Performance: Sports and the Mind
Hardwood Warriors Phil Jackson and George Mumford
Jackson and George Mumford have known each other since the early '80s
when Jackson took the head coaching job with the Albany Patroons of
the Continental Basketball Association. Their friendship began at the
Omega Institute, a holistic learning and education center in Rhinebeck,
NY, where they each continued to develop their shared interest in the
philosophies of mindful living. A year after winning the CBA championship,
Jackson left the Patroons for Chicago where he went on to coach the
Bulls to six NBA championships. From 1993-98 George Mumford worked as
a consultant to the Bulls helping Jackson develop a team based on selfless
awareness. Body & Soul brought
the two together for a conversation near Jackson's home in Woodstock,
There's a lot of training involved, in terms of using the mind or clearing
the mind to the point that you're more effective. Arnold Schwarzenegger
said once about lifting weights that if he has one lift with total consciousness,
it's equal to 10 lifts when he's not totally conscious. That says a
lot. There's something about the quality of mind that enhances the experience.
What seems to be
necessary is that we develop a certain skill level of paying attention,
instead of the body being here and the mind being out in the stands.
Or if you're at work at your computer and your mind is somewhere else.
It isn't the same as when you feel your mind and your fingers being
there, feeling that energy of being in the moment and really feeling
A lot of people want to equate spirituality with institutionalized religion,
and it really has nothing to do with that. I think it's being capable
of giving all of yourself to that act you're in. People like to talk
about the mind and body being one, but really the spirit is the connecting
force. You can be giving all of yourself but yet not connecting to people
that are with you and the present energy. And so it's got to be something
more than just using your whole connected self and mind and body, but
trusting the people that are with you in this activity, that they're
doing the same thing, too; so that the two of you have a connectedness
that makes one person stronger. And that's where a team always wins.
Let's say you're playing basketball or tennis. It may take numerous
repetitions, but then you find yourself sometimes where the racket is
doing its thing by itself or the basket seems very big, where there's
a harmonizing with what you're doing. You're totally in the moment.
For whatever reason, everything is in rhythm, working with each other
rather than at cross purposes. We don't get that experience very often,
but when you do, you have a sense that there's something wondrous happening.
When Michael stole the ball [in the final game of the 1998 NBA Championship]
I got up off the bench and waved him upcourt. Ninety percent of coaches
would call a timeout and plan a play. Michael didn't even think about
it. He knew intuitively [what to do], as everybody on the team knew.
And it was like five guys, five fingers on a hand working together.
That's how sweet it was.
Mumford: When we have that experience of being fully in the moment,
it feels right. It's exciting. Then the question is: can you keep doing
it? And can you keep doing it without looking for those moments? Because
looking for those moments will prevent you from having them.
At Play in the Zone
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Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.
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