Updated Mar 18, 2008; Posted Mar 18, 2008129 shares
By Anne Holcomb
Special to the Kalamazoo Gazette
Danny Moloshok | Associated PressLos Angeles Clippers star center Chris Kaman, who grew up in the Grand Rapids area, tries to defend against the Sacramento Kings’ Beno Udrih during an NBA game on March 5 in L.A.
Chris Kaman, through his basketball years at a suburban Grand Rapids high school and Central Michigan University and his early years in the NBA, often couldn’t tell what the other team was doing — and sometimes forgot what he was doing.
“I was missing stuff,” said the Los Angeles Clippers’ star center. “I know now my brain was moving too fast.”
His mother, Pamela, of the Grand Rapids area, remembers life with a young Chris as difficult.
“Tell him to brush his teeth and he would put up a fight; pajamas, a fight; go to bed, a fight,” she said. “I tell people it was much worse than anybody could dream of. We couldn’t go to an amusement park or movie. He couldn’t stay still. He couldn’t concentrate. He couldn’t enjoy it. He was all over the place.”
But now basketball and life are falling into a better place for Kaman, who in the last nine months became involved in a psychological treatment program involving work with brain waves through neurofeedback.
In addition, his mother better understands a son who despite a disruptive childhood has become a man of great achievement with even greater potential.
“If I had it back then, I would have paid a million dollars for something like this,” she said. “I was begging for help, hoping to find something to help this child.”
Best year of his career
Kaman, now 25 and statistically having the best year of his NBA career, recently revealed his involvement with Hope 139, a company started in the Grand Rapids area by psychologists Tim Royer and Brad Oostindie that has employees working in 25 states and six other countries.
At Hope 139, it was determined Kaman was misdiagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder) when he was a toddler and that the medications he took first as a elementary student and on through high school were ineffective and even counterproductive.
“Basically, Chris’s brain waves were running too fast, which is the complete opposite for someone with ADD,” Royer said. “What we’ve done through neurofeedback with Chris is isolate the fast waves and help him find ways to train his brain to work in a more controlled, steady state.”
Kaman was at first skeptical. But family members persuaded him to make the attempt, and he started working with neurofeedback via computerized technology for three hours or more each day last summer after Royer and Oostindie made the trip to Los Angeles to set up a system at his house.
“It does seem strange, you know, that this was not coming from someplace else across the country,” said Kaman, who attended high school in Wyoming. “It’s unique, it’s incredible and it’s right there at home. I’m blessed that my family found out about it. I believe God had a hand in that.”
Telling his story
Kaman, who many thought should have been on the Western Conference roster for the recent NBA All-Star game, was asked repeatedly through the first half of the season about the dramatic improvement in his basketball performance. He admitted he dodged the question, offering pat answers about losing weight, playing in the NBA’s summer league, maturity and even being the Clipper who clipped his trademark stringy hair.
“For a while I was thinking I didn’t want to let on — it was my edge, you know,” he said. “Plus, people are skeptical at first. I was skeptical. Then I started learning more, and I started thinking maybe I could help people by telling my story.”
Oostindie half-joked that Kaman has become Hope 139’s “7-foot poster guy.” Royer said Kaman has embraced the science, learned how it works and has talked with groups of parents and at clinics via teleconference.
“His story is compelling, and he does a wonderful job of sharing it,” Royer said. “We put him on and he answers questions, shares his experience and lets people know there is help available. He reaches them.”
Royer estimates more than 50 percent of the people considered as having ADD by the medical community are misdiagnosed.
Kaman’s recent television appearance on ESPN and stories in major West Coast newspapers have helped spread the message. Since then, Oostindie said, Hope 139’s list of patients has increased by more than 25 percent, and he attributes it to Kaman sharing his story.
“We’ve received e-mails from all over the country and contact from other NBA teams as well as college programs I can’t name right now,” Oostindie said.
Bringing science home
Royer noted neurofeedback has been around since the 1960s and is used in some foreign military circles to train people for peak brain performance. Before the technological advances in computers in recent years, however, only hospital and research facilities had the proper equipment.
Now Kaman, like most of the Hope 139 patients, does his treatments at home in front of a personal computer.
His involvement with Hope 139 traces to his uncle, Mike Palmitier. Palmitier’s daughter Torrie is in the eighth grade, and neurofeedback has helped turn her life in a positive direction.
Kaman said Palmitier gave him a package of information at first, then put Royer and Oostindie in contact with him.
Palmitier is elated for his nephew. “To be able to see him make that transition to his performance on the basketball floor has been incredible,” he said.