Advertisement

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Minding the Jayhawks’ minds

Kansas Freshman receiver JaCorey Shepherd tries to comfort senior linebacker Steven Johnson as the team leaves the field following KU's 45-34 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas Freshman receiver JaCorey Shepherd tries to comfort senior linebacker Steven Johnson as the team leaves the field following KU's 45-34 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 at Kivisto Field.

Advertisement

There were only a few minutes remaining in the game and Texas had built a 43-0 lead. The Kansas University football team was staring down the barrel of a sixth-straight loss, the fourth in a row by 30 points or more, and the familiar feeling of disappointment, frustration and embarrassment was starting to creep into the players’ minds.

Not all of them chose to pay attention.

“Our guys were tired,” KU defensive coordinator Vic Shealy said. “They had played a lot of snaps. We had most of our twos in those last two series, but some of our seniors and starters were on the sideline begging to go back in. Guys, if they’re beat down from a psychological standpoint, then those kids don’t ask to go back in. They did not want to see more points put up on that board.”

This is the world of Kansas football these days. Each week, despite preparing a game plan that gives them the best chance to succeed, the Jayhawks are beaten up physically by bigger, stronger and faster Big 12 opponents. With the physical match-up so obviously in favor of KU’s opponents, the Jayhawks are left to search for some kind of mental advantage that might help. It’s tough. But for a team in KU’s position, it’s every bit as critical as lining up properly, wrapping up on a tackle or holding a block for an extra second.

“The mental part is so important, especially to kids at this level, because a lot of them have not ever dealt with losing, especially like this,” said Dr. Andrew Jacobs, a sports psychologist in Kansas City, Mo. “It’s an adjustment period. You have to teach kids at the college level how to fail. You have to teach them what happens when they fail, and you have to teach them about the emotional side of how you’re gonna deal with losing and failing.”

To those on the outside, the Jayhawks appear to be handling it with grace, following the lead of head coach Turner Gill, who, despite being on the hot seat in just his second season in town, continues to show up week after week with a smile on his face and sincerity in his voice. Each Saturday beatdown has been followed by a spirited day of practice on Sunday and a week’s worth of positivity until the process starts all over again the following Saturday.

This has become the Turner Gill way. And even though the Jayhawks seem to be sticking to Gill’s line of thinking, they’re not afraid to admit that the six-game losing skid has taken its toll.

“Losing hurts,” sophomore cornerback Tyler Patmon said. “An athlete never wants to lose, but, at the same time, you know you’re gonna lose, you know you’re not gonna win every game, so you just have to learn to get past that, push through it and stay positive.”

Added senior co-captain Jeremiah Hatch: “We’re taking a lot of blows right now, man. We’re taking a lot of losses. Any time any team takes this many losses, you learn and you move on. The team is going through a lot, and it can make the team or it can break the team. But we’re together. In everything. That’s just the way it’s been.”

Below the surface, there are signs that the mental strain is getting to the Jayhawks. Messages on Facebook reflect the struggle and frustration they feel for a season that started with promise and went south in a hurry. The KU coaching staff knows it’s there.

“You always want to work on the mental framework,” offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. “But when you scratch it all away, it’s basically working on the field. It’s getting more confident on the field. That’s really the best way to do it.”

Jacobs, who spent the last four seasons working for the Kansas City Royals and was the first sports psychologist employed by KU from 1981-85, said confidence — Gill’s word of the week for the Iowa State game, which kicks off at 11:30 a.m. today in Ames, Iowa — is one of the biggest factors in overcoming mental adversity in athletics.

“You’re gonna win a game or you’re gonna lose a game,” Jacobs said. “How you handle that has a lot to do with your self-confidence, your demeanor and your belief system. Now, in (KU’s) case, because they’ve been losing and getting blown out, there’s obviously a lot of negativity about the team. These guys aren’t ignorant. They’re not stupid. They know what’s going on. And that can’t help but hurt your confidence.”

