?
It’s a win-win.