Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bully, Bully...

What would Teddy Roosevelt say about the state of football in America today? Ninety eight years ago yesterday President Roosevelt first likened crusading journalists to a man "with a muckrake in his hand" in a speech to the Gridiron Club in Washington. I'm not sure a muckraker is needed to dig up trash in today's NFL, NCAA, or even high school football programs. As a dedicated and devoted player, coach, and fan, I experienced, and continue to experience, the constructive and time tested values of brotherly love, teamwork, coaching, and leadership the sport culled in me, my teammates, and players I coached through triple sessions, four hour practices, four hundred and forty yard sprints, early morning agility drills on back hallway steps, and hours of lifting, training, skipping rope, practicing, and bustin' each others' chops.

At Brown, I remember hitting a two man sled and when the slight assistant line coach didn't provide enough resistance, our 260 pound plus assistant, who still coaches in the NFL, was asked to "take the ride". The sled held as our other starting tackle hit it and pinched a nerve in his neck. We switched back to the lighter coach and hit that sled until it broke. A player's skin color didn't matter as we exhausted our minds, bodies, and spirits and jelled into one unit. The repetition, challenge, and stress on our bodies and minds required discipline, devotion, and mutual support.

I struggle to remember ever hearing the "N" word while playing or coaching over a 17 year period. I did experience racist thoughts in a Penn State meeting when Joe Paterno stated Penn State wasn't ready for a black quarterback. This while Randall Cunningham starred for the Philadelphia Eagles. My teams were integrated and I'd like to think we embraced, in response to most of my coaches' leads, each other as equals. A player's background or heritage didn't seem to matter. If a player cared about others - demonstrated selflessness, integrity, loyalty, wore the uniform with pride and put in the effort, he became a brother, a teammate for life. I also grew up in a mixed race neighborhood and knew my first close neighbor, Nayan Lassiter, as my best friend before I realized his and his family's skin tone was different from mine.

Given my history and the relationships I have with African American friends, it is painful for me to read transcripts of Richie Incognito's and Jonathan Martin's text messages, where Incognito's demeaning texts, he claimed he sent to build brotherly bonds, bullied and harassed Martin to the point where Martin left the team and considered suicide. Martin shared in the banter, but was overpowered by Incognito's verbal assaults and physical threats. It was also suggested Incognito's coaches gave him the green light to bully Martin to make Martin more tough. Abusive behavior does not toughen. It's intent is to control. I always believed true toughness belonged to players who could funnel and control their power to dominate athletic events while treating people as equals while away from sports. They demonstrate control and restraint.

Bullying behaviors can be incorrectly associated with toughness when in reality it is a weak person who seeks to feel validated by attempting to control others. The original Ancient Greek athletic premise was to help the athlete reach one's whole potential with competition and sportsmanship. Controlling oneself and one's body to gain victory over another is celebrated in athletics, but athletics should also teach humility. There is always someone greater. The Olympic intent is to improve oneself while improving others, and society as a whole. A great athlete knows when and where to demonstrate power and control, and when to treat others as equals.

Granted, society has changed. On days when I was not with clients last year, I taught math at an alternative high school in Massachusetts. Most of the students have troubled backgrounds. It is a mixed race population. Before being addressed, reprimanded, and corrected, their street habits brought this communication style to the classroom and when African American students talked amongst themselves, they used the "N" word several times per sentence. White students would never use the "N" word.

My mother showed me how a person can choose to respond to, and use, words and force for power and control, or for goodness and justice. We had a helping hand sign in our home's front window. It indicated we had a "safe" home, where a trained parent was available for a child feeling harassed, bullied, or unsafe. When I was ten, as I entered my home after school, I heard commotion from across the street. I turned and watched a very strong, eleven year old black boy following an eight year old white boy.

My initial conclusion was the black boy was bullying the white boy, but as I listened and observed, I heard the younger and smaller white boy yelling this derogatory term at the black boy, who just followed, controlled his aggression, and seemed bewildered by the younger white boy's ignorance, hate, and taunting. My mother intervened and had a long talk with the black boy. I remember she told him kids learn behaviors and values from their parents and how not everyone acts or believes in such hateful ways. She then offered him some snacks. He grew into an exceptional athlete, teammate, and friend.

