Faces of the UI: Relaxing the mind to focus


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Sitting in his Iowa City office, sports counselor Morrie Adams is surrounded by wrestling memorabilia.

He is a licensed social worker by training, but in addition to his private practice, he volunteers as a sports counselor with various Hawkeye sports teams.

While he’s volunteered with Iowa athletics for five years, he’s been working with athletes for almost 25 years, Adams said.

He has been involved with sports all his life. He helped start the fan club Hawkeye Area Wrestling Klub, writes a column for Voice of the Hawkeyes, and has been a radio announcer for Hawkeye wrestling.

“This year was the first time in 15 years at a tournament that I sat with the fans in the stands,” he said about the NCAA wrestling championships. “But I still wrote my column.”

Adams, who spends about four hours a week with Hawkeye wrestlers during their season, said he helps athletes deal with two types of stress: the abnormal pressure unique to athletes, and the everyday stress everyone must cope with. He helps athletes relax and focus — using methods such as hypnosis — which he learned at various seminars.

“It’s not mind control,” Adams said, because hypnosis is a way of accessing the unconscious mind. It’s not a commonly used method, but he said it was effective.

“I tend to think [athletes] should be relaxed,” he said. “Relaxed muscles are explosive muscles.”

Part of his work is finding a ritual to ready an athlete’s mind. An athlete’s biggest stressor is her or his own mind, he said.

It’s particularly difficult for high-school athletes to move to the college level, and many face adversity for the first time, he said. Many lose confidence and need to refocus.

“You have highly trained, highly skilled athletes, and everyone wonders why they don’t win,” he said. “It’s because they’re not mentally ready to win.”

Tom Dunn, the head coach for Hawkeye men’s gymnastics, said Adams has worked with his athletes for a number of years. Gymnastics is, Dunn said, as are many sports, “90 percent mental” — a sentiment Adams echoes — so the counselor plays an important role.

He gives presentations to the whole team and works with any individuals who need more help.

“Morrie has some good experiences and is able to relate to athletes some way to approach the mental aspects of competition,” Dunn said. “He’s great to work with, very down- to- earth and practical.”

In the past, Adams has worked with the golf team as well.

“It’s a very mental sport,” he said.

Besides Hawkeye athletes, he also works with high-school competitors. He’s worked with swimmers, baseball players — even a professional bass fisherman, something his wife teases him about.

He also helps people who have to perform outside the athletics arena, including medical students who have difficulty passing exams. Anyone who performs must mentally prepare to focus, he said.

He grew up in Cedar Falls and attended Iowa State University and the State College of Iowa (now the University of Northern Iowa). He received a undergraduate degree in 1962 and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska in 1970. During that time, he worked as a parole officer and child-abuse investigator. In 1988, he and business partner Diane Baumbach opened an office in Iowa City.

“He’s a real joy to work with because he has an innovative approach to things,” Baumbach said. “He has really solid skills and an unerring sense of people.”

Adams also has two children and four grandchildren.

“My primary hobby is having fun with my grandkids,” he said.

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