The Blog

Taking the Ride beyond the book.

 

This week’s guest is two guests: Kenny Anderson and Jill Campbell.

Kenny is the former No. 2 overall NBA draft pick.

Jill is the director of a documentary that just came out about him. It’s called Mr. Chibbs.

MR. CHIBBS (2017)

Take a look at our newly released trailer! Mr. Chibbs – Kenny Anderson premieres in New York City May 3.

Posted by Mr. Chibbs – Kenny Anderson on Thursday, March 16, 2017

 

Kenny was supposed to be Kobe, and though he had a perfectly solid 14-year career in the league, he was no Kobe.

Turns out, he was playing hungover half the time.

Basketball was his escape, because he’d stay in the gym all day and as late into the night as he could to avoid going home.

At home, he shared a bedroom with a mother who was addicted to drugs.

And that’s only the beginning.

We cover a lot, including

  • How a documentary filmmaker (and journalists, too) can connect with story subjects who have suffered trauma, and establish trust between them.
  • The intense fear that a lot of great athletes – and CEOs, and so on – have when it comes to therapy and getting mental health help overall. (“They’re like, ‘I can’t come out,'” Kenny says.)
  • The way Kenny used basketball to escape a brutal home, where he shared a bedroom with a mother addicted to drugs.
  • The way Kenny suffered much of his life under the weight of childhood trauma that included being molested by a neighbor and trusted coach.
  • And plenty more.

More show notes coming soon.

And I’m going to write more about this next week.

Meanwhile, go ahead and listen. It was a great conversation.

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Hello everyone.

I’m thrilled to, at long last, give you Episode 001 of the Head in the Game Podcast.

I sat down with Steph Curry’s personal trainer Brandon Payne at his Accelerate Basketball facility just south of Charlotte.

Payne was one of my favorite interviews for Head in the Game when I was researching the book, mainly because he believes in approaching training in smarter ways — and he has a frank and authoritative take on it.

His story with Curry helps a lot with that, too.

The most famous version of his help is the viral video from 2015 showing Curry going through dribbling drills while wearing space-age looking goggles. They are flashing on and off, blacking out his vision while he trains.

But that’s just one piece to the whole puzzle.  (more…)

Hey everyone, welcome to the Head in the Game podcast, Episode Zero.

This one’s an intro episode laying out out the general idea behind the podcast and sharing some clips of audio from interviews I did for the book over the past few years.

The short of it: The world’s best athletes are learning to control their mind instead of letting their mind control them.

That sounds kind of like self-help crap.

It’s not. It’s grounded in science and built around stories.

I care about this and want to talk about this beyond the book because a lot of the ways they are doing this are things all of us can do — things that can really help us.

I tried virtually all of it.

Much of it, I still use.

It helped me see myself more clearly. Helped me understand myself better.

And — I think this might be the most important part — it’s helped me understand other people, too.

This podcast will be an ongoing experiment and I’m going to let it evolve as we go, but right now there is a rough plan: I’m shooting to air an interview every week or so with someone from this new world of “mental engineering,” or someone who can contribute to it. A couple are already in the can, and several more scheduled for recording over the next few weeks.

Not just because of the science — though the science is very kickass indeed — but because of the story that science is part of.

It’s a story about all of us. (more…)

This is adapted from Chapter 1 from Head in the Game. 

It’s the 2015 NFC Championship game, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson lines up in shotgun with a nearly impossible task ahead.

The Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl champions, have just gotten the ball back from the Green Bay Packers at the thirty-one-yard line, and they are losing 19–7 with only one time-out and 3:52 left to play.

That’s a lot to think about. A lot of pressure on young shoulders.

So far in his short career, Wilson’s shown he can handle it. After all, he was the Seahawks’ starting quarterback last year in only his second season as a pro, and he’s one of the less likely rising stars in the league, proving a lot of people wrong with every game he and the Hawks win. He’s physically talented, with above-average arm strength and accuracy, and he moves well, but even so, he’s been doubted for some time now, even losing his job as a starting quarterback in college a few short years ago. He was a middling draft pick in 2012, selected in the third round seemingly as an afterthought behind several other much-hyped quarterback prospects. Most people thought that his talent wasn’t enough to make up for one glaring and uncontrollable weakness: he’s short for the NFL, less than six feet tall in a league where the average quarterback is six-three. Analysts and pundits called him a waste of a pick. ESPN graded the Hawks’ choice a C-, CBS Sports a D, Bleacher Report an F.

