English wor(l)ds

JP – the informal pastor

If you have read OPEN, the autobiography of Andre Agassi you just cannot help yourself not to like JP, the pastor who became the friend of the famous tennis player. Maybe friend is too an understatement.

The real deal of reading an autobiography of a living person is the opportunity of getting in touch with the characters from the book. After I lent the book to a friend of mine he told me he would like to talk to JP. I was eager too. As I am a curious person I wanted to know what JP  is currently doing. I asked my friend if he would mind if I would approach the guy and the answer was no.

Producing music is what JP is doing and you can see the man enjoys it. But for me is not of much help. I had some questions which needed some answers. Being a Baptist Christian I could understand some of the temptations of the former pastor. Watching some top performers taking wrong paths triggered another questions. I was not sure what kind of answers I would get but the least thing I wanted was some diplomatic answers or politically correct ones. Which was not the case. It is a joy to share them with you.

John Parenti

John Parenti

 

Andre Agassi said that you did not want or pretend to be a pastor but just a guy who understand more the Bible and had some questions. How did you end up serving in that church?

When you follow your passion, there ends up being a lot of unintended consequences. I had a desire to communicate the Bible to people. I felt that so many of life’s answers, truths and inspiration were in its pages, but it was not always easily understood or applied well to today`s modern life. I made it a priority to learn the Bible and then try to build a bridge to people in today’s world and bring those two worlds together. I didn’t seek the limelight, I just enjoyed communicating, especially if it encouraged people. So I did become a pastor and began teaching. My hope was to have an informal gathering, no members, no denomination, just people studying together. But as things grew in number, you become a celebrity of sorts and people put you on a pedestal and consider you a role model and an example. This leads to intense scrutiny of your personal life. That’s the part I rebelled from, I felt unworthy of role model status and I was a very private person. At it’s height, I had nearly 7,000 people and I wanted a lower profile. So when Andre wanted me to mentor him or put me in that Pastor position, I was honest. I said I’m a teacher and communicator but not a leader. Let’s just be friends.

Please share with  us  some milestones in your life which changed the course of it?

The thing I am best known for is writing a song that became popular in Christian music. I had first given a Bible study on the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Lost kid, runs away from home, squanders his life and wonders if dad would take him back even though he was such a mess. Well, the father not only took him back, it says when he saw his son a long way off coming home, he ran to him and threw his arms around him. I realized that this story that Jesus told was made to let us know we could always come home to God, regardless of how far down we are. Then I realized that Jesus said the father ‘ran’ to his son. Even though it was a story or metaphor, it was the only time in the Bible where God ran. He is never afraid, he’s not late. He is pictured on his throne as King. But when we screw up our lives and reach out, he ‘runs’ to meet us. That truth resonated with a ton of people so when I got a call to write some songs for a friend’s upcoming record, I put the Bible study I gave to music. It’s called „When God Ran”. Knowing that that song has touched millions of people around the world for so many years is the one thing that I’m so appreciative of.

Reading Open, we find, for some surprisingly, Andre attending a church for more than 6 months sitting in the back of it. Usually when a high profile figure attends a church there is a temptation from that church’s leaders to approach this guy, to put him the spotlight and make this issue public in order to attract more people. What made to have a totally different approach?

You are right, and that happened to Andre two or three times before he came through our doors. A pastor actually made him stand up and get a round of applause. He was mortified. Three things here.

First, I hated fame myself, I craved privacy and valued it in others. I wanted him to be able to duck in late, leave early, and if he ever wanted to talk, he could reach out to me, if not, I thought, leave him alone.

Second, my church was in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital, as it’s called. So we had stars that were performing on the strip coming every week. Singers, comedians, actors, we even held a special service at 2:00 PM Sunday for all the casino people so they could sleep in after working late. So after almost every service there was a celebrity or two that would come up and say hi. You just learn to take it in stride.

