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Mental Toughness of recent NC's

Discussion in 'Buckeye Football' started by BB73, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. BB73

    BB73 Loves Buckeye History Staff Member Bookie '16 & '17 Upset Contest Winner

    Interesting acticle from Matthew Zemek at cfbnews.com. He's written about mental toughness several times; this article contains a nice paragraph on the 2002 Buckeyes.

    I have edited out the middle half of the article, which dealt with college basketball.

    http://www.cfbnews.com/2005/Preview/MZ/MentalToughness.htm

    As April hits the calendar--and college football teams hit the practice field for spring ball--the diehards at each Division I-A school will begin to size up the physicality, athleticism and raw talent of the boys who will wear the alma mater's colors. Based on these kinds of assessments, predictions will begin to take shape in the dormitories, computer labs and pubs of college towns across America. And to a certain extent, these assessments will have some merit.

    But if you're really paying attention to big-time college athletics, you'd realize that the real source of the rise and fall of college football powers will take place not on the practice field, but behind closed doors and within the hearts of the 20-year-olds who are thrust into a larger-than-life spotlight for eleven (maybe twelve) Autumnal Saturdays.

    Yes, you can talk about "beef up front" or "lateral quickness" or "speed on the edges" or "every-down durability." It can't be denied that those things have their share of importance in the college football world. But when the rubber really meets the road, college football champs and chumps are determined between the ears and in the privacy of the interactions between players and coaches. Physical excellence will separate the decent teams from the awful ones, but it's mental toughness that distinguishes great teams from merely above-average ballclubs.

    Just consider what's transpired in the first half of this decade:

    In 2000, Josh Heupel wasn't a superior physical specimen in comparison to Florida State QB Chris Weinke. But who had the steadier head on his shoulders, despite the noticeably weaker arm? Yeah, that's right--the national title-winning signal-caller who merely avoided mistakes and moved the chains. Sexy? No. The last person standing? Yes.

    In 2001, Ken Dorsey led Miami to the mountaintop. Was Dorsey the baddest gunslinger in the joint? Hardly--he could be downright pedestrian at times. But the one thing that was never in doubt was Dorsey's total leadership and command, both on the sideline and in the huddle. Ken Dorsey's presence and competitive fire made him a legendary collegiate football player, and his '01 Miami team a great champion. Mental fortitude was Dorsey's greatest competitive asset.

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    In 2002, a whole team displayed what it meant to be mentally tough. Ohio State, time and again, persevered amidst fourth-quarter tension and anxiety, while all of its competitors, in one way or another, fatally flinched before the final gun. Were the 2002 Buckeyes big on style points? Clearly not. But they never failed to make the few plays they absolutely had to make, when they absolutely needed to make them. Being mentally strong was the Buckeyes' collective calling card, up and down that entire roster. As a result, Ohio State repeatedly won close games with machine-like regularity, thereby dismissing the notion that a close game was an accident or a sign of weakness. When a team wins nailbiters with virtually perfect and automatic consistency, that's a sign of something much greater and more powerful at work--namely, the human mind.

    In 2003, Matt Mauck--not a blindingly awesome passer or dominant physical specimen--nevertheless piloted the LSU Tigers to the national title, armed with gifted skill position people who, though speedy, were also focused and mature enough to make big plays in clutch situations. After the previous year's disappointment--missing out on the SEC West title because of a numbingly devastating last-second loss to Arkansas--Nick Saban rallied his troops by convincing them to turn their greatest athletic setback into their greatest competitive triumph.

    And last year, both success stories--official national champ USC and deserving national champ Auburn--both showed how mental toughness, more than anything else, carries a team past its most forceful and formidable obstacles. For USC, joy was the source of an undefeated run under Dr. Feel Good, Pete Carroll, a coach who made and kept the game fun for his players all season long, especially in the laughter-filled Orange Bowl against Oklahoma. For Auburn, high self-esteem and love of coach united the Tigers, who were so thoroughly committed in their support of Tommy Tuberville that they didn't want to let down their embattled coach. Each Saturday became a chance to honor and dignify themselves as a football family, and as a result, Auburn continued to play with purpose and passion in games such as the Sugar Bowl, whereas other teams would have moped around and ultimately suffered a defeat. Though presented with numerous chances to complain and lose focus, Auburn never sulked and drove to the finish line intent on staying perfect. The positive mental attitude that permeated the team, more than Cadillac Williams' skill or even Jason Campbell's right arm, is what truly elevated Auburn to new heights last season.