My high school coach is a decorated Marine, Korean War Veteran, who forged our team like a platoon with sweat, commitment, and compassion. We were brothers. Granted, we busted each others' chops, but it was a way of expressing fondness and this fostered a sense of unity and pride in our team and in each other. If they weren't teasing, something was wrong. Selfish players changed or left. Mean players were corrected, or shunned. I learned, and our record proved to me, how self sacrifice for a greater cause led to success and accomplishment. Right or wrong, I correlated our team's success with our ability to embrace each others' shared values and to put the team ahead of one's self. This truth of sacrifice motivated us, and over three years we never lost a game.

There were accepted lines my high school teammates did not cross while teasing each other. These included comments about family, race, and religion. Unique physical, personality, athletic, and mental attributes were open for game. At Brown, my team atmosphere was cultivated in position groups and, despite great individual talent, we missed the collective team unity, and success, my high school coach fostered.

Strong bonds and friendships were forged, in part, by teasing each other on the acceptable topics I learned in high school. Race, family, and religion remained forbidden topics. To this day, when I call my former Brown line mate, Jeff Trauger, at his Pennsylvania law firm, I use a pseudonym, reflecting a breaking news maker or Philadelphia sports figure, when introducing myself to the receptionist. Like clockwork, this person always broadcasts this news maker's or celebrity's name on my teammate's intercom. Today I was New York City mayor Bill De Blasio.

So, when I read Incognito claimed he sent racist, threatening text messages to Martin to foster bonds, I questioned his definition of friendship and team. My mom fought the love of power with the power of love. I've been fascinated with the impact of these forces on organizations, families, teams, and relationships since teamwork first graced me.

I experienced many gifted role models on my great teams and in the great organizations I've served; talented people who sincerely care about their impact on those they mentor. They work hard and set great examples. They encourage others. They celebrate great performances and good habits. They critique poor effort. They understand the power of compassion.

Average teams and mediocre organizations seem to share a common snare - bullies; average to inferior talents who belittle, abuse, threaten, contrive, control, and use derogatory comments to stymie others for power and to foster fear. They have great egos, but they lack the real talent to garner the rewards their egos seem to expect. My great teams were filled with selfless, fun, self critical, and honest people. Inferior teams and organizations seem to have an abundance of less talented, yet more selfish, deceptive, and narcissistic people who manipulate their placement, and are suspiciously celebrated, in leadership roles. Reality seems twisted in these organizations, like when Joe Paterno said Pennsylvania wasn't ready for a black quarterback or when he failed to report a soul murdering staff member to the proper authorities.

If you are blessed to be in a community, organization, family, team, or relationship where the power of love takes precedent, I encourage you to spread your talents and truths to bring this value to others. I also encourage you to use your bully pulpit, like Teddy Roosevelt, to fight those organizations and people who suppress others for the sake of their own power, egos, or wallets.

If you are trapped in a situation where the love of power undermines your freedom or true team goodness, I encourage you to ponder thoughts recently shared by George R. R. Martin whose work inspired the HBO series Game of Thrones. "Power struggles seem to be omnipresent in every field of human endeavor, extending all the way up and down society. We assume that power has a certain reality. Apart from comic books, where Superman has the power to fly, the only power real human beings have is the power they think they have. You see that sometimes in the collapse of a society. Why did the Soviet Union fall? Because one day the Kremlin gave orders and the soldiers said no, and the whole thing fell apart. It's a fundamental truth that I think Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., hit on, that power depends on the obedience of the less powerful. A leader is powerful only when he says jump and people jump. He has no actual power to make them jump. It's their belief that he has the power. It's an illusion, a shadow on the wall. And sometimes people stop jumping, and the whole world changes."

Stop jumping for people who don't have your best interest in hand. If I can help, please let me know.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The President, Congress, and Concussions

The sequester impasse reminded me of the source of concussions for many football linemen; ramming heads against each other. Recent reports show the repetitious butting of a player's head against an opponent causes more long term brain damage than an occasional big hit.

So, it's a wonder whether the constant battling and bickering over budgets between the president and congress, like the constant ramming of a player's head against his opponent, will cause long term damage to the country?

In football, two teams agree to square off to score the most points. It's a brutal sport, but the contact and physicality make it special to participants and fans. The team executing the best often wins.

We expect our leaders to execute like one team, so the country wins. We don't expect them to beat on each other like football players. Congress and the president are not, as in football, acknowledged adversaries. They are expected to function more like a team to generate the greatest good.

Therein may lie the problem. In football, the goal is very clear; to score the most points. In politics, different agendas and constituents make goal clarity more difficult.