Third, and for me the most important. If there’s going to be a star or a center of attention, I think it should be God. I’m not comfortable with the superstar Pastor or big personalities in the church. I think we should all recognize each others humble status and let God shine more than man.

We can notice a certain pattern to top performers either they are musicians, sportsmen, racers, etc. The more talented or strong they are in their area of expertise, the more vulnerable they are in their personal or private life. What chances are for them to succeed and stay in the top in the long run, having a balanced life, without a team of real friends to support them?

They say, if you want to see a man’s character, let him succeed. It destroys many people. I think there is one trait that protects people in the storm of success and that is being accountable. Having people that you trust tell you the truth is a valuable hedge against coming off the rails. It’s so difficult to get it right in every area. Some of my heroes, politicians and other leaders for example, have been poor Fathers. Many beloved givers and great thinkers are just mean spirited toward their staff. We’re so uneven in living out our values. And if you keep your roots planted in truth, reality, and good faithful friends, you can sustain your life’s work without burning out or getting confused about your place in life. Men like to conquer but they don’t like to reign. We’re better at starting things than in running the long race well.

You seem to enjoy a low profile but I also don’t imagine you as an yesman, therefore are you entitled to be proactive in giving guidance or even rebuke when you see a wrong attitude or habit at a star? What are the boundaries of involvement here?

All of my friendships are deeply encouraging in nature but brutally honest as well. We all count on it like the air we breath. Typically people don’t think of men having deep, personal, vulnerable relationships with each other. But my friends and I don’t know any other way. I don’t think it comes in the way of criticism very often though, we are mutually trying to grow and evolve and we’re there for each other holding up a mirror and discussing our challenges and trying to share a bit of wisdom with each other.

Do you believe in big visions or in small steps of faith guiding you to bigger things?

I always think big. I like bold ideas. I want to leave a deep mark on the world. I think I do that to the point that it can be a fault. I’m not very nuanced. So when it works, a big idea or a bold, unafraid move can make big things happen and I revel in it. But bold moves in the wrong direction can get you in trouble fast. Honestly, I’ve done both.

Who are the five persons alive you would like to meet?

I’d like to get all five living First Ladies (American President’s wives) in a room talking off the record. How interesting that would be to have a front row on history.

Who are the five dead persons you would have liked to meet?

Ronald Reagan

Frank Sinatra

Errol Flynn

Robert Oppenheimer

Babe Ruth

They all had their flaws and blemishes, but there was something magical about each of them. I’d like to peek under the hood and see what made them tick.

Oamenii din umbra marilor campioni

Fiind curios din fire și cotrobăind printre lucrurile pe care marea majoritate a oamenilor nu le caută, azi am dat de acest material.

Cei care mă cunosc știu că nu sînt mare fan Sebastian Vettel pentru că nu la întîmplare mi l-am ales ca erou pe colegul acestuia de la RBR, adica Mark Webber. Dar am un respect imens și o simpatie de neoprit pentru german, pentru că are trăsături de caracter pe care nu le poți ignora.

O privire mai atentă asupra vieții în general ne dezvăluie următorul fapt: orice campion nu poate reuși de unul singur iar pentru mine, oamenii din jurul lui sînt la fel de fascinanți ca eroul însuși.

Gata cu vorba, să trecem la fapte.

Interviul a fost realizat de Dimitris Papadopoulos care poate fi găsit aici, http://f1enigma.wordpress.com/ și este publicat cu permisiunea extrem de amabilă a sitului  www.MTV3.fi

 

Tommi Pärmäkoski: The trainer behind a World Champion
Julkaistu 25.4.2013

Formula 1 is a strange place. 600 or more people work for the top teams, attempting to build fast and reliable cars, facing huge logistical challenges, battling financial problems and the focus is on the two men driving the cars with one aim – winning races and become world champion.

All of the pieces of the puzzle, many of them unimaginable, have to fit together like a Swiss watch to make this happen. But at the end of the day you need the driver to take hold of the car and transform all this effort into a win.

