Friday, July 31, 2015

Superstitions and Pre-Game Routines of Athletes:Helpful or Harmful?

Tiger Woods wears a red shirt for the final round of every golf tournament after turning pro in 1996.  Tennis player Serena Williams, five-times Wimbledon champion, always takes her shower sandals to the court, ties her shoelaces in a specific way, and bounces the ball five times.1  We have all seen or heard of elite athletes and their bizarre rituals and superstitions.  As a former collegiate athlete, I too, had my own quirky pre-game rituals and superstitions.  It is very prevalent in all sports but is even more common at higher levels of play. Countless professional athletes do it but why, and does it actually help their play?

Psychologists say people often become superstitious and use rituals when faced with unknown and stressful situations, which explains why so many athletes are superstitious and frequently bound to rigid preparation routines.1 These rigid routines seem to provide athletes with a sense of stability, consistency, and an element of control before entering into the unknown of the game.  What the athletes are actually doing, whether they realize it or not, is a thier own unique form of meditation.  The routines provide a calm and comfortable way to get in the zone and remain level headed before competition.

There have been many studies showing that routines and superstitions actually help the performance of athletes but there have also been cases in which they can hinder performance.  The difference between the two outcomes is best seen by differentiating the terms routine and superstition.  

Studies have analyzed the effect of pre-performance routines among athletes and found that pre-routines related to one’s athletic movement aid in their subsequent performance.2  Superstitions on the other hand, are completely unrelated to the performance and cause athletes to believe that a lucky gesture or object has control over the outcome of their performance such as a lucky shirt, or pre-game meal at their favorite restaurant.  The problem with that, of course, is when an athlete becomes so dependent on that lucky shirt that when it’s misplaced, performance suffers because of it.2    

If you start to spend too much time focusing on these irrational things to improve your performance rather than the important things, such as your swing or being relaxed, then these superstitious techniques can take away from the outcome.  Routines can be a great tool for enhancing performance but when athletes begin relying on superstitions for luck it can become harmful and distracting.  


1Do superstitious minds help or hinder athletes? (2012, July 27). Retrieved July 30, 2015.

2Do Athletes’ Superstitions Really Help? (2012, August 9). Retrieved July 30, 2015.

NCAA Basketball Recruiting: The Negatives

There are many aspects of recruiting that excites college coaches and makes them feel good about what they do for a living. But as we all know, there is always another side to every story. From the many hours spent recruiting to the feeling of rejection when you lose out on a recruit you were so invested in, there are some negatives that one must be prepared for in recruiting.

Recruiting can strain relationships (
Men who work regular hours can tell you how satisfying it is when they make it home from work and they are happily met by their loved ones for a day out in the yard. For coaches, this is seldom the case. Due to irregular work hours, even high school coaches normally do not make it home before the sun is down. Add the task of recruiting phone calls and overnight trips, college coaches’ children rarely see their parents at home. Many times this lack of a relationship with the family can cause a strain on marriages and tension on the family. One coach and his wife ate McDonald’s every night for three straight weeks while she was pregnant because it was the only place open at 9:30 when they drove home from practice.2 This eventually led to the coach and his wife deciding that he needed to step down because they did not like the situations the family was being placed in.

The sting is that much more significant in the end if the coach does not get his return on his invested time by signing the recruit.  The countless hours spent making phone calls, in-home visits, and official visits are felt to be all in vain if the recruit chooses to play at another school.  These lows, complicated by the fact that you could have been spending that time on other recruits or with family, cut deep enough to make coaches even question if they are in the right profession.  Losing out on a player made a huge impact on one coaches career. He was recruiting a top 25 ranked player and justifiably putting out a lot of energy and effort. Pretty soon it went from recruiting to relationship-building followed by a commitment. Eventually the player he decided he wanted to open his recruitment back up after an official visit, de-committing on the coach. When the head coach asks about other targets, the coach does not have an explanation on who is next. There is no next, because all the time had been spent on the main target.  Now the coach is employed at another university.1

These are only two examples of many that shine the light on the darker side of recruiting.  It is a very rewarding practice, but there are times that things can get ugly.  Are you and your family going to be up to the task?


