Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Notre Dame

The idea of excelling for a higher order originated with the legend of “win one for the Gipper.” It began in 1920 with the death of football legend George Gipp, Notre Dame’s first All-American selection who died at 25 from a strep throat infection. The Fighting Irish were 19-0-1 in his final 20 games. According to Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, Gipp, on his deathbed, said: “Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.” Eight years passed before Rockne did so, before a 1928 game against unbeaten Army at Yankee Stadium. “This is the day, and you are the team,” Rockne said. The Fighting Irish scored two second-half touchdowns to win 12-6.

Athletes benefit by excelling for a higher order. In some situations they take on a cause to help an individual or group otherwise unassociated with the team.

One of the most powerful examples is when a teammate’s loved one passes away. In the case of the Kansas City Royals, it involves the recent death of pitcher Edinson Vollquez’s father, pitcher Chris Young’s father who died of cancer September 26th, and third baseman Mike Mostakas’ mother who died of cancer August 9th. In all three situations the Royals have bonded with their teammates and supported them in their grief. And the result has been an increase in self-esteem and team chemistry for the entire team resulting in an increase in performance.

As the poet John Bright wrote: “Find yourself a cause, not a resting place. You may not do much for the cause but the cause will do much for you.”


We all remember that famous story about Coach Knute Rockne and the speech he made to his Notre Dame football players at half-time which many refer to today as “Remember the Gipper,” Well I think history may have repeated itself last night during the San Francisco Giants – Kansas City Royals game. According to the Associated Press report: “Pitching with the initials of late St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras on his cap, 23-year old rookie Yordano Ventura allowed three hits over seven innings for his first Series win.” The Royals’ Ventura and Taveras were good friends.  They grew up together in the Dominican Republic and Ventura had dedicated the game to his memory. I call this “Excelling for a Higher Order.” It’s when athletes acknowledge emotional issues in their lives they want to excel for. By doing so, they enhance their own feelings of self-worth and thereby enhance their performance.

As those of you who read my column know, I’m a strong believer in: what takes place away from the football field affects what takes place on the football field, both positive and negative. And there’s no better example of the positive than the relationship between Alabama Quarterback AJ McCarron and his girlfriend, Katherine Webb. When athletes feel good about themselves and have a high sense of self-worth, and their lives are in harmony, they will perform close to their skill levels on a consistent basis. And in my opinion, McCarron’s relationship with Ms. Webb, who also happens to be Miss Alabama 2012, is one of the main reasons Alabama drubbed Notre Dame, 42-14. But keep in mind, in order for McCarron to have performed at the level he did he must possess the skill level, which he obviously does. Head coach Nick Saban can only hope that McCarron and Webb stick together and have a happy, loving relationship for the next year because if they do, there will be hot times in Tuscaloosa and the Tide will continue to roll.

I recall that famous quote by Whitey Herzog that, in many instances, “the team gets rid of the player, when the manager (or head coach) is the problem all along.” We’re always told how important a head coach can be to the development and performance of his or her athletes, and there’s no better example than Tim Brown, former Notre Dame player and 1987 Heisman Trophy winner, who is being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame today. According to Tom Coyne’s Associated Press article, “Tim Brown never considered himself a standout collegiate football player until Lou Holtz convinced him of it. When Holtz took over the Notre Dame reins after the 1985 season, during the second day of spring practice following Brown’s sophomore season, Holtz called him over and asked why he hadn’t been on the field more for the Fighting Irish during his first two seasons. Brown told him it was a decision by the previous coaching staff. Holtz didn’t believe him. ‘He yelled at me, “Son, there’s no way a coach could be so dumb as to not play you.” Brown recalled him saying.’ Holtz told Brown the only way he wasn’t’ going to get the ball during the upcoming season was if the defense intercepted the snap from center. Holtz played Brown often and according to Brown, ‘The more I succeeded the more he kept putting me in that position and the more confidence I got.’”

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