What, can our leaders agree, is the nation's most important goal?
Is it maintaining freedom?
Is it offering people the right to happiness?
Is it adhering to the constitution and to the declaration of independence?

I help work teams and executive teams improve performance with a basic template.
Fist, everyone must agree they want to be on the team.
Next, we define the goal.
Then, we define the roles and responsibilities needed to carry out the goal.
Next, the processes and procedures needed to administer roles and the team are defined.
Then we work on relationships; collaboration, communication, respect, and trust.
Finally, we define methods to demonstrate commitment to the goal, to each other, and to development and growth.

I'm guessing our leaders could use a little team building right now.
Does anyone have a phone number I can call?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What do I root for?

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to a thirty year minimum prison sentence today for molesting boys. This sentence essentially assures he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Many of his victims will struggle with life long memories and related emotional and psychological scars. The crime is dubbed "Soul Murder" by author Leonard Shengold. The tenacles connected to abuse do not end in one act, as with homicide, but continue to haunt and plague its victims throughout their lives.

Do I celebrate his sentencing as just and swift? Or, does it remind me of the horrific crimes he committed and make me question if there is any just punishment for his actions?

And, do I root for Penn State Football? Bill O'Brien is the new coach. I know Bill. He hails from a Brown family. I played next to his older brother Tom during my senior season and Bill would often visit. Then, I talked with him when he considered coaching as a career.

I want him and his players to do well, to foster resiliency and to be a source of positive healing for the community. On the other hand, I have a hard time watching the university thrive in the shadows of the young boys whose victimization could have been prevented had university administrators and coaches elevated their awareness of Sandusky's crimes to the proper authorities.

I imagine it's best to root for the truth to unfold, for the victims to heal, and for goodness to take hold.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Survive and Thrive!

"Can You Spare a Little Help" generated appreciated responses. Thank you. My good friend Eric took me to lunch and shared his father Peter's life story. Peter is about to celebrate his 98th birthday.

Peter was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. When he was fourteen his parents divorced. When he was twenty one he was placed in solitary confinement for eighteen months for dating a non Jewish woman. After being released from solitary confinement he was considered a political prisoner and was ordered to build both Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps.

In 1939 he was released from prison under the condition he'd leave Germany. He emigrated to the United States and arrived with $5 in his pocket. With his money he rented a room and purchased wholesale first aid kits he sold for a profit. He then supported himself by waiting tables and parking cars at resorts in the Adirondacks.

In 1942 he was drafted into the United States Army and became a USA citizen. During World War II he served in the military government in North Africa and Italy. Before returning to the United States, he visited his mother in Hamburg.

After returning to the United States, Peter worked for a cousin in shipping until 1961 when he started his own successful shipping company. He was 47.

After returning from the war he also married and divorced. He married again, yet his second wife committed suicide. He and his third wife, Eric's parents, were married for 59 years until she died a few years ago.

Peter lives, cooks, and drives on his own, tends to his community flower and vegetable gardens and mentors students at the Helen Keller School. He lives outside of New York City.

According to Eric, unfailing optimism appears to be Peter's critical resiliency factor. A resilient person's competency profile includes optimism, organization, pro-activity, flexibility, and focus.

Also, based on the above Oz principle, Peter seeks solutions and spends no time thinking like a victim.

Hearing about Peter's life was helpful to me. It proves triumph of the human spirit and I hope you find it uplifting as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Can you spare a little help?

Recent tragedies hammered home, to me, the impact of time. We had a family tragedy within a week of famed linebacker Junior Seau deciding to end his life. Time factored into both deaths. Based on reports, we assume their time was spent in apparent inescapable pain; internal demons and signals harassed their brains with continuous unwanted pain inducing triggers. We assume they felt there was no escape; no apparent way to change the ebbing tide of locked despondency.

Based on articles, Junior projected an image of strength and optimism. According to reports, men in his culture are expected to be strong and supportive. His role as an NFL linebacker was to be the cog in a fearless front of defense. Based on his physical gifts, he was able to project this image in his play for almost 5 times longer than the average NFL player's career. And, Junior was considered one of the best in this role. He was rewarded for not being vulnerable, or human.

This sense of despair can happen, and does happen, to many. Is there help? Can the right word or action influence a suffering soul to muster the strength to move on, to escape a momentary decision that's final. It's consoling for surviving friends and loved ones to think they might have this impact. We are supposed to be there for those we love in their greatest time of need. When we are not there, we like to say: "If only they'd said something, or asked. I would have done everything possible to help."

