Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Missouri University

It’s pretty common knowledge to baseball fans that former Red Sox all-star Wade Boggs consumed chicken at 2pm on game days throughout his 18-year career. When he was inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, he thanked his elderly father who was sitting in the front row, but shouldn’t he have also thanked Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Swedish great Bjorn Borg never shaved during the Wimbledon fortnight, which he won from 1976-80. Tennis star James Blake wore the same Nike baseball cap without washing it for three weeks in a 14-match winning streak.

In baseball, no one speaks to a pitcher who is in the midst of a no-hitter and often they won’t even mention it to a teammate.

I once began working with a NCAA Division I men’s basketball team halfway through their season. They had a dismal 3-15 record and their coach allowed me to take them into a room where they proceeded to “unload” all their issues in the privacy of a team meeting, which was followed by visualization exercises. They won 8 out of their final 10 games and the coach thought it was because he wore the same under shorts every day, without laundering them once.

Some athletes believe a particular number on their jersey is important to success. If they have the number, they have extra confidence that enhances performance. If the team manager assigns a different number, the player loses confidence and that loss is reflected in performance. A wise coach takes advantage of his or her athletes’ beliefs, no matter how crazy they may seem to be, in order to build a team’s strength.

The athlete’s belief system controls performance, not the coach’s. If athletes believe that being sexually active the night before a big game will make them more relaxed and that they will therefore perform better, they will – regardless of what their coach believes. Coaches often try to force their own belief systems on their athletes and it just doesn’t work. The best coaches, the most successful ones, are those who instinctively tap into the belief systems of their players and use those beliefs to the team’s advantage.

If a basketball player believes that watching a video of himself making three point shots will enhance his ability to make three point shots, it will. (Providing of course he has the skill level.)

A number of years ago, Missouri University’s football team was playing Oklahoma University and Oklahoma was a huge favorite since they had an All-American quarterback. With just a few minutes to go in the first half, Oklahoma was winning 21-0. But on the last play of the first half, Oklahoma’s All-American quarterback was injured and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher and was out for the rest of the game. When the second half started, Missouri seemed to have a different mindset. Even though they were still competing against the same Oklahoma defense that held them scoreless in the first half, they were able to score three times in the second half but eventually lost the game by a point, 21-20. What made the difference? Their “belief” they could win once the Oklahoma quarterback was out of the game. And the Oklahoma team more than likely believed that with their quarterback out of the game, they could lose…and they almost did.

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West Virginia’s running back Rushel Shell missed most of the second half of the Missouri game last Saturday due to leg cramps. In a past interview with Dr. Tommy Burnett, he told me that in the medical profession it was pretty common knowledge that the consumption of alcohol interferes with the transportation of oxygen to the body’s muscle cells and is not being delivered to the ligaments and tendons. When the muscle fibers are deprived of oxygen, the athlete is more prone to injuries such as muscle cramping. This is also common knowledge among personal trainers who work on college and professional athletes but it’s a fact often hidden from public view since there is a close association of the marketing of alcoholic beverages and sports, especially professional sports. So when you read where an athlete, such as Rushel Shell, is experiencing muscle and ligament problems, there’s a high probability that particular athlete is also consuming a substantial amount of alcohol in his (or her) personal life.

I was watching the Missouri State – Oklahoma State basketball game last night and was amazed as Missouri State guard Dequon Miller dribbled the length of the floor and scored on a driving lay-up to put the Bears back in front – for good. I thought I was watching a rerun of the 1995 Missouri-UCLA game when UCLA’s Tyrus Edney did the same with 4.7 seconds left on the clock and tossed in a swooping lay-up just before the buzzer. But in this case, the Oklahoma State team still had :07.3 left to play. And that’s when I thought Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford made a wrong call. His team brought the ball down the court and shot an air ball from the perimeter as time ran out but it seems to me he should have called for the ball to be fed to their inside post man and a possible 3-foot shot from under the basket and if he missed the shot there was always the possibility he would be fouled. But we’ll never know. I’m sure Coach Ford had his reasons. I think this is an excellent example of what former Baseball Manager Casey Stengel meant when he said “Teams lose games more than they win them.” I think Oklahoma State lost that game. And could have won it.