Sebastian Vettel has established a good working relationship with the Finns and his first trainer at Red Bull was Tommi Pärmäkoski.

 

Tommi and Seb

Tommi went to the USA, specifically North Dakota, to study “Sport and Exercise Psychology and coaching”. During his studies, he also played hockey for the university team.

“I think that I was a very dedicated and hard working athlete and I was always very curious about training and how to develop myself physically,” says Tommi. “That was the biggest reason for my interest in coaching because I was always willing to develop and become better myself. I tried many things. Some worked but there were some big mistakes too. But it was this process that gave me a lot of information on what to do and what not to do with my athletes. I have always been interested in psychology but I have never really studied it at school. Mostly through sport psychologists and books.”

The turnaround for Tommi came in 2008, when he got in touch with Sebastian Vettel via a Formula 1 connection. The German was looking for a trainer and he was introduced to Tommi, who was working at Kuortaneen Urheiluopisto when he received the offer.

“Being honest, I didn’t even know what to expect when I heard about the job,” says Tommi. “Likely I didn’t know how difficult and demanding it is with pressure, traveling, etc. When you are young you have positive attitude and re full of energy. If I would have known before starting my job how many things you have to take care of I would have been asked myself if I’m ready and knowledgeable enough to do the job.”

“For me, it was a big school and a huge learning experience to work in F1 where they have a budget and possibilities to do everything so that your driver will be in as good shape as possible when the race starts. You have to do work with physiotherapist, chiropractic, find how to take care of nutrition, traveling plans, training calendar, the psychological side and so on.”

So how did he react to the job offer?

“The first reaction was to be open-minded and go to see whatever I will face,” he says. “Luckily I had a very good supporting contacts through Kuortane sport institute and also through Finnish sport. Also Red Bull was very willing to teach and organize contacts with different experts when you were looking for info or support for your work!”

Tommi reveals that he wasn’t passionate about F1 before joining the circus.

“Being honest, I was never a big fan,” Tommi admits. ”Of course, in Finland F1 has been always big and I was watching when Häkkinen drove for the world championship title or how Kimi was doing so as a shooting new star. But I was never really a passionate for it. I only realized what F1 really is when I went for the first time to the Red Bull factory and I saw how over 600 people were doing everything to help to get the car better. On TV you basically see the drivers battle but when you know what happens in backstage you really see the team sport in it. It is amazing that you have around 45 mechanics and engineers, a few bosses, your own kitchen, marketing people, a human performance team – basically around 100 people in a race circuit and many people in the factory doing whatever it takes to have the fastest car on the grid”

The key to this relationship was that both driver and trainer understand perfectly each other and are aligned towards the aim.

“Yes, in the end being fitness trainer or personal trainer comes down to the relationship between two people”, comments Tommi. “There are never really one or two things or elements. I think you have to be yourself and then the inner you has to work with the athlete. You have to make the bond that you feel you have same dreams and you know that you both are ready to help each other!”

Sebastian Vettel was another case though, a “special kind”. Tommi reveals a lot about Seb’s attitude in training and the way he approached it.

“When we did training he was always asking why we were doing something,” says Pärmäkoski “He tried to analyze everything and he was ready to do the training as long as he was able to master it. He was never satisfied until he was able to do something. There is no quit in his vocabulary. Also, the way how he loves winning is something I have never seen before. It didn’t matter if it was driving, badminton, or playing cards. He was ready to do whatever to win and if he lost you heard straight away the words ONE MORE!”

“But in the end the key elements are same as in life. You have to feel trust between trainer and athlete. You have to be able to communicate (it doesn’t matter how difficult the things are), you have to have same dreams together and you have to do anything so that your athlete is able to be successful. Also of course I think that athlete wants you to have the knowledge, to be someone who is able to push him over the limits to the impossible. Someone who the athlete things to bring some advantage to him and help him to be a better athlete”

Sebastian Vettel clinched his first world championship in the very last race in Abu Dhabi in 2010. In that race Vettel was the outsider, having to fight with Fernando Alonso and team-mate Mark Webber. Greek poet Konstantinos Kavafis once said that “It’s not the destination that matters, but the trip” and this is something that Tommi agrees with.