110 Things You Need to Know about College Basketball Recruiting. (2014, November 7). Retrieved July 30, 2015, from

2Wyrwich, T. (2009, May 12). Coaches struggle to find balance between work and family. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from

Benefits of Dancing In The Senior Population

Exercise programs for older people commonly experience high drop-out rates.  Dance, on the other hand, is an enjoyable and sociable form of exercise where participants report very high levels of motivation.1  The increased interest in dance provides an opportunity to offer dance sessions for older people in community centers, care homes, village halls, and hospitals across the country.1  

Benefits of Dancing
  • Balance
    • One of the most commonly cited benefits of dance for older people is an improvement in balance.  Balance, mobility and fear of falling are major factors associated with the risk of falling in older people.  Dance studies have shown improvements in balance either in general or in association with specific conditions such as parkinson’s disease.1
  • Photo By:  Colorado Gazette
    Strength and Gait
    • Improving strength may not be a focus of dance, but dance classes can be designed to promote strength.1
  • Cognitive Ability
    • Dancing is good for seniors because it provides physical exercise and a mental workout. Seniors memorize dance moves and plot their steps on the dance floor, all while working with a partner. Having that opportunity to get together and socialize also contributes to memory and overall health.2
  • Social Benefit
    • Interviews undertaken with older people who have taken part in dance groups tend to emphasis the social benefits of taking part.  Experiences as varied as line dancing, ballroom dancing, or folk dancing record the social advantages of taking part together with improvements in well-being and quality of life. 1

Dancing helps boost a senior’s fitness level and memory. So, find a partner and take a spin on the dance floor. Whether you have two left feet or glide like Fred Astaire, you are sure to have a fun time and make some great memories.2


1Keep Dancing:  The Health and Well-Being Benefits of Dance For Older People.     Retrieved July 26, 2015, from

2Seniors Dance to Curb Alzheimer’s.  Retrieved July 26, 2015, from

Ways to make exercise fun

Physical activity or exercise can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Physical activity and exercise can have immediate and long-term health benefits1.  Many people are educated on the importance of exercise, but don’t make the time to include it in their daily activities.  If we made working out more interesting do you think more people would implement it to their so called busy schedules?  In this blog I will inform you on 10 ways you can make exercise enjoyable.
1.   Add a Friend
Find someone to be your exercise buddy. Don’t choose just anyone: Pick someone who is full of energy, fun and who you look forward to spending time with. That way, you’ll want to exercise just to be with your friend.2
2.   Group Fitness
Group classes are a way to meet new people, have an instructor to keep your form and effort good and be motivated to go each time. Shop around for your class: Find an instructor who has both knowledge and enthusiasm. You can gauge the social tone an instructor creates by watching if anyone talks to him or her before or after the class and if the other participants talk to each other.2
3.   Play Something
We use the word “play” in front of sports because they are fun. You “play” tennis, golf, soccer, softball or any other sport. Find a sport that you used to “play” when younger and take it up again. Choose a team sport when possible to add some socialization.2
4.   Audio
Get yourself a tiny music player and download some audiobooks or podcasts. Hundreds of free podcasts are available covering any topic you can imagine. Audio books can also be easily downloaded. This way, when you think about exercising, you can be looking forward to “reading” the next chapter in your novel.2
5.   New Shoes
Go exercise-fashion shopping. Start with your shoes. Go to a good running or fitness store and have a salesperson help you find the perfect shoe. Each type of shoe supports your foot differently, so you need to make sure you have the right shoe for you. Bring in your old running or exercise shoes; the wear marks will tell the salesperson how you run. After the luster wears off your shoes, go back for some new shorts, shirts or other accessories.2
6.   Chart Your Stats
Thousands of people obsessively chart the stats of their favorite baseball, basketball or football players and teams. Do the same for yourself. Create a wall chart and log your exercise activity, vital statistics (weight, measurements, best times, maximum lifts, etc.). Chart every detail of your exercise routine for a month. You’ll feel great as the information gets up on the wall.2
7.   Mix It Up
Don’t do the exact same exercise routine every day; mix it up. If you always run on the treadmill, run outside on a nice day. Take a week off your lifting routine and do a Pilates class instead. As soon as you feel your exercise routine becoming a rut, find something else to do.2
8.   Measure, Don’t Weigh
The scale can be the worst factor when it comes to motivation. You may be working hard, but your weight just stays the same. Part of the reason may be that you are adding muscle while losing fat. Another reason is that it just takes time and changes in your diet to lose substantial weight. So stop looking at the scale every day; instead, take some measurements. The tape measure will show change well before the scale does. Measure your chest, upper arms, stomach, waist, upper thighs and calves. Be sure to measure in the same place each time. Add those measurements to your wall chart and watch the progress.2
9.   TV, Videos and Music
Many people find that a bit of distraction helps get them through a workout. Get a tiny music player and load it up with inspirational music (change the music weekly to give you some surprises). Watch TV shows while on the treadmill or put in your favorite movie and watch 1/2 of it each time you exercise. That way, you’ll be able to watch one or two movies a week. You can do the same with TV shows; record your shows or rent a series and watch while exercising. You’ll look forward to your exercise just to find out what happens next in the show.2
10.  Relax
At the end of exercise (after you “cool down”), give yourself 5 minutes of relaxation. Just lie down on your back and let your body sink into the floor. Close your eyes. Relax. Feel the effects of exercise in your body. Look forward to the deep relaxation that can come after physical activity. You may find that you start exercising just to experience this feeling.2
        Using inspiration to help encourage yourself to get up and work out can be very effective.  Once most people get started on a daily routine of exercise and begin to see life changing results it’s hard to stop working out.  Find what gets you up and motivated and use that to help you train hard, look good, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Physical activity - it's important - Better Health Channel (Better Health Channel)

