Alliance Profile – Brian Scalabrine
NBA Player from 2001 – 2012 for 3 NBA Teams, Won an NBA Title with the Boston Celtics in 2008, Former NBA Coach (Warriors), Current TV Analyst with the Celtics
What past life experiences, physical traumas or genetics do you believe have had an effect on your mental health?
I’m a guy, that when you look at my life from the outside and take it in all together, it looks like everything is great and I have it all. I won an NBA title playing for a great franchise with some iconic players. I transitioned right after my playing career into broadcasting, I still get to play competitively in the Big3 now, and I have an incredible wife and kids.
All of the above said, I’ve got this perfectionist attitude I’ve had for as long as I can remember, even as a little kid, where if I don’t live up to my own expectations for myself, it can get me down. And those expectations are for things in many different aspects in life. Sure it happens still in sports – like when I don’t play well a in BIG3 game. But it happens in other aspects of life as well – like critiquing how I came across on a broadcast, or questioning if I’m being the best dad and husband I can be given how much I still do things w my career, or am on the road. It’s a lot of questioning whether I’m making the right decisions each step of the way.
How did the effects on your mental health appear in terms of symptoms?
When I don’t live up to my expectations, the best way I’d describe how I feel is just generally – down…like there is something weighing me down. I question whether I’m living my life optimally and choosing the right things. I can remember this feeling even back to when I was a kid – if I had a bad HS basketball game, I’d get on myself and it would weigh on me even back then.
When and why did you decide to ask for help to get relief?
I’m fortunate in that even from that young age I kinda just had this feeling that – getting up, right when I woke, and not letting it fester, was gonna be my way to “work my way out” of those down feelings. Physical exertion was what felt most natural and beneficial to me and I literally wouldn’t stop moving until I felt those feelings were out of my system.
What methods helped you individually get/feel better?
As a kid, I didn’t really know about things as formal as the brain-body connection. I didn’t know that the way we move – the direction, pace, quickness – has a direct impact on how our brains develop and even how we can ignite certain areas of our brain to turn on and to function more efficiently. We always hear that we only use a certain percentage of our brains. Training more side-to-side turns on parts of our brain that wouldn’t otherwise be used nearly as much, or at all.
As I’ve gotten older and studied and learned from coaches and practitioners, I’ve realized that progress isn’t linear. Sports and the way games play out certainly aren’t linear. Life itself isn’t linear either. And what I mean by that is you don’t grow on a chart and improve in a diagonal straight line from bottom left to the top right. In reality you progress, generally, with a ton of ups and downs and side to sides (the events of our lives and even the motions), and because we have so many fluctuations in our growth and our movements we must incorporate different types of trainings to prepare us for that.
Most of us do linear work- we walk forward, go for a run, and some of us even sprint. These are all great things. Some people lift weights and I love that as well. But how many people work forwards backwards and side to side. Side-to-side is kinda how sports and life comes at us, and moving side-to-side helps us to be more balanced, both physically and mentally.
I’ve incorporated way more side-to-side movements in my workouts. You’re challenging your nervous system and activating different parts of your brain. I do things like tying bands to posts and holding the handles on the bands and exploding off of one leg, shooting my arm across my body in front of me. I repeat that on each side of my body working high to low and low to high. I’ll also hold a large exercise ball with both arms, standing on one leg at a time, as a partner or trainer hits the ball from different angles as I try to remain balanced. This triggers all different areas of my brain and my central nervous system to activate in ways they wouldn’t if I didn’t train this way. As a result (and I have a great chiropractor I started working with when I was with the Celtics and still work with) my brain works in more ways than it ever has – and not just on the court. I’m more open to the opinions of others, and more accepting of different points of views. I truly believe my brain has improved from the side-to-side work I’ve done, physically, and that’s made me not just a better athlete, but a better person.
When you think about it, side-to-side is literally the opposite of just going for a straight run, or lifting weights in a locked up-and-down position. These other movements are things we don’t all do, but are so important to our overall health and growth. There is even science that shows that engaging activity with opposing arms and legs (ie right arm left leg) or vice versa actually help with the release of more neurotransmitters that improve our moods. Another thing about this training, no pressure or expectations just growth, it’s supposed to be hard, your supposed to feel a little off at first. Stick with it, your brain, body, friends, co-workers, and most importantly your family will appreciate you for it.
Why did you decide to go public with your story? Who were/are you hoping to help and how?
I decided to share my story because of my meeting with Eric and hearing his personal story. It was that story and how life experiences affected him, and how the whole “1 in 5” stat didn’t tell the whole picture. We all feel down at times, we all live with the possibility of being a statistic. In reality it’s a “5 in 5” topic and the real question is, how do we stay proactive and not fall so far to the point (outside of genetically arriving there) where we find ourselves in that “1 in 5” bucket that society perpetuates?
How did people react when you went public with your story?
I think in reading my story, people will be encouraged to dig deep to find out what works for them. I’m fortunate that I kinda felt this draw towards doing things physically, from a young age, and not letting down feelings fester. That’s what worked for me and continues to work. For others it might be different things like diet, therapy, and other coping mechanisms…but I’m confident that my story will encourage others to find those things that work for them, just like I’ve found the ones that work for me.