    In college football, talent can provide the year-in, year-out 10-2 top-15 team. But only mental toughness makes champions in this ruthlessly competitive sport.

    But just in case you're still not convinced about the centrality of mental toughness within the realm of college football, consider the even larger realm of collegiate sports.
    All college sports are unified by the fact that they all involve athletes of the same basic age range: 18-22. As we live longer, one would like to think that we're growing and learning more about ourselves. One thing we hopefully learn as we get older is that we were really dumb--dumber than we ever thought possible--around the time of our 20th birthday. Twenty-year-olds--that's right: college athletes--are extraordinarily fragile mental and emotional creatures. The vulnerability to all sorts of longings, urges, cultural siren songs, teases, tugs and temptations is paramount at this age, and the ability to have tunnel-vision focus is severely limited by the seemingly limitless pressures that assault 20-year-olds in contemporary American life.

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    It should not be a surprise to anyone that in a culture where the average attention span of Americans is 1.6 seconds and falling, 20-year-olds would have a hard time maintaining their focus. Add in the hungers and temptations that accompany big-time athletics, and the attention span can only shrink some more. The age of 20 should not and cannot be viewed as an age of wisdom, but instead as a point in life where a young man is ahead of the curve if he is merely able to begin to contemplate the nature and existence of a larger wisdom in the cosmos.

    The enormity of the pressures faced by 20-year-old man-children is the very thing that gives big-time college sports their amazingly entertaining unpredictability and fascinating volatility. When these youngsters are thrust into the glare of the big-game spotlight, they're not already-molded men, but people who are really just beginning to be molded by life, as they emerge from the very small world of the high schools where they were almost certainly the big man on campus, the focus of adoring crowds in close-knit neighborhood communities. Any big-time college athlete will succeed or fail, then, based on whether he or she can cultivate a strong, sound and healthy mental framework. Some college stars will do this by creating a me/us-against-the-world mentality. Others will turn to religious faith. Still others will have a head start on developing mental strength as a result of traumas successfully endured in childhood or adolescence. But regardless of the path taken, those who cultivate that rock-solid emotional interior are the ones who will rise to the moment when a season hangs in the balance. It is the enduring beauty of college sports, the part of the endeavor that truly can be said to mold young people for life; yet, at the same time, it is the source of college sports' fragility, of championship dreams dashed by a moment of weakness.

    EDITED OUT BASKETBALL PORTION

    Go ahead--dare to say this is hokey and cliched stuff. Feel free to claim that this is psychobabble removed from the real considerations of D-I college football, things like 4.3 40s, 500-pound bench presses, 300-pound lines, off-season weightlifting and strength training, and X-and-O masterminds.
    But if you want to take that line of argumentation, just realize that the media crush on college football (and basketball) is intense and all consuming in ways it never used to be 30 or even 20 years ago. Back in the days when saturation media coverage just wasn't very pervasive or overwhelming, the very notion of dealing with the media was not the regular source of external pressure that it is for today's 20-year-old athletes. Pressure from expectant fan bases has been the constant in D-I college sports, but media-reinforced and culturally driven pressure is something that didn't always exist in college football or the NCAA Tournament. Today's 20-year-old athlete has to deal with these externals in a culture that is hostile to soulful contemplation of just about anything that can lead to a fully-established sense of inner peace and sustained concentration. It might not sound like the classic nuts-and-bolts sports analysis that your father's sportswriter would provide before a college football season, but in today's cultural landscape, sports psychology has more than a little significance in deciding college football champions. Mental analysis--if you look at how our major college sports championships are being decided in the first years of the 21st Century--has a lot to do with football analysis. This claim has to stop being viewed as a peripheral concern for college football writers, and thereby be considered as a central, mainstream part of standard football analysis.
     
  2. sandgk

    sandgk Watson, Crick & A Twist

    The brain is the most powerful muscle/tool/weapon a human possesses.
     