“Of course, the first championship is a great experience but in the end it is never about the championship,” he says. “The coolest thing is the road to success. You always remember the first GP victory in China for Red Bull. The emotions of the mechanics and people who had been years in F1 and had never won anything. But the biggest thing for me was always to see behind the success. I saw how badly Sebastian wanted to win and how much work he was putting into making his dream come true. He was like a machine when were training. And He was analyzing his driving, working with engineers, mechanics. Also, the coolest thing is when you see the up and downs. You saw the blown engine in Korea, you felt the pressure and anger when Sebastian and Mark crashed in Turkey. You have seen also the days when the driver is so tired that you have to push him through training, ask him to put everything in when it is tough. I love the motivating part, or the time when you have to cool the driver before race. Sometimes you fight, sometimes you are laughing, sometimes crying together but always you have the dream what you are working for together”

“Also, it is important to realize that you are only a small piece in a puzzle. You have to have a great car designer, great car part planners, great engineers, mechanics, team bosses, marketing people working with sponsors, kitchen to make a good food and keeping the spirit up, and so on. So many things have to be right so that in the end the driver can do the miracles with the car. When the car and team works your small job is to do everything that the driver is in a good shape mentally and physically when he steps into the car.”

“But in the end, to be world championship driver there has to be some small miracles. You have to have the support of your family, find right sponsors, meet the right people around the way, be successful in a right place, dedicate your life for your dream, do every day everything as well as possible. I don’t believe there are any shortcuts in life or sport, the success comes through dedication, dreaming big, working hard and smartly, being curious to learn new every day, wanting to be better every day.”

For the spectators, Formula 1 is about only free practice, qualifying and then the races. But for people working inside the circus, it is far more demanding. Formula 1 is not as shiny as it looks from outside. Tommi shares with us his experience living within the circus.

“I liked the fact that F1 is the highest class sport in the world,” he says. “When there is money there is also pressure and huge competition between teams and drivers. I don’t see any negative about that. It is natural that every team wants to be the best and every driver wants to be the best man in the podium. From my point of view, I was so happy to have the chance to develop my skills. Because of the budget and connections I was always able to find information, learn from the best people in different areas, able to get the latest info in nutrition, physiology, or find the newest info of physiotherapy. If we were racing in Malaysia and I wanted to test different sport drinks or hydration programs and I had chance to do so. I liked that there was readiness to guarantee the optimal results.”

“But also in the end everything happens in a person. In the end human being is a whole. It is important he has the life in balance with training, work, friends, family, etc. In the end, when you are stable with yourself you have the world in a right balance and you know what place the sport plays in your life. It is important but at the same time it is only racing. There are so many other big things in a life. But if you ask what I loved the most in F1 was the last 60-15 minutes before the race when you are along with your driver. There is only you and athlete. You will do the relaxing massage, do the warm-up. You try to understand what is going through the driver’s head. You try to help him. Sometimes you say a lot and motivate, sometimes you don’t say anything. You are the closest person to the athlete. The one who he reflects. If you are shaking the athlete starts to shake. If you are too confident, the athlete might become too confident, and so on! The best feeling is when you both know that you had done everything as well as possible before the race to get the maximum out. Then you can follow the race with peace in your heart hoping for the best.”

As we mentioned earlier, F1 is very demanding, and at the end of 2011 Pärmäkoski decided to leave F1, with Seb having secured his second World Championship. Why?

