By Dr. Judd Biasiotto
I think it is in every man’s best interest to be a total human being. An individual who is not just physically developed but one who is intellectually, socially, and spiritually developed as well. I know that as athletes we tend to focus more on the physical aspects than the latter. I believe that this is only natural because most of what we do requires extreme physical prowess. However, to ignore the other aspects of life is a mistake of significant magnitude, because without these other aspects of life we can never truly become all that we can be. It is true that the body is essential, but it is only essential because it carries around the greatest gift that God has given us -- our brain.
The human mind is a miracle. It is limitless. No one has even guessed its potential. Believe me, the powers of the brain are literally beyond human comprehension. Brain researchers estimate that even prodigies don’t use more than a fraction of their brain’s potential. "If man used the full potential of his brain,” says Dr. Stephan Bernhard, a leading neurophysiologist, “he would most likely cross the parameters of mortality, he would become God-like.” Think about that. What a gift God has given us this mind of ours. Yet we don’t even use it.
You know, we are the greatest country in the world, but we are by far one of the most uneducated countries in the world. Which is really crazy because we have the greatest educational opportunities on earth. Our data banks are cram-packed with the most advanced scientific information available to man and we have the technology to access that information at a moment's notice. We have everything in America, the best schools, the best libraries, the best learning carols, and the best scientific equipment . . . the best of everything. In short, our educational opportunities are futuristic compared to other countries. And do you know what? Most Americans don’t give a damn. They are worried more about who is going to win the Super bowl than they are about educating their own children. That’s sad, because intelligence is one of the most important aspects of being human. It gives us the capacity to participate in the ideas and feelings of others. This unique human characteristic permits us to move outside of ourselves and discover and comprehend the wonder and magic of others from within. It gives us the capacity for understanding, passion, drive, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, tenderness, and love. When you are intelligent your entire life is enriched, as well as the lives of others who you touch.
For the life of me I don’t understand why people don’t want to learn. Every time you learn something new, you become something new, something greater, and something grander. We are all we have. Buddha told us that trips outside of the body are worthless. Jesus said, “ If you want to find life you have to look inside you.” Therefore, it is incumbent that we become all that we can be, the most wonderful, intelligent, loving human being possible. And then we will always survive. Malcolm X said something extremely poignant. He said, “They can chain my hands and feet, but they can’t shackle my mind.” Intelligence can set you free. Believe me, you can be enslaved by ignorance, but with intelligence you are truly limitless. You can direct history, shape your environment, mold your life . . . Heck you can make the impossible possible. Just sixty years ago the Wright Brothers were told repeatedly that if God had intended man to fly, he would have given him wings. Today we have men walking on the moon. Intelligence is power! AWESOME!
One thing that many athletes don’t understand is that the body serves the mind. It’s not the other way around. If you have a strong mind, your body will follow. In fact, there is considerable research in the field of psychomotor development, which has revealed a linear relationship between the knowledge an athlete has about his sport and how well he performs. In short, the more information extended to an athlete about the demands of his sport, the more likely it is that he will excel. Because of this fact, coaches in the Eastern Bloc countries, mainly the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany, require that their athletes engage in intellectual training. Coaches in these countries will frequently assign readings to their athletes; at other times discussions are held and lectures are given by authorities that discuss the psychological or physiological ramifications of the activities in which the athletes are engaged. Also, athletes are frequently exposed to training films in which their own movements are analyzed and compared to those of more proficient performers around the world. These programs have consistently shown that athletes who use intellectual training methods perform significantly better than athletes who didn’t receive such training.
I know this was true of my career. There were a lot of athletes who had greater physical prowess than me -- athletes who should have beaten me easily, but never could. Let’s be honest, at best I had the body of an eleven-year-old stamp collector. There is no way I should have been able to beat some of the guys that I did. It was my intelligence that saw me through. When I was competing, I went to great pains to procure as much information as possible about my sport. I read practically everything I could get my hands on -- books about training routines, ergogenic aids, nutrition, etc. I also called and visited prominent coaches and athletes. I looked for every little edge. I looked at everything that I thought could enhance my performance. I studied biomechanics, hypnosis, biofeedback, sports medicine, etc. I even looked into how music, lighting, and colors affected performance. In short, I played the game above my shoulders, and for me it paid off. And here is a news flash! I’m just an ordinary guy. Anything I can do, you can do, too, and some of you can probably do it better. As I said before, if you're willing to work hard, and use your intelligence, you can be or do anything you want in life. Yes, you can fly if you believe you can. The mind is limitless.