  3. IrontonBuck

    IrontonBuck Walk On

    That was beautifully stated. I believe that Jim Tressel is all about mental preparation. That's the connection between football and the rest of life. It takes discipline to be a good student, a good citizen, or a good football player. Success in one will translate into success in the others.
     
  4. Steve19

    Steve19 Watching. Always watching. Staff Member

    It's science!

    The theory of relativity in college football:

    ΣMT=Σ(I*JT)

    The sum of mental toughness = the summed impact of Jim Tressel
     
  5. Vikes

    Vikes Newbie

    Stan Jackson vs. TS mental toughness sepearates them
    Belli
     
  6. BB73

    BB73 Loves Buckeye History Staff Member Bookie '16 & '17 Upset Contest Winner

    Part 2 - discussion of mental toughness for 2005. I bolded the part on tOSU.

    It's odd that he mentions Arizona State in an article on mental outlook and doesn't mention the possible effect on the team of Loren Wade's first degree murder charge.

    http://www.cfbnews.com/2005/Preview/MZ/MentalToughness2.htm
    If certain teams have a psychological edge going into the 2005 season, fans of the teams left out of the discussion might wonder why their teams don’t have a mental edge. With this in mind, let’s explore some of the teams in some of the conferences that could have a mental edge, but can’t be put at the top of the list… at least not now.

    ACC: Maryland, Virginia, Miami, North Carolina, Georgia Tech

    The Terps, Cavs and Canes might all have the kind of mental edge that comes from a season of struggle. The hardships and downers faced by each team in 2004 could produce the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that leads to a big, bad and bold performance in 2005. But it’s instructive to remember that not all teams are able to succeed as a result of being pissed off, because anger—if only left at that—is a purely negative emotional source. At some point along the line, there has to be a newfound sense of joy, happiness or pleasure for a team to truly and fully catapult itself to a better mental place and a more successful position in the college football pecking order. How Maryland, UVA and Miami blend joy (or don’t) into their quests for renewal will affect their mental toughness.

    With the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets, you have two programs that showed promise and potential in encouraging 2004 seasons. However, each team got smacked enough times that they can’t be tabbed as surefire mental steamrollers for 2005. It’s wait-and-see with these two teams, just as much as their other three competitors in College Park, Charlottesville and Coral Gables.


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    Big Ten: Ohio State and Michigan

    Why wouldn’t these teams have more of a mental edge than Iowa? For Ohio State, the clouds that surrounded Maurice Clarett have now drifted, at least a little bit, to Troy Smith. This is not an assessment of guilt or blame, just an acknowledgment of the persistent presence of controversy around Buckeye Football. Is the controversy justified? That’s irrelevant to this discussion. The point is that the controversy exists, and that can’t help but cloud one’s ability to gauge just how it will affect Smith, an offensive sparkplug, and the rest of the Buckeye team by extension. Not playing against Miami of Ohio will reduce Smith’s in-game reps before that remotely important game against Texas. One doesn’t know whether Smith and the whole Buckeye team will soar or stumble in that contest. It’s just too open a question, too volatile a situation, to be able to make a confident prediction.

    For Michigan, Chad Henne and Michael Hart—two evidently special and gifted players—will nevertheless face the increased scrutiny of each Big Ten opponent as sophomores who are known entities. Plus, a certain guy by the name of Braylon Edwards won’t be around. One can suspect that Henne and Hart will show the requisite amount of mental toughness needed to thrive in 2005, but that’s hardly a given at this point. Wait and see.

    Big XII: Every North Division Team and Oklahoma

    Everyone in the Big XII North had some overwhelming moments of pain last year. Even super-duper overachiever Iowa State had the enormous psychological wreckage of the Missouri game and the consequent failure to reach its first Big XII Championship Game. Each of these teams has the chance to rebound from 2004 with a new and improved attitude, but no one really knows who will make that transformation.

    As for Oklahoma, one has to wonder about two things: first, will Jason White’s absence in Norman create a leadership gap, a psychological vacuum throughout the program? Maybe yes, maybe no—it has to play out on the field. Secondly, though, will the humiliation in Miami at the hands of USC be a milestone event that will chip away at the supremely strong emotional armor Bob Stoops has always had—not only at OU, but throughout his assistant coaching stints at Kansas State and Florida? Those questions just can’t be answered, either way. Texas clearly has forward momentum that the Sooners currently lack. Once again, one Vince Young mistake or one bonehead Mack Brown decision could render all this preseason speculation irrelevant, but for the first time in a very long time, it really can be said: if Texas and OU both bring their A-game, it’s the Horns who would actually have the advantage this particular year.


