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Optimum Performance: Internal strife caused New Orleans Saints’ downfall | NOLA.com

Atlanta Falcons free safety Dezmen Southward (41) forces a New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) to fumble in the fourth quarter as Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) recovers during the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans Sunday, December 21, 2014. (Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Atlanta Falcons free safety Dezmen Southward (41) forces a New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) to fumble in the fourth quarter as Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) recovers during the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans Sunday, December 21, 2014. (Photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Last Sunday, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune columnist Larry Holder addressed four questions that need to be answered in 2015 by the Saints organization based on “a legitimate concern after the Saints’ maddening 7-9 record in 2014.”

While Holder’s questions were dead on, they don’t go toward the underlying, deep-seated cause of the Saints pitiful collapse this past season. Holder prophetically did hit on one key word – “maddening.”

Having 40 years of professional sports experience with diverse professional sports teams and players, my gut instinct tells me that the Saints suffered from a paralyzing internal turmoil, which contributed to a lack of team unity.

It could have originated with management or in the locker room. However, it spread faster than the current flu epidemic – despite the availability flu vaccine.

In the Saints’ case, their weekly crash and burn flight, only to rebound to beat teams above their pay grade, is symbolic of the plight of the mythical phoenix bird.

According to newworldencyclopedia.org, “The earliest representation of the phoenix is found in the ancient Egyptian Bennu bird, the name relating to the verb – weben – meaning to rise brilliantly, or to shine.”

Going into the 2014 season, the Saints were a preseason favorite to make a Super Bowl run. But, like the Phoenix, the Saints lived up to the myth. “At the end of its life-cycle, the phoenix would build itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignited; both nest and bird burned fiercely and would be reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arose.” Shakespeare even wrote about it in his poem, the Phoenix and the Turtle (dove).

In week 13, Times-Picayune | NOLA.com sports columnist Jeff Duncan said before the Pittsburgh game, “The Steelers are coming off a bye week while the Saints are spiraling off a three-game home losing streak. Cold, rainy weather is expected in Pittsburgh on Sunday so look for the Steelers power running game to the difference.” To the surprise of most people, the Saints beat the Steelers 35-32. Then they proceeded to lose at home to Carolina 41-10 the following week.

The Saints need to be treated quickly for the “Phoenix Syndrome,” – a chronic, debilitating, and infectious condition, which if allowed to spread unchecked, can leave a team in a state of functional depression.

Despite money (the Saints had a 2014 payroll of over $64 million), great medical care (Ochsner Health Systems), endorsements (Drew Brees sleeps well at night if he gets a cold thanks to an ample supply of cold medicine), the Saints were unable to thwart the spread of this debilitating syndrome.

Here are the symptoms and solutions to the Phoenix Syndrome, which are taken from my third book, Maximum Energy For Life (John Wiley and Sons, 2003), a 21-day strategic plan to feel great.

Lack of focus – “There may come a point where your competitor may have more talent than you, but if you can maintain and nurture the fires of your passion, you will be able to endure in your profession.”

Loss of motivation – “Its no longer fun or challenging. ” Passion is a life force that allows you to reinvent yourself on a daily basis. It’s time for each Saints player to rediscover his passion.

Inability to Adapt – “What we know is good enough, so let’s stop here.” Nothing will kill motivation more quickly than becoming afraid of the unknown and resistant to change.

Loss of Functional Health – “Injuries are part of the game.” Everybody plays hurt, get use it or change careers. But, heal thyself and stop renting your health.

Complacency – “What sort of return am I getting on the time I invest in my work,” is the question that each player needs to address before the organization can.

Saints, take time to make time to find the path back to the top.

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently the fitness coach for Serena Williams and has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. Contact him at mackieshilstone.com

via Optimum Performance: Internal strife caused New Orleans Saints’ downfall | NOLA.com.