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Consultant to professional athletes puts his advice in a book

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

By Pohla Smith, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Kevin Elko of South Fayette travels the country counseling top athletes and corporate employees on how to perform better by managing stress, learning to focus and being mentally tough.

"But when you speak words, sometimes they're forgotten," said Elko, a career enhancement consultant for players on such teams as the Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys and other athletes. "I wanted to have something that would always be there as a guide."

The result was "Nerves of Steel," a book that provides tips for self-improvement that he gives at his seminars, along with some of his own experiences as a counselor and some inspiring anecdotes about people he has counseled.

There also is common-sense advice on finding what best motivates an athlete. One of the major tools is a Dialogue of Steel in which the reader motivates himself with an optimistic internal conversation.

"When I was out there meeting with groups, I realized people were asking for answers to what's going on," particularly after Sept. 11, said the 43-year-old Brownsville native. "There's a lot of stress out there now. I wanted to give guidance on how to handle the ups and downs and challenges of life."

Elko describes the basic message of his book as:

"Find what intrinsically motivates you, then develop a plan to meet it. Any time you get distracted from those steps you need to take and develop, take the Nerves of Steel talk to refocus."

Stories of clients who followed his advice and succeeded appear near the end of every chapter. The anecdote is followed by the kind of Dialogue of Steel the client might have had before persuading himself to go for the goal.

One of the Profiles of Steel is about Ken Dorsey, the starting quarterback for the University of Miami football team that won the national championship this past season. Elko talks about a 2000 game, though, in which Miami was playing archrival Florida State, then ranked No. 1 nationally.

Miami led most of the game, but with less than two minutes remaining FSU scored a touchdown, taking the lead. Dorsey had to focus to try to bring Miami back. He did.

Elko said Dorsey's Dialogue of Steel would have gone something like this:

"Ken's Dialogue of Mush: But how can we win now with so little time left against a good team?

"Ken's Dialogue of Steel: The game has not ended yet. Don't prejudge the outcome. Stay on course."

"Ken's DOM: What if the clock runs out before I get the job done?

"Ken's DOS: Take one play at a time. And trust."

The main point of his book can be illustrated by an exchange in the 1993 movie "The Fugitive."

Actor Tommy Lee Jones as federal deputy marshal Sam Gerard is chasing the accused husband Dr. Richard Kimble played by Harrison Ford through a tunnel. "The husband turned around and said, 'I didn't kill my wife,' " Elko recalled.

The marshal answered, "I don't care."

The marshal's goal, Elko said, was to capture the husband and that was all he was focused on. The husband's guilt or innocence was not his concern.

The book can be ordered at nervesofsteel.net . The price is $19.95 plus $2.55 shipping and handling.

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