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    Mountain West: Utah

    This is an obvious one: why not say that the dominant Utes have the biggest psychological edge in the conference? Well, unlike Louisville in the Big East, the Utes lose the coach who made the program what it is. Kyle Whittingham could pick up where Urban Meyer left off, but there’s no guarantee. And why is there no guarantee? Because stud quarterback and team leader Alex Smith is gone. One just has to wonder how Utah will respond. The team might answer the bell, but it’s a question mark. The team could still win the league, but Wyoming is the team that figures to exceed its expectations more than any team in the conference.

    Pac-10: Arizona State

    With the way Sam Keller filled in for Andrew Walter and won the Sun Bowl against Purdue, one could legitimately say that the Sun Devils have extraordinary forward momentum as they enter the 2005 season. And quite frankly, that statement is 100 percent true. Therefore, in order to understand why ASU is not the psychological strong man of the Pac-10, one must simply turn to LA and realize that Matt Leinart defied conventional wisdom by sticking around for a senior season. His leadership quotient and the psychological uplift he gave to the whole USC program means that the school that has won or shared each of the last two national titles has the glue guy under center who can hold things together for a third straight run at the brass ring. It’s hard to sustain a long, long run as the top dog in all of college football for three years, but Matt Leinart’s surprising return—surprising not in light of Leinart’s quality as a person, but in terms of the cultural pressures and expectations that force normal stud athletes (Leinart is certainly, and blessedly, not normal) to pick up the million-dollar payday—has to make USC the team that truly has the biggest emotional edge of any Pac-10 team.

    SEC: Georgia and LSU

    Why isn’t Georgia the mentally mighty one down South? Three words: no David Greene. Some Dawg fans who, like other college football fans of a similar mindset, instinctively bristle at any outside criticism will view the following comment as a criticism. Other Dawg fans who give college football fans a good name by looking at the bigger picture will see the following comment as the wise and accurate statement it is meant to be:

    D.J. Shockley, you’re no David Greene… yet.

    That statement is not a criticism of Shockley; it’s meant as a statement of praise for Greene, the winningest D-I college football quarterback EVER, and a leader with the biggest heart a quarterback has ever possessed. Greene often struggled with his accuracy, and didn’t always light up the scoreboard, but he led a team as well as a college quarterback possibly can. The emotional uplift and psychological stability Greene gave his mates in the fourth quarter of a rain-soaked battle against Georgia Tech was a final, fitting and lasting testament to the leadership possessed by the lefty. D.J. Shockley, no longer having to platoon with Greene, might possibly be able to become a big-time leader. But right now, he has a long way to go. It’s not because of anything Shockley has or hasn’t done, but because Greene set such a stratospherically high standard of leadership. Unless or until Shockley becomes a Greene-like leader, one cannot say that UGA will have a psychological edge greater than Tennessee or any other SEC team.


    With LSU, let’s be blunt: I’m just not sold on Les Miles. Yes, Nick Saban might have been a carpetbagger who bolted LSU after insisting that Baton Rouge was a good place to be for the long haul, but any justified resentment among the locals toward Saban should not create a sudden case of hero-worship in Cajun Country for the new LSU coach. Simply put, he will have to prove himself, and fast. Saban might have been a taskmaster, but he sure did motivate, so it remains to be seen whether or not this Tiger team will have a winning mental edge in 2005.
     
  7. jwinslow

    jwinslow A MAN OF BETRAYED JUSTICE Staff Member Tourney Pick'em Champ

    Gosh, not only do they have the best analysis, but they're the only major sporting site out there willing to consider whether all of the bad press on Troy Smith is justified or not. Clearly he's guilty, but I don't think you're gonna see ESPN ask whether he is being overpersecuted.
     
  8. BB73

    BB73 Loves Buckeye History Staff Member Bookie '16 & '17 Upset Contest Winner

    BFS, you're right, but I think you may have seen Napoleon Dynamite one too many times.

    Gosh!
     

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