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2.27.15 Issue

by Ozzie Nogg

When sports teams, Fortune 500 corporations or individuals want advice on ways to boost their performance level, Jack Stark is the go-to guy. Stark, a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked with the Nebraska Cornhuskers and NASCAR, will bring his motivational message — What it Takes to Be a Winner — to the Jewish Community Center Theater on Monday, March 9, at 7 p.m. The program is sponsored by the JCC and Jewish Family Service through the use of the Pennie Z. Davis Family Life Education Fund.

“Steve Nogg, our JFS co-president, suggested Jack to me as someone our community would want to hear because of his successful work with the Cornhuskers,” said Karen Gustafson, Executive Director of Jewish Family Service. “When I talked to Jack, he proposed an expanded presentation regarding performance psychology, in all its many uses, that would appeal to a broad audience. On March 9, Jack will address how performance psychology works and why it works — on the field, in the board room, and at home. He’ll offer strategies on how to help our kids maximize their potential, both educationally and athletically; how we can become better managers and get the most out of our employees; and how each of us can find ways to enhance our own lives. Because of Jack’s connection with football and sports performance, it seemed logical for the JCC to partner with JFS in bringing this program to the entire Omaha community.”

A pioneer in sport psychology, and one of its most respected practitioners, Jack Stark served from 1989 to 2004 as a team psychologist for the University of Nebraska Cornhusker football program. During his tenure, the Huskers won 88% of their games, including three national championships, and had the highest winning percentage in the 1990s. For nearly a decade, Stark has served as the team psychologist for NASCAR’s Hendrick Motorsports team, winner of five straight national championships. He also helped Creighton All-American and Player of the Year, Doug McDermott, maximize his abilities. “We’d meet for ninety minutes before every game,” Stark explained, “either in person or on the phone, and do fifteen minutes of visual relaxation exercises. Obviously, they worked.” Jack Stark served on the faculty of the Nebraska Medical Center’s departments of psychiatry and pediatrics as a tenured professor of medical psychology, and is the founder and director of Performance Enhancement Group that consults with Wall Street executives in the art of team building.

Stark’s book, The Championship Formula, is written in straightforward, no-nonsense language aimed to help organizations and individuals consistently achieve extraordinary results. According to reviewers, Stark has a unique perspective on the elements needed for sustaining success, and his book is “a great read if you’re looking to get in touch with your inner-champion.”

During a phone interview, Stark recalled one particular moment in his career. “It’s 1989 and I’m in Tom Osborne’s office making a presentation to the coaches on what I think I can do for the team. To me, Osborne is like a rock star. To be in his presence is profound. So I say, ‘I don’t want to over promise on what I can offer you and the Cornhuskers.  I can probably make a 5% difference with the team.’ And Osborne responds, ‘Do you understand what you’re saying, Jack? At this level, 5% is huge. A 5% improvement in performance can be the difference between a good team and a national champ. One play, one game, can make a season.’ Osborne’s words stayed with me, and I use them in various situations. When I’m speaking at high schools, I remind the teens that one bad decision can cost them a scholarship or get them kicked out of school. At business seminars I remind attendees that one bad decision can ruin a company. One play, one game, can make a season. So it goes with life, too.”

During his presentations, Stark focuses on ways to overcome mental barriers, relax, concentrate and visualize success — in sports and other areas. His sessions are lively with Q&A. “Someone in the audience will ask how she can improve her golf game. Or a teenager will ask how he can stop worrying so much about fitting into the crowd. Or someone bombed a job interview and wants to know how to handle the rejection. There’s plenty of stress out there. When people leave the JCC Theater I want them to be armed with tools and strategies to help them get ahead. My aim is to help people become 5% better and suggest a path that will lead to peak performance and success. We all have what it takes to be a winner.”

Steve Nogg will be in the front row of the JCC Theater on March 9. “All age groups will benefit from Jack’s message, which helps you think about how you can live a more fulfilling and positive life,” Nogg said. “Jack’s record as a Performance Psychologist is exceptional. His presentation will truly be a thought-provoking and enjoyable evening.”