sports psychologist & clinical psychology

Hall of Fame NFL QB Warren Moon: Psychology Helped Me Achieve Greatness

Sports psychology – Newsday – Bob Glauber – September 7, 2009 – Ex-Vikings QB Moon says therapy helped him cope – In his upcoming book, the Hall of Famer credited secret therapy sessions in Minneapolis for finding the root of his unhappiness.

Warren Moon would wait until the end of the day before sneaking into the back entrance to the office building. Twice each week, the Minneapolis psychologist would give Moon the last appointment so no one would discover that an NFL quarterback was in therapy.

But it was during those sessions that Moon, who was playing for the Vikings at the time, would begin to unravel the reasons behind his unhappiness.

“I’d go Tuesday and Fridays, and I’d always go at the end of the day so no one would see me in the stairway,” Moon recalled during a recent interview. “Confidentiality was a big thing with me, but once I got past that, I was able to open up and talk about myself.”

And it was then that he discovered how much had built up inside him through the years.

There was the overwhelming feelings of responsibility for his mother and six sisters after his father died of liver disease when Moon was only 7.

The stress of dealing with suggestions that he was not smart enough to pursue his dreams of becoming an NFL quarterback.

The acrimonious dissolution of his first marriage.

“When my dad passed away, I took a lot of responsibility and probably matured a lot faster because I was so caught up with being the ‘man of the house’ with my sisters and my mom,” said Moon, who learned to cook, sew and clean the house to help his mother, Pat, a full-time nurse. “Football was a way for me to make it in order to take care of my family. I never really paid any attention to me, except for the kind of football player I wanted to be.”

Even after Moon became successful at every level he competed at, the personal issues still gnawed at him. But during more than a decade of soul-searching, Moon finally has come to terms with himself — not just as the first black quarterback to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also as a man.

He hopes that by sharing his experiences, he can help other pro athletes with similar struggles. Moon’s autobiography, “Never Give Up on Your Dream: My Journey,” details his experiences during a lifetime of personal and professional challenges.

“One of the things I learned from this whole experience is that you need to deal with yourself first,” said Moon, who has since remarried. “If you do that, you’ll be a better person to be around for others.”

He strongly believes therapy would be of similar help to other athletes.

“I would suggest to any player that if he can get past the confidentiality part of it, especially male athletes who try to be these stoic figures, where nothing bothers us and we can conquer the world,” Moon said. “Address your feelings. Address your emotions. It will be a much more freeing experience in life, which will help you to be better to others around you.”

Another message from the book: “Anything you do in life is going to be tough, but anybody who has been successful will go through tough times.”

Moon’s challenge was to care for his family the best way he knew how: by throwing a football. He grew up in an era in which college and professional coaches and scouts viewed black quarterbacks with skepticism, often recommending that they switch to running back or wide receiver because they weren’t considered intelligent enough to play quarterback.

Moon had to overcome those stereotypes at every level. He had to spend a year in junior college before being offered a scholarship at the University of Washington. After going undrafted by the NFL, he played in the Canadian Football League for six years, winning five championships for the Edmonton Eskimos. Finally, in 1984, he signed with the Houston Oilers and wound up playing 17 NFL seasons for the Oilers, Seahawks, Vikings and Chiefs.

He never spoke publicly about it until now.

“There were two reasons I didn’t talk about it,” Moon said. “One, it was painful. My thing was, as a quarterback and being a stoic figure, I acted like nothing bothers me. I’m bigger than that. Another reason is because I didn’t want to seem like I was using it as an excuse.”

So why talk now?

“It’s important to acknowledge it,” he said. “There are just not a whole lot of us [black quarterbacks] out there, and I knew I’d have to be better and make sure I watched any move on or off the field.

“[Former Bucs and Redskins quarterback) Doug Williams and I were able to help open doors for the next generation. We were pioneers in that. So many African-American quarterbacks are playing now because of the way we played during our time. That’s important to me.”

Moon’s message to others: Live the dream.

“My story is about a guy who didn’t come from a whole lot,” he said. “I had to live through racism and a lot of other stuff, but I was still able to accomplish my dream. People out there struggling to find theirs can do it, too.”

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