Ten Ways to Make Exercise Fun
By: Stibich, Ph.D..

C'mon Fitness: Test Me!

The fitness industry has let us down. It has spent countless time, money, infomercials, and fad workouts on convincing us all to test our bodies, but what about our brains?
Your brain is a muscle, too, so why not use it? We’ve been programmed to think of exercise as a time to develop and stimulate the growth of muscle cells in the body but, by choosing exercise, you can also get a brain boost. Here’s why you should really care. Whether you are 20, 30, 50, or 70 years old, exercise can help ward off or certainly slow the process of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
To be clear, dementia is a condition that diminishes mental ability. Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease, is a kind of dementia. While most people are busily thinking about having six-pack abs, the reality is more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and those numbers are growing every year. (By the way, your chances of having six-pack abs are slim! I see you drinking that coke!). According to a new study, women are far more likely to be stricken with Alzheimer’s and will descend at twice the speed of men.1 As plaque develops on the brain, memory loss, a distinctive characteristic of the disease, and confusion set in. But a 2012 study at the University of British Columbia revealed significant evidence that exercise does increase brain power.2
Even 20 minutes of aerobic exercise have beneficial effects on the brain, from molecular growth to improved memory. As the heart rate increases, more oxygen is pumped to the brain, releasing hormones that promote the growth of brain cells. New neuronal connections in the brain help to fight depression and sharpen the region of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory.3
No matter your age, include these three types of exercise in your regular routine to build a better, stronger you – brains and all.
  • Sustained aerobic exercise: An exercise performed at a moderate level of intensity for at least 30 minutes a day (or five days of the week). This increases blood flow to the brain and heart. Such exercises would be brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and organized cardio classes. *Consult your physician before attempting this. If you are already a fit person, talk to a personal trainer about bumping up your game.
  • Resistance (weight) or strength training: Resistance training develops muscles by working against an external force. In other words, working with weights or heavy resistance. Benefits include increased muscle, tendon and ligament strength, bone density, flexibility, tone, metabolic rate and postural support. Resistance training can also include the use of elastic resistance bands, lifting weights, kettle bells, BOSU, etc.
  • Flexibility and balance training: By working flexibility and balance, the spine and supporting muscles are developed resulting in improved coordination and balance. This can be achieved through organized group classes, such as Tai chi, yoga, and Pilates.
Go on; test yourself! Your brain will thank you.

1 Women Descend Into Alzheimer’s at Twice the Speed of Men. (July 21, 2015). Health Day.
2ExerciseandDementia. (May, 10, 2013).

3 Ahlskog, J. Eric, Yonas Geda, Neill Graf-Radford. (September 2011) Physical Exercise as a Preventive or Disease-Modifying Treatment of Dementia and Brain Again. National Institute of Health.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

NCAA Basketball Recruiting: What Earning a Scholarship REALLY Means

Going to School is not Cheap 
At the Division I level, basketball is a head count sport, which means all 13 scholarships are full scholarships. There is a difference in Division II, where basketball is considered an equivalency sport, which means that coaches can divide the value of the 10 total scholarships allotted to them between as many players as they want.1 Due to the high cost of education, (about $15,000 per year at an in-state public university)2 parents and students must fully understand what their scholarship covers before signing on the dotted line. Here is an in-depth look at the three financial opportunities for players that make up rosters, as well as what coaches think about their immediate and potential team contribution.