“I don’t know if there was a specific reason,” he admits. “I was living in a Switzerland but living 250 days in a hotel, 80 days in Switzerland. I was over 300 days a year with Sebastian. We had the deal that we do everything as well possible to make the success possible. We trained together, we traveled, we ate basically the same way. This way I was able to recognize from myself how he was doing. Also you saw the signs of tiredness, or you saw today is a good day and we were able to change the training plan through it. Over three years, I put everything on the game for my job. I had to say no to my friend’s weddings, and so on.

“After the second world championship I felt that I had done my job and I needed something else. I believe that you can do this job when you are 100% full of energy. When your fire is out it is time to step off and bring someone else on. Someone who is ready to push again the athlete to the next level. In the end, Seb still sometimes calls and asking some things. You have the history and you have learned so many things from each other. Yes, I learned so many great things from Seb. Sometimes he was my mentor in life, sports, and so on and I guess I was teaching him a bit of life, how to train, how to learn to listen his body and so on. It is the two way street and that is the beauty of the work!”

He adds that he doesn’t miss it: “I’m missing the hardest trainings with Seb, the looks with Seb seeing his eyes looking for support or seeing the fire in them. Or the atmosphere in the drivers room before the race! But I saw the circuits, how to became a champion, how the team works. I learned so many great things and I thought now it is the time to use those things somewhere else. Also, at the moment it feels nice to have some stability in life with less travelling, more time with friends and family. Also, I’m very happy to have the chance to be back to Kuortane. I’m able to learn from the great coaches and Finnish Olympic athletes from the different sports. I’m able to develop my knowledge every day and trying to be a better coach. Also I’m able to share my knowledge for Finnish sports and maybe tell forward the best things that I learned when working in F1.”

Tommi has now two main activities, the Kuortane sport institute and Finnish ice hockey association.

“I’m working for Kuortane sport institute (Finnish Olympic training center) were we are developing the Finnish sport system and offering the coaching/testing help for mainly Finnish athletes,” he says. “Also, I’m working with the Finnish ice hockey association. My main responsibility is to be the physical trainer for Finnish women’s team and also helping with the women’s under-18 team. I started to train with hammer thrower Merja Korpela last September. She has been participating in Olympics, WC, Euro championship games. I’m working together with Harri Huhtala who is her other coach and responsible for her throwing. So I’m helping with the other physical trainings (like power, speed, etc). So basically at the moment my life is full of coaching but at the same time when working in Kuortane I’m able to research and develop my skills every day and able to learn the newest info that happens in Finnish and international sport.”.

Having had a huge success in F1 with Vettel, it would be interesting to find out if he had thought of a driver, from whatever era to pick up to be his trainer.

“Such a difficult question because in the end you need so much time to get into the soul of the driver,” he says. “I’m always saying that for me it is difficult to believe that I will ever meet anyone like Sebastian. He was not perfect but I can say deep from my heart that he was living for the sport. The kind of passion he had is amazing. He really loves what he is doing. But of course as a Finn it would have been great to see the early days and successful times of Mika Häkkinen or the glory days of Michael Schumacher (who brought the physical fitness to the new level). But still I have to say that something in the character of the Ayrton Senna is giving me the feeling that working with him would have been a journey. Not the easiest person but inside he had the fighter that knew what it takes to be brave and successful behind the wheel. I have always said that the greatest sporstmen had something unorthodox and I bet what I have heard that Ayrton had it. So my answer is Senna!”

It’s very interesting to watch that teams and F1 people are getting Finns for their training programme and support.

“When I start to work in F1 there was Ossi Oikarinen with Ferrari as the chief of testing, Kari Lammenranta the mechanic of McLaren and Aki Hintsa the medical chief of McLaren,” he says. “There were no Finnish trainers. At the same time when I start with Seb, Petri Lehikoinen (former fitness coach and physiotherapist of Finnish alpine skiing team) was named the trainer of Heikki Kovalainen. So now it is amazing that there are 6 trainers from Finland. I believe the biggest reason is the character of the Finnish drivers that had made the name for Finland but still I think that Aki Hintsa had made the best name for Finnish knowledge. He is really respected human performance person in the paddock. He has the years of experience and the knowledge. But why so many Finns? I also think that Finnish people are usually honest and hard workers. They like to be on the background but at the same time they are very dedicated and loyal for their team and for their driver.”

