The following is a draft of an article written by the NY Post’s Kevin Kernan about my work with NY Knicks shooting guard Allan Houston. Unfortunately, it was never published despite the fact that Allan’s results from our first session were a vital part of the Knicks making the playoffs in ’98-’99, the year that they made it to the NBA Finals and the fact that Allan had a career-best season in FG% and 3Pt% and made his first NBA All-Star team in ’99-’00.
As the draft was originally a txt file, I have edited it for line spacing and to update my e-mail address and telephone number. All the rest of it is as Kevin wrote it. You’ll see that Allan was very happy with his results, as well he should have been. Enjoy.
FOR CHRIS: KERNAN HOUSTON-NLP SUNDAY SPECIAL
TORONTO _ Shooting perfection often is mind over matter, but never more so for Allan Houston than this season. Despite a down performance in the Game 2 win over the Raptors Wednesday when he took only eight shots, Houston is in the midst of his finest season ever even though his degree of shooting difficulty has grown because of the way the Knicks’ offense is structured. A key reason for his success is an innovative focusing technique.
The process is called neuro-linguistic programming, known as NLP, and it is taught by Art Rondeau, a peak performance coach based in Southern California. Rondeau, 43, insists his techniques can be applied to all sports and that this is the tip of the athletic iceberg.
Whether he’s is a modern day snake oil salesman or on the cutting edge of a new coaching tool is in the eye of the beholder, but there is no questioning the success Houston has enjoyed this season with Rondeau’s help. Houston shot a career-high .483 from the field, a staggering improvement from last year’s .418 mark as he equaled a career-high average 19.7 points. He came into the season a career .438 shooter. He also shot a career-high .436 from three-point range, although he was at .401 from downtown entering the year. Houston is quick to credit the process, where Rondeau instills techniques to make sure the athlete’s mind and body are in harmony.
“This has helped me a lot more than I thought,” Houston told The Post. “I went through a time when Art and I didn’t really communicate or talk and I got back with him and it really helped.
“My honest feeling is that all you can do is prepare yourself mentally and physically, the way I look at it, God is going to have His way with you, but Art has had a lot to do with it, he just helped me to be able to stay focused,” Houston said. “For me to be as successful as I have been I almost had to shoot almost 50 percent for the way this team is and the way I get shots, so he really had a lot to do with that.”
Rondeau is a shooting coach as well and first met Houston after working with Chris Dudley last season on Dudley’s free-throw shooting fundamentals. He said Houston’s superior talents made his NLP program successful. Rondeau abhors the term shot doctor, and joking refers to himself as a “shot alternative-medicine practitioner.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better client,” said Rondeau, who flew in to see Houston this weekend. “He’s a great person, he’s willing to try things. Because of his talent it’s easy for us to see and say, ‘Oh yes that worked or that worked, but it didn’t work as well as we liked, let’s add something into it.’ He’s the one putting the ball in the basket. It’s his talent, I just know some ways to get the most out of his talent.”
Rondeau learned the focus and positive imaging techniques while working as a certified trainer for Tony Robbins, the Power of Positive Thinking guru, beginning in 1991. “The framework for NLP is how does the brain work?” Rondeau said. “What is going on with the brain on a regular basis? Tools were put together to help specific situations.”
He has helped people in all walks of life reach their peak performance in jobs and transferred those skills to sports. He has also worked with professional skiers and believes baseball players are ripe for NLP. He began working with Houston last year at the end of the season in Charlotte, when the Knicks began their amazing turnaround, and then had more sessions with him in the off-season and through the first half of this season. Because of scheduling conflicts, Rondeau and Houston did not get together after the All-Star break for a face-to-face training session until April 18. At the time, Houston, at the time, was in his worst slump of the season, shooting .396 and averaging only 13.8 points over the previous four games.
Houston emphatically broke out that night after the training session, scoring 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including hitting four of five from three-point land in a win over his previous nemesis Detroit. He roasted the Raptors for 21 points on 7-ffor-15 shooting in the Game 1 victory Sunday, tying Latrell Sprewell for team-high honors. Houston took a step backward in the 84-83 win over Toronto Wednesday. He was never in rhythm and wound up making only two of eight shots and did not take a three-pointer as he concentrated on holding Tracy McGrady to 3-for-9 shooting. It was the first time this season the Knicks had won when Houston was limited to 12 or fewer shots. To finish business against the Raptors, Houston will need to get more touches.
The Knicks have won 82 percent of the time this season when Houston has had 25 or more shots and 71 percent when he takes 21 or more shots. Getting those shots can be a delicate balance for Jeff Van Gundy with Patrick Ewing back in the offensive flow. Houston has had to make key adjustments this season, spending more time on the weak side or dumping the ball into the post on the strong side.
This is how NLP works.Rondeau builds a profile of his subject and that person’s beliefs, then through a number of training sessions, enables the subject to reach a more focused state for success, using words or phrases that trigger responses by creating pictures in the mind that anchor the subject in a positive manner. Because of confidentiality, Rondeau will not go into details of a training session, but as for NLP he said, “The key is for an athlete to get out of his head so he is basically unconscious, getting him into a zone. He’s not thinking about what he’s doing, he’s just doing it, all the years of repetition and high quality coaching have turned him into a shooting star. It’s when they start thinking about what they’re doing is when they get into trouble.”
It’s all about harnessing positive images. We are what the brain sees, in the conscious and unconscious state.
“When I’ve had the chance to sit down with somebody for a couple of face-to-face sessions and get background, we’ll take a look and make sure all the pictures are in their proper place, ‘Are you thinking about this game in highest zone state,” explained Rondeau, who can be reached at (888) 755-1969. “If there are things that are special areas of focus, we emphasize those points and have him accessing real positive emotions while were talking about that.”
Rondeau insists he could help players like Portland’s Rasheed Wallace, who often gets technicals, by triggering positive emotions in times of stress. “Maybe they start out angry but end up resourceful, courteous or diplomatic,” he said. “You can set that up.”
That emotional control can be taught to anyone, he noted. Rondeau said many of the techniques in memory courses are based around NLP as are programs on how to quit smoking or programs that help people change careers.
“There’s really so much you can do with it,” he said.
Why haven’t more players or teams come to Rondeau? “It’s one thing to go to teams and say, ‘Hey I can do this if you give me the opportunity,’ ” Rondeau explained. “Allan came with a commitment to be the best player he can be. Now Allan’s given me the opportunity, it will be a lot easier to go to teams and say, ‘Hey I have done this, and here’s an example of it.’ A lot of people are old school, but sooner or later people will come around. It goes slowly. I’m hoping this will catch on someday.”
Rondeau knows positive imaging goes a long way.
Filed under: Allan Houston, Art Rondeau, Chris Dudley, free throws, Kevin Kernan, Latrell Sprewell, mental zone, NBA, NBA All-Star, NBA Finals, neuro-linguistic programming, NLP, NY Knicks, NY Post, Peak Performance Coaching, PPC, slump, sports mastery, sports performance, sports psychology, Tracy McGrady, visualization |