Football, a game that is starting to evolve for the future.
As I reflect on the Super Bowl, there are few things in life that I’ve been engaged in more deeply than sports. I’ve never missed watching a Super Bowl game in fifty years. But my love affair with sports goes way back and like most love affairs there has been a mixture of good, bad, and sublime. I still remember the highs of throwing a long touchdown pass and the agony of a dislocated shoulder when I was driven into the ground. I remember the joy of being chosen on pickup games and the disappointment of being told I was too small and didn’t make the team.
I grew up in the 1950s as an only, and lonely, child in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Listening to college football games on the radio inspired my imagination. Teams with names like Holy Cross, Grambling, The Citadel, and Wake Forrest, created images of exotic lands. I watched quarterbacks Norm Van Brocklin (the Flying Dutchman) and Bob Waterfield throwing to Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Tom Fears. I soon got a football and spent hours playing games where I was both quarterback and receiver.
I had a rich imagination and enjoyed listening and watching games and re-enacting them in my mind. But sports took on another level of meaning when I got involved in an after school program in the fourth grade. I still remember the lessons I learned from Mr. Squires who quarterbacked for the two pickup football teams who played every day. Everyone wanted to be the one to catch a pass, but Mr. Squires told us that “first you need to block, then you get a chance to catch a pass.” I learned quickly that the game wasn’t just about the big plays of throwing or catching a touchdown, but the less glamorous work that went on out of sight. It was a good lesson for life.
As a small kid I never thought I would be a star in any sport, but I loved playing football and basketball. I played on my high school basketball team and scrimmaged with a player a year ahead of me named Gail Goodrich who went on to star at UCLA and then the Los Angeles Lakers. For me, sports were a way to get out of my head and into my body. It was a way to make friends with others who loved to play and it offered moments of transcendent glory:
- The feel of running deep for a catch and having the ball float into my outstretched arms.
- Shutting down the other team’s best player with a smothering defense.
- Going on a tear and shooting lights out in a basketball game where I couldn’t seem to miss.
- Running my first marathon at age 66 in the Redwoods of Northern California.
For years we would have a football game for friends and family before the Super Bowl. Everyone who wanted to play did so—men, women, boys, and girls. It was a friendly game, but it was competitive. Each team wanted to win. We had fun, ran our hearts out, got muddy, and totally enjoyed watching the pros play after we had played “the real game” beforehand.
In recent years, football has taken on a whole new meaning for me as two of my grandsons are playing college football at Arkansas and Wyoming. It’s exciting to watch them on television and cheer them on. But I worry about head injuries and am ambivalent about their desire to go on and play professional football. I’ve suffered from depression in my own life and I know that head injuries in kids can lead to depression in later years.
I still remember David Meggyesy, a former seven-year NFL linebacker with the St. Louis Cardinals. Meggyesy authored Out of Their League, a best-selling football autobiography which was included in Sports Illustrated’s 100 best sports books ever written. He quit at the height of his career to tell about the dehumanizing side of the game—about the fraud and the payoffs, the racism, drug abuse, and incredible violence. The original publication of Out of Their League shocked readers and provoked the outraged response that rocked the sports world in the 1970s.
For the past 25 years Meggyesy served as Western Regional Director of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the NFL players’ labor union, and is Board President of Athletes United for Peace. In addition, he is a leader in developing a more comprehensive view of sports as a positive process for human growth and social transformation. He has conducted mind/body workshops applying various mindset techniques to improve athletic performance, enjoyment, and quality of life.
Meggyesy is one of the speakers at the upcoming Sports, Energy, and Consciousness Festival to be held at Dominican University in San Rafael, June 10-12, 2016. In addition to Meggyesy, the festival will include keynote addresses by Michael Murphy, founder of the Esalen Institute and Ken Wilbur, founder of the Integral Institute and author of many books including, A Brief History of Everything.
Ever wonder what the future of athletic performance and coaching will look like? Join the Sports, Energy and Consciousness Group for a taste of that future. This will be a weekend celebration of integral coaching that combines cognitive, somatic, psychological, energetic and consciousness training into everyday take-home practices that will harness the power of your true athletic ability.
This experiential weekend is offered for recreational athletes, individuals who wish to realize their latent abilities, competitive players, and coaches and trainers interested in taking their teaching to the next level.
Integral coaching is emerging at the leading edge of competitive development, with professional coaches like Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and basketball’s legendary Phil Jackson using an integral approach to coaching at the highest levels.
Experience a constellation of integral practices that are rooted in the fields of Sport and Energy Psychology, Neuroscience, mindfulness and consciousness practices, visualization, affirmations, intuition, breathwork, yoga, and the system dynamics of flow in sports.
The SEC Sports Festival is the first-ever conference on integrated learning that will give you how-to, no-nonsense practices aimed at taking athletic performance into a whole new dimension. Join in for a weekend of sport as transformative practice, and see how integral coaching is the game-changer of the future.
For more information about the Festival: http://sportsenergygroup.com/
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Originally posted on MenAlive. Reprinted with persimmons.
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