As a Missouri University Alumni I follow Mizzou football and especially the career of Dorial Green-Beckham. Dorial was one of the most highly regarded football recruits in the nation of the class of 2012 and was listed as the number one overall prospect in the nation by Rivals.com – and yet, his first year at Missouri was considered mediocre at best. Why? I recently read an article in the Springfield (MO) News-Leader that confirmed my opinion that Head Coach Gary Pinkel is not the coach everyone believes him to be. Your best and most successful coaches are those who tap into their athletes’ belief systems and maximize their potential on the field. Last year’s offensive coordinator, under the watchful eye of Pinkel, had Green-Beckham playing on the inside of four-and five-receiver sets even though Dorial believed he performed better when playing on the outside. Fortunately for Dorial, Josh Henson, Missouri’s new offensive coordinator, has moved him to the outside where he’s now getting open and making more plays. Even Dorial’s dad observed “They got him on the outside now, and will give him a chance to make some plays…He’s going to be more comfortable.” Many head coaches and assistant coaches don’t understand that it’s the athlete’s beliefs that affect performance, not the coaches.

When Colorado State beat Missouri in the NCAA Tournament yesterday, I believe much of the credit should go to Alcoholics Anonymous and Colorado State Coach Larry Eustachy, who is a recovering alcoholic. By way of background, on April 28, 2003, The Des Moines Register carried a picture of Eustachy kissing several young women and holding a beer at a party near the University of Missouri’s campus just hours after the Tigers defeated Eustachy’s Iowa State Cyclones on January 22nd. The Register also reported that Eustachy had been seen at a fraternity party at Kansas State hours after his team lost to the wildcats. On April 30, athletic director Bruce Van De Velde suspended Eustachy with pay and recommended that he be fired for violating a morals clause in his contract. Eustachy held a press conference in which he apologized for his behavior and admitted he’d recently begun rehab treatment for alcoholism. Eustachy initially indicated he would contest the suspension. Instead, on May 6, he announced his resignation. I believe Coach Eustachy has applied the principles of what he has learned at AA meetings to his team meetings with positive results; that is, sharing personal issues with each other in a controlled group setting and reaching out to a higher power. That’s a combination that’s hard to beat. And they were helped by the sub-par performance of Missouri’s Phil Pressey. Over the years I’ve found that when a male college athlete performs poorly, one of the major reasons is a relationship with a girlfriend that’s gone sour. No one will ever know for sure, unless Pressey comes forward and acknowledges that he was having personal problems away from the basketball court.

Do athletes make their coaches successful or do coaches make their athletes successful? Probably a little of each. As a Missouri University graduate I received my monthly copy of Mizzou Magazine today and found an interesting article about Chelsea Thomas who pitches for the Missouri University Women’s Softball Team. When Mizzou softball coach Ehren Earleywine received a rather grainy video from Chelsea’s father when she was a senior in high school, he really couldn’t tell that much about her so he decided to take his radar gun and visit Chelsea’s hometown of Pleasantville, Iowa, and see for himself. According to Mizzou Magazine: “During the pitching session the 18-year-old’s first three tosses registered 70, 71 and 68 mph before Earleywine politely excused himself to fix what had to be an equipment malfunction. A typical women’s college fastball zips in at 60 to 65 mph. ‘I’m banging this calibrator against a tree, which is what you’re supposed to do to get it to vibrate, then I went back and said: “Go ahead and cut loose,” Earleywine says. ‘The next pitch was 73 mph. I knew right then I had a chance to be a pretty good coach.”

Who in the world ever came up with that dumb and ridiculous NCAA rule that a player can call an instant time-out if he (or she) is being hounded by the defense and fears there could be a jump ball. In the NCAA tournament, Cincinnati did it against Missouri near the end of their game and Missouri’s Coach Anderson drew a technical when he complained that the Cincinnati player didn’t even have control of the ball so should not have been allowed to call a time-out. My question is: where in the world did this dumb rule come from? It seems to me that it penalizes teams like Missouri that use a full court press to cause turn-overs.


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