Triple Warmer Volleyball Meltdown

Have you seen it?

I know you’ve seen it. Everyone’s seen it. You see it in peewee leagues. You see it on junior high and high school teams. It even occasionally shows up on college and professional teams.

So what is it?

The infamous and toxic triple warmer meltdown.

Say WHAT?

Yep. An honest to goodness, full-blown, crash-and-burn meltdown on the stage of athletic competition.

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a thousand times.

Good kids. Highly talented athletes. Possibly even in the midst of  annihilating another team.

And then they just fall apart.

Totally.

Completely.

Meltdown.

Arses crammed so far up their tushes, extrication would require a Peterbilt tow truck.

No one seems to be able to explain it. The coach appears helpless to stop it. The crowd only seems to make it worse.

What the heck just happened?

It’s all about Energy Systems, Baby, and ours just took a vacation to Abu Dhabi.

There are these very cool rivers of energy in the body. Actually, there are multiple systems of energy, but for our purposes, I’m going to focus on the rivers. If you don’t believe they exist, stop by sometime and I’ll show you in your own body where some of them are and how they affect you.

Most of these rivers of energy, or meridians, have a name that corresponds to an organ system. You may have heard of some of these when listening to an Oriental Medicine guru. They have names like stomach, large intestine, liver, spleen, kidney, heart, and more. Each has a partner and is capable of sharing energy with their partner in a give and take relationship. Occasionally one is a little on the short side or maybe it’s cup runneth over and it has a bit too much energy. When that happens, it affects the body in a variety of ways, none of which are as good as when everything is balanced and running smoothly.

There is one river of energy with a very funny name. It’s the Triple Warmer meridian. My image of triple warmer is of a big brother. It can become quite protective and often times it is the only thing holding the rest of the meridians together when the stress in our lives becomes all-consuming. It’s first source of extra energy happens to be its partner, spleen, which also happens to be associated with the body’s immune system.

Now you are getting the picture.

Too much stress = illness, in part because too much stress = over-charged triple warmer and weakened spleen.

But what does that have to do with athletic performance?

Each of us is wired to respond to stress in a certain way. It has to do with things like left brain/right brain dominance, as well as which hand, eye, ear, and foot we prefer to use in a given situation. When stress kicks in, things start to shut down.

The fight or flight response can kick into high gear.

The muscles down the back of the body tighten up to prepare to run or start swinging punches.

Brain function then moves from the neo-cortex (logic, thinking, organizing, big picture, details) part into the mid-brain whose primary job is to keep us safe.

Not a great place to be hanging out when we need to think clearly, process information, move with grace and athletic prowess, and still be a decent human being.

This is exactly what I see happen in athletic arenas all the time.

I watched it last night as my 12 year old went from smashing volleyballs to shanking things left and right. I saw the moment the shift occurred. The smile left her face. Her shoulders slumped. The energy completely left her body.

Even though she continued to try and make something work, she had given up on her team and she had given up on herself. She felt as though no one had her back. She was simply trying to survive until the torture was over.

Triple warmer was in sixth gear.

Unfortunately while nearly everyone can see what is happening, very few people in the world know how to reverse it and restore balance to an athlete’s system. In some cases, the crowd and the coaches can actually make things worse by putting out energy that is even more stressful and toxic than that produced by the athlete.

Amazing coaches–the legendary ones about whom movies are made–have an incredible talent for calming the triple-warmer stress response. They recognize the meltdown as it begins and have an uncanny ability to halt it and turn things around.

Interestingly enough, anyone can learn how to make the shift happen. Unfortunately most coaches don’t believe they have the time to do what it takes to make stress management a part of their athletic program. As a result, they continue to experience the roller coaster of stress-response performance while some of their most talented athletes struggle to hold things together.

And don’t think for even a second this is limited to athletics.

How often are marriages hanging by a thread because the two parties involved are constantly ready to fight?

How many times are parents defensive when they arrive at school to talk about their child’s issues?

And what child can learn when they arrive in a classroom without their homework only to be thrown into triple warmer hyper-drive by a teacher who unknowingly creates a ton of additional stress?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create champions by simply calming the stress response?

We can.  Stay tuned.

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