Will time heal all pains? Sometimes, the struggles don't dissipate. Life continues to throw wrenches and difficulty despite the greatest plans and intentions and efforts. Is there a solution? The popular response is there is a solution to every problem. But, what if the problem won't go away? How does one know when to intervene without being intrusive?

It's so difficult. What do you say to their closest relatives? The impulse is to seek a solution, or the ideal comment, but it's not this easy.

Acknowledging illness can be a start. Realizing the person was out of a normal state of mind and suffering mental illness puts the act in objective perspective. It allows us to blame the disease and distances the person and his or her life from the act.

It's also important to realize these moments offer time to renew and refocus; to learn how we can help others avoid similar pain and suffering.

Most important, it's time to realize it's ok to ask for help and support. I need your help.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Who do you trust?

Trust is a popular corporate buzzword. It creates, according to Tom Peters in his seminal work "In Search of Excellence", the highest form of human motivation.

A person experiences trust when he realizes people or institutions or systems or equipment won't allow him to be hurt when he is vulnerable.

We are vulnerable when we buy a product or service, when we share private or personal thoughts, and when we take risks.

We are willing to follow people we trust because we believe our best interest is served by them. They won't hurt us. Trust lubricates the cycle of effectiveness where trusting thoughts influence trustworthy actions to impact positive results to build trusting relationships.

We trust doctors to heal us when we are sick or injured. We trust banks to secure our assets. We trust teachers to share the truth. We trust coaches to build skill and psyches. We trust institutions to protect our interests to propel the greatest good.

In the past six months two people I knew were critiqued in the media for betraying trust.

Joe Paterno lost his job for not protecting innocent children when he failed to report to Pennsylvania State Police a sexual assault by Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is accused of committing additional acts of pedophilia after Paterno was aware of Sandusky's crime.

Dan Doyle, the embattled executive director of the Institute for International Sport in Rhode Island, reportedly siphoned considerable monies earmarked for the Institute and its efforts to use sports to promote goodwill. It appears he used these monies to invest in private properties, trips, and personal gain.

Before their public persona was punctured, both men appeared to stand for good values projected by their sports related programs. They used their programs as venues for others to develop trust in them. Joe's program touted high graduation rates and wins. Doyle's world scholar athlete games brought young athletes from warring countries together to play on the same team.

These men ultimately put their personal gain ahead of those they claimed to serve and they lost trust. Joe's image and his pursuit of the all time wins record for major college football took precedent over the safety and well being of young boys. Dan's image and fund raising took precedent over using sport to build young souls, and communities.

Selfishness trumped selflessness in both cases and both men, in the end, were vilified. It's disheartening, but not uncommon when common men are given uncommon power and control over their environments.

In both cases, the men were aligned with universities filled with good and virtuous people who were kept distant from taking a closer look at the way these men ran their regimes. Perhaps their achievements and affiliations stymied standard audits and assessments.

I was drawn to their advertised outcomes, but was less impressed with my one on one meeting with both men. Publicity and image can seduce the broad audience. I left both organizations before any scandal was evident.

Sharing their headlines is the retirement of Pat Summitt, the revered University of Tennessee basketball coach. I don't know Pat, but I've admired her from afar. She's suffering from Early-Onset Alzheimer’s and decided to leave her post before becoming a detriment to her players and the university; a trusting move.

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Coaching and Sport in Society

Thank you for your responses to the previous blog. As a result, I am in the process of creating support systems to better address abuses of power and childhood assaults. I will keep you posted on this progress.

Themes evolved from your emails and blog responses. Below please find some of these topics addressed.

1. Who's coaching your kids?

Many readers want to know how to identify a predator who may also be a coach, teacher, scout leader, or anyone in a position where he or she has regular access to children. There is no look or specific demeanor, but predators tend to violate respectful and standard interpersonal boundaries. They invade others' physical, emotional, and verbal space with inappropriate conduct often masked as concern, teasing, or playing. Predators put themselves in positions where they are surrounded by unattended children.

Predators tend to spend an inordinate amount of their free time with children and have limited interactions with people in their own peer groups. An older person who wants to take a child on trips, or spend individual, one on one, time with a child is demonstrating very suspect behavior. Predators also tend to shower gifts and trinkets on their victims and lean on their victims for emotional support. Always question the relationship, reason, and motive before you allow a child to spend unsupervised time with an older person.