Larry Bird who was definitely not genetically gifted but who developed into one of the greatest basketball players of all-time is another prime example of what I’m talking about. Charles Jones the all-star forward for the Portland Trail Blazers once told me that Bird had the least physical talent of anyone in the NBA, but was the greatest player he ever faced. “Bird was incredibly slow,” said Charles, “ but he was always there. He couldn’t jump worth a flip, but he always got the rebound. He couldn’t dribble, but he would go right by you. He was an enigma. I hated playing against him and so did everyone else. He could make you look real bad with his “pitiful self.” How did Bird do it? How did he reach such heights with such limited physical ability? He worked his butt off of course, but he also played his game about his shoulders. He was an extremely intelligent athlete.
Senator Bill Bradley is another example of what can be accomplished through hard work and intelligence. Believe it or not Bradley was even less gifted then Bird when it came to basketball. In fact, next to Bradley, Bird looked like Michael Jordan. Physically speaking Bradley was terribly flawed. He was slow as malaise, extremely awkward, and his vertical jump was almost nonexistent. In fact, the standard joke in the NBA at the time was that Bradley could jump about as high as an elephant. Let me tell you though few men in the history of the NBA have ever played the game better. He was an extraordinary shooter, a ferocious rebounder, and a marvelous playmaker. Like Bird Bradley got the very most out of what God gave him. How? Once again intelligence and hard work.
Intelligence sits at the core of excellence and the will to excel sits at the core of intelligence. Intelligence holds the key to success at many levels. At the elite level…well it just maybe the most important ingredient. As mentioned research has consistently shown that athletes who are intellectually prepared for the demands of competition perform significantly better than athletes who are not knowledgeable about there sport. In other words, it’s brains not brawn that many times will make the difference between being good and great. Sports aren’t just “pumping up” your body; you have to “pump up” your brain too. Wasn’t it Plato, the founding father of sport, who said, “ ninety percent of sports is half mental”… or was that Yogi Berra? Anyway it is not the arithmetic or who said it that is important, it’s the concept. If you want to be great in sports or any other field of endeavor you have to use your brain. Let me read to you what Ted Turner the owner of CNN and the Atlanta Braves said about this very issue. He said:
“I have never met a great entrepreneur, entertainer, musician, artist or athlete who was dim-witted. The people who stand at the top of their field are by and large the most astute and judicious. In the main they are the brainpower of their establishments. Which seems to suggest that intelligence is the primary prerequisite for success in every discipline.”
Turner is right you know. In order to reach the top in any field of endeavor you have to have brainpower. We should always be reaching out, experimenting, learning, and growing. The pursuit of wisdom is a life-long activity. Each day we should learn something new about the world, and in so doing we will never again be the same. Personally, I want to continue to learn all my life. The more knowledge I obtain, the more of a person I become, and the more I become, the more I can give to others. The more I have to offer people, the nearer I can get to them. Then maybe, just maybe, something amazing and marvelous can transpire between us. For me that is the essence of life.
I really like John Wooden’s philosophy of learning. He says, “you should learn as if you are going to live forever and live as if you are going to die tomorrow.” Like Wooden suggest we should always be learning, striving to acquire information and seeking understanding with the idea that we are immortal and that we will need a great deal knowledge and wisdom to sustain us through eternity. At the same time living life as if we were going to die tomorrow: with pleasure, immediacy, and the right priorities.” Never stop learning.
Research Leo Buscaglia says, “Education is a never ending pursuit and the truest measure of intelligence is a dedication to continue the process throughout life.” Let me read to you more of Buscaglia’s thoughts:
“To place proper value on learning, we need to recognize a basic law of nature; that which does not grow dies a life that is lived within fixed limits and travels only the well worn paths of habit and routine is diminished greatly by failing to recognize that we live in a constant state of change. That which does not grow, dies.”
He’s right you know! We should always be reaching out, experimenting, learning, and growing. The pursuit of wisdom is a life-long activity. Each day we should learn something new about the world, and in so doing we will never again be the same. You have to work long and hard if you want to really grow intellectually. It’s not easy, but nothing worth having in life is easy to obtain. Like our Lord said, “We reap what we sow.”
Yours in strength,