Gill, who graduated from North Texas in 1990 with a degree in behavioral analysis, said he has paid close attention to his players’ psyches during the recent rough stretch.

“I really believe in stimulating the brain to better them,” Gill said. “I talk to the players one-on-one, trying to get a little deeper. I’m going to take the time to tell them what I see, and I like to hear what they see. We want to make sure we know what we’re trying to get accomplished.”

Jacobs said Gill’s approach likely is responsible for the players’ positive attitudes during tough times.

“The key thing in situations like this is the importance of leadership,” Jacobs said. “You need to have guys who have level heads. Confidence means believing in yourself. But I always ask this question, ‘Do you have to be confident to be successful or do you have to be successful to be confident?’ To me, the answer is you need to be confident to be successful.”

Comments

Ryan Lee 10 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

bayareajhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Good description of the Broncos there. I've always said that myself.

Go Chiefs!

gardenjay 10 years, 6 months ago

Well look, there is a similarity in the comparison 'confident to be successful' and 'successful to be confident'. These two words are entertwined anyways, so it's futile to dissociate them. I understand the idea, that one should be able to be confident and then go on to have success, without previously having had success, but imho that's magic wand stuff.

What we need is a fan base that fully supports the team. Obviously HCTG is trying what he knows, and I'm on board as a fan. I think this article really helped show the inner workings of the team while they have been trying to pitch so many overmatched battles. I really hope that KU shows some fire tomorrow, KU 42 ISU 35

RCJHGKU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

actorman 10 years, 6 months ago

You might have to be confident to be successful, but having coaches who have the slightest idea how to put together a game plan and make adjustments doesn't hurt either.

Having tremendous confidence without having the proper backing to be successful is like whistling into the wind.

I feel so bad for these players, who are working really hard to try to take steps forward, only to be let down by their "leaders" week after week (after week).

Brad Avery 10 years, 6 months ago

Matt.

Stop with the bigger, stronger, faster whining excuse unless you prove it. That is a political spin jusifying their miserable season. The fact is there is no way this team is any worse off physically than K-State. Snyder has been back at K-State one more season than Gill has been at KU and he hasn't had back to back seasons like the past two. In fact he hasn't had one season like this one.

Every week the paper has its "coach" from DII comment on the fundamentals of this team. They are always too high on defensive line play, they are out of position, they don't know what they are supposed to be doing on certain plays or they guard the wrong man. Either they are dumber than every team they play or they aren't being coached properly. Take your choice.

Kevin Kelly 10 years, 6 months ago

Abomination? Hell dude do you ever just take a small step outside yourself and think maybe you've gone too far? I'm not saying don't be absolutely negative, pessamistic and angry.....this is the internet.

But you just called him not right before God. What the hell? I'm not even religeous and I say, "Woah dude." Just because one guy says 'they're awefull' and another says 'they stink' and another says 'they're s#itty'.....you don't HAVE to up the ante every time and crank the nonsense up to 11.

Abomination? Abomination? Its football dude. Its very important but maybe...just maybe you should check yourself.

What do you think of Turner Gills Jayhawks?

"Well quite honestly I've given it some thought and I believe them to be unholy monsters from the plateau of leng. A mere glance at the '11 Jayhawks will drive a man mad as he glances at the unknowable and percieves the unseeable."

There....now I've cranked it to 12.....feel free to go to 13. You know you have to Mr. Trolly McMeanMean.

Doug Merrill 10 years, 6 months ago

This thread got out of control, when I thought the article - well written and not biased about the coach in one way or the other - would generate much more interesting responses about the role of sports psychology in college sports.

I also thought it might do a bit to generate some empathy for the players, but it seems that most of the people hanging around this site these days have demonized both the coaches and the players. As one post put it, 'this is the internet', but you do expect more of KU fans than the way this team and coaching staff have been thrown under the bus by so many in just their second year, and having lost their DC.