There is a good article in this week's Sports Illustrated by a writer who also coaches youth basketball. He loves coaching young people, but is now afraid to offer rides and to express encouragement or support reflected in minor physical contact; a tap on the shoulder or arm for fear it will be misinterpreted, or his behaviors will be considered inappropriate. My physician, who also coaches youth soccer, expressed the same concerns. They fear, as a result of these highly publicized sexual abuse scandals, our society's treatment of youth will become more antiseptic.

Sincere and well intended adults like my physician and another friend who wrote, and who devotes his life to improving the well being of disadvantaged children, feel marginalized and undermined by the scandal. It makes them wonder how their good and honorable intentions and actions may be perceived. A volunteer coach blessed with a good and generous spirit may be compelled to withhold potential life changing moments with a child seeking direction for fear these actions may be misinterpreted.

A good way to confront this is for coaches to meet with their youth team members and their parents at the beginning of a season to clarify expectations for team goals, coaching and player roles, game and position processes and techniques, a process to stop / report / address / prevent abusive behaviors, appropriate conduct, behaviors boundaries, healthy relationships, and evidence of commitment. If these team structures are recorded, they can form a reference point for evaluating progress and success during the season.

2. What are good coaching behaviors?

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." (Plato, 427 - 347 BC)

Above please find a picture of one of my Brown line coaches, Bob Wylie, and Steve Wizniewski, who was an All-American guard at Penn State when I coached there. They now work together as coaches for the Oakland Raiders. They are considered good coaches.

Good coaches tend to set high conduct standards with their behaviors. So, probably the best way to assess a good coach is with his or her team members' conduct and behaviors. Good coaches are recognized by the growth and success of those they lead. Their influence is monitored by healthy peer and team friendships and relationships, fun experiences, respect, happiness, higher levels of well being and hygiene, improved social interactions and performance away from athletic venues, and increased consideration for self and others. Coaches who influence these behaviors in their players are good coaches. We tend to judge coaches by their competition wins and losses. These are important, as we all play to win, but these gauges are short term. The ultimate goal of sports is to improve its participants and observers appreciation for potential, and, in turn, to improve society.

3. What are good sports' parent / sports' observer behaviors?

Parents never attended athletic practices when I was participating in football, wrestling, and track while growing up in the NJ suburbs. Our teams were very successful. My teammates would be mortified if any parent approached a coach, or athletic director, to discuss his or her child's performance or playing time. The coaches would not tolerate this.

Coaches were trusted to do their best for the team and for the athletes. Parents demonstrated their support at competitions and via booster clubs, but refrained from interfering with athletic decisions. It was a boundary expected not to be crossed.

Any hostility at athletic events was directed toward referees and officials for missed or perceived bad calls. I never heard negative comments directed towards coaches or athletes from my, or the opposing, team. For the most part, we respected each other. We lived in a very competitive area.

Based on your blog comments and the news, negative and aggressive fan / parent language and behavior now dominates all levels of sporting events. High school and college athletic directors and coaches report receiving harassing phone calls at all hours of the night from irate parents expecting more playing time for their children.

In these situations, individual performance supersedes the team. The greatest distinction I noticed separating strong teams and healthy communities from sub par organizations is the sense of member admiration and commitment to a common purpose. Organizations struggle when everyone is pulling in separate, selfish, directions. Organizations succeed when constructive member beliefs and behaviors reflect shared common and respected core values.

There's a distinction between being encouraged and empowered to voice concern to improve a situation and running one's mouth. The former tends to help the team. The latter often reflects selfishness, an antithesis of team goodness.

Also, screaming parents can undermine a child's athletic performance. Screams and overly aggressive conduct increase the stress chemical response in a child's forming brain. If present and associated with athletic competition, these chemicals undermine blood flow and muscle reaction. They also interfere with memory, mental clarity, and reaction time. These heightened brain responses, fostered by overzealous fans and parents, can create in a child athletic performance barriers. They will jeopardize enjoyment. This can alienate young athletes from sport.

Sports can offer young people a great outlet to expend energy while gaining physical skills. Sports can also provide a nice opportunity to socialize, to become more self aware and empathetic. The ideal ancient Greek philosophy of sport states it propels the admiration of human capacity. This admiration appears to be lost in today's parents' fears and criticisms. Perhaps these parents are triggered by memories of their own childhood athletic shortcomings.

