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Speakers connect past athletic experiences, values

| Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Christopher Adkins and Amber Lattner spoke about how their experiences in sports taught them the keys to a high level of ethical performance during “Life Lessons from Sports: Performance and Purpose” at the Mendoza College of Business on Tuesday afternoon.

Adkins, the executive director of the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership, said questions of ethics arise frequently in athletics, and it is in these moments when people define themselves.

“There are moments where you have to decide if you’re going to play dirty too,” Adkins said. “Are you going to go down to that level, or are you going to up your game? There are moments when you have to dig deep.”

Adkins said a high school soccer coach taught him how to look within himself for a performance advantage. The coach emphasized the importance of visualizing a successful game beforehand, Adkins said.

“I now realize this was a bit of cognitive behavioral therapy, to script ourselves,” Adkins said.

Adkins said this same visualization process is necessary for maintaining a high ethical standard.

“We need to figure out those moments when we were at our peak ethical performance, and then establish a trigger, much like when I need to go in the zone on the sports field to make a free throw,” Adkins said. “I need to go to all the moments when I’ve made it, not all the moments when I’ve missed. We need to do that ethically.”

Lattner, founder of the Lattner Performance Group, said she first learned about the keys to peak performance as a 9-year-old, when along with playing soccer and going to school, she worked at her family’s McDonald’s franchise and helped care for her family’s cattle.

“What I found was that the best of the best, regardless of what domain we’re in, whether it’s academics, athletics, livestock or business, they’ve all got similar traits,” Lattner said. “They have similar work ethics and disciplines and habits of excellence that contribute to them being the best in their respective crafts.”

Later on, while playing soccer at Notre Dame, Lattner said her coach stressed the importance of maintaining excellent habits.

“He said if you want to be a national champion, you have to act like a national champion, every single day, in everything you do,” Lattner said.

Lattner said she soon became very interested in psychoneuromuscular theory, which relates to how our thoughts and emotions affect performance.

“Our thoughts affect our emotions, our emotions affect our body’s response and ultimately that’s what’s going to dictate our behavior,” Lattner said. “What we think about is going to impact how we’re going to react and respond to things.”

Lattner said the more we think about something, the more protein patterns are grown in the brain corresponding to this topic of thought. This “changes the form and function of your brain,” and consequently, Lattner said, controlling your thoughts is of the utmost importance.

“If it is a good thought, keep it, use it, hold on to it, repeat it,” Lattner said. “If it’s not a good thought, guess what we should do? Chuck it.”

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