Full Scholarship: Covers the full cost of attendance for the student-athlete including tuition and fees, room and board, meal plan, and books. If full scholarship players are eligible for financial aid, they are awarded the qualifying amount (up to $5600 per year). Players are expected to be major contributors to the team immediately or have the ability to be an impact player in a short period of time.
Partial Scholarship: Options can include where the school covers half of the student-athlete's bill, provides one or any combination of tuition and fees, room and board, meal plan, and/or books, or covers the bill after all aid has been applied. Paying after all aid has been applied uses all federal aid, grants, and academic scholarships first, then applies the athletic scholarships. Players are viewed as reserves that may have the ability to come in and spare minutes to more prominent players. These players are also viewed as ones that have the ability to contend for an increased role later in their career.
Walk-On: Student-athlete must take full responsibility for college expenses. Since the school does not pay for anything, the S-A does not affect the team’s equivalencies. Players will more than likely see insignificant playing time, but are looked at to raise the moral of the team in all aspects.                    

Since less than 6% of high school boys basketball players make a collegiate roster, just being a part of a team is a tremendous feat. For those that are not fortunate financially, the coveted scholarship (partial or full) aids in the task of paying for college to allow an education and possibly a better life.


1Athletic Scholarships. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2015, from

2Zurowski, R. (2013, March 14). March Madness: The Value of NCAA Basketball Scholarships - NerdWallet. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Sports

The reason why athletes are motivated to play their sport has a substantial impact on how well they are able to perform.  There are two main reasons why players are motivated.  The first, is intrinsic motivation, which means one is motivated to train and practice for their pure love for the game.  They practice and train for competition for the sake of being the best they can be in the sport that they love.  The second reason athletes are motivated, is by extrinsic reward and satisfaction.  This is generally associated with external goals such as money, fame, status, and peer approval.  Both means of motivation are driven by goals, but are fundamentally different in nature.  In this blog, I will address the differences and the effects of being driven by the two different types of motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsically motivated athletes participate in sports for pure enjoyment and habitually concentrate on skill development and growth.  Some behaviors related to intrinsic athletes are better task-relevant focus, fewer changes (ups and downs) in motivation, less distraction, less stress when mistakes are made, increased confidence and self-efficacy, and greater satisfaction.1  Extrinsically motivated athletes can also experience some of these effects, but not as consistently or by the same nature of enjoyment.  The intrinsically motivated athlete shows more stability and longevity in performance, and their work ethic generally reflects one of self-determination and pro-active initiative.  Often times, but not always, you can identify the intrinsically motivated athlete on your team as the first one to practice or the last one to leave.  They are consistently putting in extra work that is not required by the coaching staff.   

Extrinsic Motivation

“Extrinsic motivation may come from social sources, such as not wanting to disappoint a parent, or material rewards, such as trophies and college scholarships. Extrinsically motivated athletes tend to focus on the competitive or performance outcome.”1 The biggest problem associated with this type of motivation is allowing your behaviors to be controlled by extrinsic rewards or repercussions.  Athletes can become so immersed in performing to others’ expectations that they begin playing the game because they have to meet exterior expectations.  These types of players are their own worst enemy.  They are typically more inconsistent in work ethic and performance, moody, extremely hard on themselves, and potentially cancerous.  Though extrinsic reward should not be the driving force for motivation, it can still be a positive tool to reward or affirm that an athlete is on the right track.

Motivational Balance  

In sports, at every level, there are both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  To have a balanced motivation in your sport and perform at your best, you have to have a realistic perspective.  “On balance, it is much more important to be high in intrinsic motivation than to be high in extrinsic motivation. In the long run, extrinsic motivation is only effective when intrinsic motivation is high.”2 The key in reaching this ideal balance is not allowing your behaviors to be controlled by extrinsic factors, but instead remain in control of your own behaviors because of your love for the game, and establish your goals accordingly.
1Hatch, S., Thomsen, D., & Waldron, J. (n.d.). Extrinsic Rewards and Motivation. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
2Karageorghis, C., & Terry, P. (n.d.). Balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for success. Retrieved July 20, 2015.