David Coulthard, choices in a F1 cockpit

„I scored my first point in only my second grand prix, but what the public didn’t know was that I have lost my feeling in my foot during the race. Not long into the early laps, I realized I couldn’t not feel my foot under braking, which when you are driving at 200 mph is not an ideal scenario. I had a choice:

a) park the car and give in

b) make do and struggle on

David Coulthard

I did the latter, there was no option as far as I was concerned. I knew that if I stopped that was it, game over; if you try to finish, but the injury overwhelms you, than at least you’ve tried your hardest. On this occasion I just could not feel my foot. It was a bit like severe pins and needles and I didn’t really know how much pressure I was putting on the brake and I didn’t quite have the same strength and control… but you adapt. It’s amazing what you’ll do when you do not have a choice, because stopping was not an option. If you give up, you give up, end of story. That was not going to happen.”

David Coulthard – It is what it is (the Autobiography)

Stand on my shoulders and reach

„Outside, we stand in the parking lot and look at the stars. I feel such overwhelming love, and gratitude, for Gil. I thank him for all he’s done, and he tells me I never need to thank him again. Then he gives a speech.

 

Gil, who learned English from newspapers and baseball games, delivers a flowing, lilting, poetic monologue, right outside Joe’s, and one of the great regrets of my life is that I don’t have a tape recorder with me. Still, I remember it nearly word for word.

Andre, I won’t ever try to change you, because I’ve never tried to change anybody. If I could change somebody, I’d change myself. But I know I can give you structure and a blueprint to achieve what you want.

There’s a difference between a plow horse and a racehorse. You don’t treat them the same. You hear all this talk about treating people equally, and I’m not sure equal means the same. As far as I’m concerned, you’re a racehorse, and I’ll always treat you accordingly. I’ll be firm, but fair. I’ll lead, never push. I’m not one of those people who expresses or articulates feelings very well, but from now on, just know this: It’s on, man. It is on. You know what I’m saying? We’re in a fight, and you can count on me until the last man is standing. Somewhere up there is a star with your name on it. I might not be able to help you find it, but I’ve got pretty strong shoulders, and you can stand on my shoulders while you’re looking for that star. You hear? For as long as you want. Stand on my shoulders and reach, man. Reach.”

 

Open, an autobiography of Andre Agassi

0 points for winning

Bill Wash a fost un mare antrenor de fotbal american. Destul de contra cultural adica nu urla la jucatori, nu punea presiune pe ei inutil, nu-i antrena pe caldura lipsindu-i de apa ca sa-i faca mai rezistenti.

A preluat echipa intr-un moment extrem de prost si a pus accent pe stilul de joc decit pe victorii, lucru care era sa-l coste postul de antrenor.

In cartea din care am preluat citatul face multe paralele interesante dintre lidearshipul unui business de fotbal american si businessul uzual.

image

„That anxiety about failure, that disgust with failure, that failure is really a distinct part of competition and must be absolutely under your control. Unfortunately this is very hard to do so – at least it was for me and took four of five years off my coaching career at San Francisco. 

Losing, however you define it, even the thought of losing, can become so psychologically crippling that winning offers little solace and no cause for celebration because you have imposed an internal accounting system on yourself that awarded zero points for winning and minus points for losing. You can never go ahead on points. That’s exactly what happened to me. 

I see the symptom all the time in business. Study the faces of some executives or salespeople when they achieve a big “win”. The best description of their demeanor is “grim faced”, and they trudge cheerlessly on to fight without comment. They have allotted themselves zero point for victory. 

This can occur as your expectations and the expectations of others get higher and higher – they keep raising the bar on you, and you keep raising it on yourself. „

Bill Walsh – The score takes care for itself