Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mailbag question: How can the back-ups at certain positions be worse?

Mailbag question: How can the back-ups at certain positions be worse?


Players, thoughts?

How can the back-ups at certain positions be worse? We see some of the same mistakes, by the same players, every week and they are not ever replaced.

Does it come to a time where the back-ups start saying "What the ####” ... If I cannot play now, when will I ever get a chance? Is this a way of losing the team when this type of stuff happens?

Frank D.


Thanks for the question.

The team psyche definitely becomes an issue during tough times, for both the starters and back ups.

As much as the team committing the same mistakes, what concerns us even more is the team seems to have regressed, a word that is popping up like crabgrass. Regression is the only thing worse than remaining in a static position.

Gone are the swagger and the giant chip on the shoulder this team had not so long ago. Gone also is the scrappy aggressive style of play. And gone, or at least reduced, is the hard-hitting, wild-eyed attitude the defense once displayed in chasing people down.

Lately, if B. Graham, or S. Brown, does not make a big hit there is not one, excepting when Mike Martin makes the occasional breakthrough.

In our opinion, Coach Rod's number one job going forward was and is getting this team MENTALLY ready to play. Although this sounds obvious and simple, sometimes the toughest task is for a coach to get a team game ready when the team has gone on an extended losing streak, and all the hard work that the players put into preparation during the off season seems to be in vain, hence the figurative and literal downward spiral of a team in freefall.

So what is the process for getting a team to start believing again that it can win? Here are some tried and sometimes true methods. There are no universal pages of verbal elixir in coaching books or courses. The coach in change of such professional preparation may wax semi-eloquently about such dire strait circumstances for 30 seconds and move on. Or he/she might tell you the solution is NOT to lose.

For the players the strategy starts with psychology. The best coaches of all-time are master psychologists and teachers. They may have professional training but typically the greats are intuitive, natural psychologists; they know exactly what to say and when to say it. They are also salesmen, the dark of night turns into high noon and the players buy in mightily. The storm turns into a gentle breeze. This may not be reality but it is calming.

The coaches must take this tender new confidence and build upon the slight mental upturn with great preparation, preparation that the players instantly accept and buy into. Come game day, when the time comes for the walk to the field, players know that the coaches have given their all and it is a time for players to do likewise.

The players that must believe first and foremost are the team leaders; the coaches must efficiently utilize their skills. The middle of the season is far too late to develop good leadership, but not too late to utilize it.

The human psyche is one of group mentality, and good psychologists can use this inborn trait to advantage. The Cartesian sum of the whole is greater than the parts has been argued since Aristotle, but coaches and humans in general respond well to the underlying idea.

The practice field during tough times must be carefully observed and managed by a coaching staff. The physical demands must be demanding but intelligent. Getting a ton of players hurt on a retribution hunt can undo all the great psychology and planning in a few seconds. It takes more time for doubts to go away than for doubts to reappear.

And believe it or not, that is the very short version of coaching psychology. And so back to the back-ups that faithfully give plenty for little. An opportunity given is greatly enhanced by preparation. That is all a back-up can do, prepare, it is the coaches’ choice as to whom to play.

It has been awhile since UM has beaten a Division 1, bowl championship team (September 26 against Indiana). Now would be a good time to revisit such an event.

Thanks for stopping by Go Blue Michigan Wolverine
If you have any questions please E-Mail

Written by GBMW -- CoachBt and ErocWolverine

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