And tonight, Wilson has lived down to expectations, throwing for a paltry seventy-five yards, running for an even more paltry five, getting sacked four times, throwing zero touchdowns—and throwing a nightmare four interceptions.

So if ever there is a time to turn things around, it’s now. (more…)

 

This is the Head in the Game prologue. 

 

“’Ello, mate!”

Wearing a long, loose white T-shirt, black skinny jeans, and flip-flops, Andy Walshe, Ph.D., an enthusiastic, balding, white- haired Australian with energy for days, strolls into the Red Bull North America headquarters lobby.

I’m relieved. It’s February 2016, and I was nervous that Walshe, Red Bull’s director of high performance, would cancel. Not that I think Walshe is flaky—it’s just that I’m here to talk with him about some things that I’ve tried to talk with hundreds of athletes and trainers about over the past year, and virtually none of them wanted to.

These things sound unbelievable and have— supposedly—been helping athletes do the unthinkable, such as looking at their minds and brains and making them, in essence, more athletic. Athletes are using various machines, equipment, and software to do everything from testing their brainpower to inserting themselves into virtual worlds wherein they can train with all the mental stress and fear and challenges that they would face in the arena. Some of these things can literally look at their brains in action and sync them with their smartphones.

The brain, in the palm of the hand.

These devices aren’t only being used by fringe athletes looking for a gimmicky way to get ahead either: household names, from dozens of sports around the world, are using them. Tom Brady. LeBron James. Steph Curry. Kerri Walsh Jennings, the legendary Olympic beach volleyball player who calls these innovations “life-changing.” Jason Day, who has had them change his life, be- coming the number one golfer in the world in 2015 after using one. I could keep going, with examples of both men and women, in dozens of sports—football, hockey, baseball, soccer, golf, tennis, surfing, skateboarding, UFC, myriad Olympic events.

My problem, however, is that none of them have wanted to talk to me about . . . well, there are so many tools for this sort of training that they have no single clean label, so I’ve gone with the extremely scientific term This Stuff. Ever since I first stumbled across some of This Stuff a few years ago, I’ve been calling athletes, coaches, trainers, and so on who use it. At first, they seemed excited—and then, I don’t know if they had an agent or a coach or someone else talk them out of it—but suddenly they changed their minds. Many people, “after consideration,” canceled interviews. That was on top of hundreds of others who either told me no or flat-out ignored me. Stonewalled all around.

“It’s a conspiracy, mate!” Walshe joked over the phone a month and a half ago.

If I was smart, I probably would have moved on, but I couldn’t.

(more…)

Many of the athletes and scientists featured in Head in the Game say that what they are doing has the potential to change the world. Usually, someone saying something like that will make me run screaming the other direction.

I’m dramatic sometimes.

But these folks … they seem like they might actually be right.

(more…)

Here’s a video mentioned in Chapter 13 of HEAD IN THE GAME, “Gaming the Brain.” In this vid, Cristiano Ronaldo heads a ball into the net even as the world turns pitch black. It’s a video that NeuroTracker pitch man and CogniSens CEO Jean Castanguay showed me while we sat on the couch in his Montreal office, pounding espressos and jabbering on with much excitement.

The point: Ronaldo’s brain is amazing at translating what he sees into what he needs to do, even when he can no longer see. That comes down to what the experts call “speed of information processing” and such — and now, beyond simply practicing on the pitch or in the gym or wherever, this is a skill that can be deliberately trained.

As with just about everything in the book, this blew my mind.

 

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Diving deep into the new frontier of “mental engineering” taking the world’s greatest athletes by storm — and exploring the brave new world it creates for the rest of us.

Book me for speaking and other appearances by contacting Danielle Kolodkin at the HarperCollins Speakers Bureau: danielle.kolodkin@harpercollins.com | 212-207-7100