Pioneer Press – Jan 21, 2006 – Marcus Fuller – Gophers need to adjust mind-set – Sports psychologists agree – U men need to stop dwelling on defeats – Dan Monson is starting to sound more like a motivational speaker than a basketball coach.
The University of Minnesota’s leader talked before Friday’s practice about “staying in the moment” and “looking at the glass as being half full.”
The losses are piling up for his Gophers (9-6, 0-4 Big Ten Conference), and the biggest reason is the team’s waning confidence.
If his players don’t change their mind-set, Monson knows they can’t expect to get their first Big Ten win tonight against Michigan at Williams Arena.
Monson doesn’t want his players focusing on defeats. But he did see positive signs in Wednesday’s 76-72 triple-overtime loss at Iowa.
“I thought they did a great job at Iowa of staying within the moment,” he said. ” You can’t look at the past, because that doesn’t help your confidence. You can’t look into the future and look down the road to all of the tough games you have. Especially in a town like this. The glass is always half empty. As I told the kids, all you hear about is we’re 0-4.”
Will Monson’s attempts to keep the Gophers focused pay dividends? Sports psychologists agree with his direction.
“It sounds like he’s taking a great approach,” said Jeff Janssen, a peak performance consultant who has worked with college programs such as Arizona, North Carolina, Stanford and Duke.
“If you start dwelling on the negative, it just gets bigger and bigger. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A lot of times I just tell guys to go back to being an 8-year-old kid again. I tell them just to have fun.”
Greg Cylkowski of Little Canada, a human behavior analyst, has worked with several Gophers teams, including the women’s basketball team. He theorized why the Minnesota men couldn’t pull out the win at Iowa.
“Were they enjoying themselves?” he asked. “They should have been thinking that this is the kind of game we want to be in. You have to seize the moment. Sometimes you have to win ugly and just on grit.”
Last season’s Gophers might not have been as talented as the current edition. But Monson knew he could usually count on winning those “ugly” games.
“Last year we kind of got that identity,” he said. “We’re starting to do that here by making the games ugly. Now we just have to win them.”
A win against the Wolverines (12-3, 2-2) would go a long way toward helping the Gophers regain confidence. But Dr. John F. Murray said that’s only one step.
Murray, a prominent sports psychologist from Palm Beach, Fla., recommends four steps for building up a team:
1. Modeling Ã¢â‚¬â€? trying to emulate another great team.
2. Start fresh Ã¢â‚¬â€? look out for mood and intensity in games.
3. Self talk Ã¢â‚¬â€? watch out for negative thoughts.
Despite failing to finish off the Hawkeyes, Minnesota saw some positives.
The Gophers got an energy boost from freshman Jonathan Williams, who had a career-best 11 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench.
Monson is expected to start Williams tonight against a big Michigan team.
Minnesota played well defensively, holding Iowa to 39 percent shooting, 1 of 20 from three-point range. But the Gophers couldn’t overcome another poor performance at the free-throw line. They shot 54 percent for the game and 5 of 12 in overtime. They rank last in the Big Ten in free-throw shooting (58 percent).
Murray said problems at the line could be solved by coming up with a routine that takes the focus away from thinking about the shot.
“I got interviewed about why (Indianapolis Colts) kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed the field goal against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week,” he said. “Free throws are the same thing. It usually comes down to thinking too much. It gets in the way. If you get caught up in a ritual or routine, your shot just becomes automatic. You just do it.”
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.