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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trusting Yourself in the Big Game

The day after the Bulls game #2 vs. Indiana, I listened to an interview with Joakim Noah. He commented on the number of turnovers the Bulls had in game #2, and especially the number of turnovers they had at the beginning of the game. His comment was something along the lines that, "They had tried to make too many great passes and tried to make too many great plays." That seems to be so common in any "big game."

I am reminded of when I coached cross country. We would run a meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria about a month before the State Meet. One of the runners might go out in a 4:50 first mile for the three mile race. They would then finish somewhere around 15 minutes for the three mile race. (after all these years I may be off on the times a little)  But their time in early October if repeated at the State Meet would have meant a top 25 finish which would designate them as being All-State. A month later they would toe the line in Peoria for the State Meet. In the excitement of being at the "big meet," the runner would think they needed something extra to compete at that level. So the runner in the excitement of the big meet would go out in 4:38 for the first mile. Only 12 seconds faster than before, but those 12 seconds would cause them to not be able to maintain. So tired, they finish the race in 15:20 instead of 15:00. They finish 65th instead of 18th. They thought they needed something special.

In volleyball it might be the player who has never jump served before but in the title match thinks they need a better serve. And obviously if they have never used it, there is probably a 95% chance they will fail.

Years ago, we played Normal Community in the Supersectional. I thought they had a real flaw in their out of bounds defense and in their half court zone defense. We had three days between our Sectional game and the Super game. I decided to put in one new zone offense set, and two new ob's. They were really great plays. But we did not score on any of it. Does it make sense in the biggest game of the year to do something you have only practiced three days or go with things you practiced all year?

Why does the runner go out in 4:38? Why does the volleyball player try the jump serve? Why do the Bulls try for a great post feed that they don't usually make? My answer is a lack of trust.

If in a pregame talk a coach ever says,"We need to play our best game of the year," then it is unlikely the team is going to win.

In the biggest game or biggest race of the year, you need to be able to trust in what you have practiced and done all year. In the "big game" you don't need something special, you need the ordinary. You need to rely on what you do best. The big game is not the time to create something new. You need a quiet confidence that who you are as a player and as a team is good enough. Play within yourself.

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