I am hopeful the AD will not repeat the many errors of the past and push this coach out at the end of the second season, the results of which were COMPLETELY foreseen by most fans, in view of the talent level of the Big 12 and the change in schedule due to the NU and CU departures. The roller coaster of coach turnover that our program has had is the reason we have a long term losing record.

leonard 10 years, 6 months ago

"the results of which were completely foreseen by most fans"

That's BALONEY!

Few fans expected our football team to be the worst team in the league with the worst offense and the worst defense. There might have been a few Pollyannas counting on Gill to repeat his program building miracle from Buffalo...which is an urban myth and more BALONEY...because he couldn't/didn't win in the MAC.

The season to-date? An abomination.

The performance by Gill and his staff? Abominable.

An apt description in both instances.

Gordon Penny 10 years, 6 months ago

I, in fact, agree that many fans must have foreseen this kind of season. While I doubt anyone could have predicted that we would have the worse defense in the nation, fans would have to be blind to think that a coach with a losing record in the MEAC (except for one good season which he could not repeat the next season) would not be be overmatched in the Big XII. I don't know why we got this guy, and I am really mystified why anyone would think his head coaching record justifies an offer from KU, but here we are. Most of us probably knew he was going to be overmatched, but we got behind our coach anyway, because that's what fans do. However, I also agree, it is time for Turner Gill to take the high moral road, and move on.

Ross Cargo 10 years, 6 months ago

"Each week, despite preparing a game plan that gives them the best chance to succeed".........

Wrong. They are not getting a game plan that allows them to succeed.

And as for the whole whining about the use of "abomination." WTF? Really just going all holy on us? Abomination seems an apt word to describe this team. Words can take on similar but slightly altered meaning.

This KU teams performance is, in fact, an abomination in the eyes of the Jayhawk football fans. Leave religion out of it.

John Miller 10 years, 6 months ago

Gill wants to keep a positive attitude with his team. No what Gill does is make it alright to lose.

Benjamin Simon 10 years, 6 months ago

Confidence without success is not confidence at all... it's arrogance.

milehighhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

This was an interesting article.

Geez, at least it's something different - Tait is probably tired of the same ol', same ol' article after a month and a half.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 6 months ago

You have to take Dr Jocobs seriously because he sure turned the Royals into a winner :-/

Props to Tait for going a week without writing about Mizzou and realignment.

KU79 10 years, 6 months ago

This article reminds me of the bumper stickers that spoof the old "my kid is an honor student at...", with "my kid beat up your honor student." While we're working on our kids feelings, other teams are just kicking the snot out of us. You can work on the psychology of it all, but football is a nasty game won in the trenches. If you're not physically ready -- and trained -- to whip the guy across the line from you, all the psychology in the world is not going to help you.

Robert Brock 10 years, 6 months ago

How is the KU band doing? Are they able to hold their heads up and keep playing (like the orchestra on the Titanic)?

squawkhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

As with the fb team, KSU kicked their butts too.

Jeff Coffman 10 years, 6 months ago

The band should be sining with joy, without the football team, not one of them would get a scholarship.

It is pretty sad when there are more scholarships given out to the band than the football team.

KU79 10 years, 6 months ago

This article reminds me of the bumper stickers that spoof the old "my kid is an honor student at...", with "my kid beat up your honor student." While we're working on our kids feelings, other teams are just kicking the snot out of us. You can work on the psychology of it all, but football is a nasty game won in the trenches. If you're not physically ready -- and trained -- to whip the guy across the line from you, all the psychology in the world is not going to help you.

Gary Denning 10 years, 6 months ago

No sports psychologist can overcome a lack of talent and a lack of preparation, otherwise called coaching. The Jayhawks are a little lacking in talent a some positions, and are WAY short on coaching.

Maybe in a year or two a sports psychologist can actually help the Hawks win some games, once Zenger works to improve the other pieces of the equation.

Seth Nesmith 10 years, 6 months ago

abomination abomination abomination

There I said it 3 times really really fast and no lightning strike!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.