A former college teammate and a standout in two varsity D1 collegiate sports now coaches youth sports. He writes: "all of the dads in town are very successful. They are either alpha males or artists. As a result, the sense of entitlement is very high. The people who volunteer to coach and help youth sports in the town refer to the insane dads as “do it for me dads”. These dads are always critical and never helpful.

Most of the insane dads, as alpha males, played some low level sports in high school or below.

(My friend) thinks the extreme behaviors are rooted in the following beliefs.

1) Through sheer will and determination these dads became successful and alpha males.

2) These dads EXPECT success in their lives. They feel like they make success happen.

3) They expect their sons to be successful alpha males. If the sons aren’t as driven, these dads think they can make their sons driven through dad's sheer will and determination.

4). And so, these dads scream, thinking this will make it happen.

It’s ironic in soccer because most of the insane dads never played soccer. So not only is their screaming and ranting inappropriate; their coaching points are often flat out wrong.

The dads that played college sports or are artists tend to be very mellow and helpful on the sideline."

Whatever the reason, these egos and efforts to manipulate aggression devalue youth sports. The aggressive behaviors these dad's want demonstrated by their sons are not healthy or age appropriate and can lay the foundation for bullying, battery, assaults, and abuse. I'm pretty sure these are not outcomes insane dads want for their sons. However, sons are prone to demonstrate behaviors modeled by their dads.

When power, control, and ego are not addressed and corrected, abuses of power can proliferate. Corrupt predator coaches will exploit a parents' distorted aggressive athletic hopes for his child and isolate the child. Kids left unattended by their parents are more likely to be abused. The unhealthy ego and power needs for athletic victories make delusional parents deny, or blind to, corrupt and devious behaviors committed by bad coaches.

Agreeing on core league, team, and fan values and outlining the reflective behaviors expected by parents, fans, coaches, and athletes can set conduct standards. Defining behaviors opposed to core values, and the penalties for a person who demonstrates these behaviors, can also remove destructive behaviors from youth sporting events.

An assigned and strong person or committee, and not the coach except when dealing with his or her players, needs to be assigned to implement and monitor penalties incurred by parents, fans, opposing players and coaches.

4. Does God influence sporting outcomes?

There's a lot of media attention on Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow generated by his energetic, unorthodox playing style, by the Broncos series of unfathomable comeback victories led by Tim, and for Tim's unwavering Christian Faith. It's implied the Broncos success since Tim took over as the team's quarterback, and its appearance in the NFL playoffs, is due to Tim's faith and God's Blessings.

Athletes use many different vehicles to reach their zone, or their highest capabilities. Many superior athletes have an innate love of their sport. It gives them a sense of identity, success, and control. This propels them to practice and to push themselves towards mastery. This allows them to excel. Some have tremendous drive and determination. Others share a passion to a common goal, teammates, and coaches. Their performance and success is a result of their commitment to shared values and mutual respect. Illegally, some athletes turn to artificial means and performance enhancing drugs to get an unnatural edge. Some athletes rely on superior physical and mental gifts to outshine competition. Some athletes, like Tim, use a belief system to reach their pinnacle. It offers them the focus and calm needed to function optimally under pressure; to give them a sense of clarity and purity and inner strength.

I'm guessing Tim's belief system allows him to distinguish his own performance, yet I'm pretty sure God has nothing to do with distinguishing Tim's or the Broncos' performance. The Bible states athletes should prepare and pummel their bodies, to put their best efforts forward. There is no evidence or scripture stating God is interested in athletic outcomes. It states He wants His followers to believe His teachings and to love one another.

Before every athletic event I participated in over an 18 year period, I was encouraged, and offered the opportunity, to pray. I'm not sure I was ever told what to pray about, but I sensed my young teammates and I were expected to be thankful for the opportunity to participate. I also asked for strength to demonstrate our best abilities, and for our competition to do the same, so we might bring out the best in each other. I prayed no one be injured or tempted to cheat, so the competition remained pure, like a battle amongst honorable animals or gladiators. I never prayed for victory. This cheapens prayer and belief systems. I'm pretty sure Tim doesn't pray for victory, but for the opportunity to glorify his God.

As long as the methods are legal, do not bring harm to oneself or others, and fall within acceptable league conduct boundaries, I have no objections with what Tim Tebow, or any other athlete, practices to reach his or her best level of performance.