Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Philosophy in sports
All too often sports are overlooked, and passed off as mindless games. Contrary to what is widely believed, sports require countless hours of preparation and mental focus. Throughout history, the most successful coaches have taken a philosophical approach to the game and they instilled these principals into their players and in turn the players relayed that approach in the way they performed in action. Two of the most renowned coaches known for their philosophy-based approaches to sports are Phil Jackson from his time with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, and Tony Dungy from his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. In this first installment, I am going to focus in on Phil Jackson, and then key in on Tony Dungy in the second installment.
After his very last championship, Phil Jackson authored a book by the name of 11 Rings in which he details the philosophies he employed when dealing with megastars of the game such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal, just to name a few. The philosophies he preached to his players are what lead him to being one of the most successful basketball coaches of all time with eleven championships to his name. Now, it’s easy to say that anyone could have won those rings with the talent he had around him, but what goes unnoticed is the grooming and patience it takes to push the enormous egos, that come with the enormous talent, to the side to be beneficial when it comes to reaching team oriented goal, winning games, which is the bottom line.
Jackson often talked about how he was a huge fan of the Eastern philosophy of Zen Buddhism, which earned him the nickname the “Zen Master”. Zen Buddhism focuses on opposing the “ego” and being “unselfish”. Phil felt like these principals were more important than actually winning games. This was especially necessary when dealing with the Michael Jordan’s and the Kobe Bryant’s of the world who can, at times, be a handful to deal with in a team setting given their all-time great talent. In his book, he stated, “As coach, I know that being fixated on winning (or more likely, not losing) is counterproductive, especially when it causes you to lose control of your emotions. What's more, obsessing about winning is a loser's game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome." Phil felt that if you could treat the best player on the team the same way you treat the struggling player at the end of the bench, it would spread a feeling of togetherness throughout the team. Each player has a value that is unique and different from the next. That was Phil Jackson’s big secret to winning. To get the best player to need the other four players on the court just as much as they need him, and the results speak for themselves. To the tune of eleven championships.