13.Dec.2009 The Beavers Need a Sports Psychologist

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If they don’t have one already. They might, I don’t keep track of these things, but if they do have one they need a better one.

One problem I’ve noticed the past few years is that the Beavers lose a lot of games versus opponents’ helmets (e.g. Penn State, USC) or ranking (Oregon x 2, Cincy). The only time they do well is when nothing is expected of them (e.g.  Cal in 2007) or the superior team hands them the victory (e.g. USC’s 4 turnovers in 2006).

I think this stems from two things:

1. The Beavers land recruits who were rejected by USC, Oregon, Cal, etc. I’m convinced this gives them a permanent inferiority complex, despite any accolades (e.g. POY, first team, etc) the conference might bestow upon them and despite any team success. A dog that has been beaten will continue to flinch, no matter how many times a hand pets them. The staff can coach them up to be players that football powers would like, but the scars remain. The players themselves have said as much, so this goes beyond opinion and is simply a fact.

2. The Beavers go into big games hoping to win, but not expecting to win. It was evident in the USC game this year. That game was there for the taking. Compare Stanford’s mindset in playing USC versus the Beavers. Stanford said, “these guys are vulnerable, they’re down, we’re going to go in there and kick them”…Beavers went in saying, “we’re going to feel this thing out, take their best punch, then react as necessary.” The Beavers never took the initiative and they lacked killer instinct. Both stem from lacking confidence. The Stanford men weren’t recruited by USC, but they have pride in their academics and feel superior to USC in that regard. The Beavers can’t hang their hats on academic superiority, either, so they’re simply left feeling inferior in all aspects of college athletics and thus they are relegated to hoping these superior opponents beat themselves.

They need to get over this inferiority complex in order to take the next step. Even in the Civil War it was evident. I wrote in my pregame notes that “Oregon has a confidence that they can’t be stopped and this makes them doubly dangerous”, and I stand by that remark. Oregon was 3 for 3 on 4th downs, the Beavers were 1 for 2. Those three fourth down plays decided the game, and the ability to make (and not make) those conversions was based mostly on a mindset.

What these players need to be taught, beyond technique and execution, is (a) confidence and (b) the magnitude of the moment. Because right now they lack both versus “superior” opponents, and all they (and thus we as fans) can do for such games is hope the opponent beats themselves. It’s impossible to take the next step with that mindset. A sports psychologist and cognitive behavior therapy would do wonders for this team.

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  • OS_Beaver says:
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    Against Oregon, I felt we had more talent on the field, but our defense did not act with enough confidence. We really should have won that game. I think Clark’s injury came at an awful time. I think a sports psychologist could help for BIG games and Riley, Langsdorf and Banker should be included. Maybe the fotball team should be invited to the White House also. We have so many NFL pros right now and with the presidential connection and strong overall performance there is no reason to not have more a a “We Will Win” attitude for crucial games.

    • angry angry says:
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      This comment is so silly in retrospect. You mention Tim Clark and the Beavers having more talent in the same sentence. Then a year later the Beavs miss a bowl game and Oregon is in the title game. Come on, man, take off the pumpkin glasses.

  • G Joubert says:
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    It’s usually said that in this the 2nd Riley era the Beavs start the season real slow and finish real fast. But when you objectively look back at the results of this season it is remarkable how consistent the Beavs were pretty much throughout. The only outlier being the UNLV game, which the Beavs ought to have won by a couple of TDs, not by 2 points. As for the rest, a 10 point loss to Cincinnati, a 5 point loss to Arizona, a six point loss at USC, and a 4 point loss at Oregon. Blown out by no one. Even a couple of nice wins, over Stanford and at California. And always winning the ones they clearly ought to have won. But then consistently losing by a relative few points to the more highly ranked teams. Is this a crisis of confidence? Me I say the Beavs for the most part played up to a certain level and never exceeded it.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      “And always winning the ones they clearly ought to have won.”

      Disagree, I thought Arizona @ home should have been a win.

      “Me I say the Beavs for the most part played up to a certain level and never exceeded it.”

      That’s not a bad way to put it.

      Me, I saw a lot of hoping to win games and hoping to make plays rather than winning games and making plays, especially versus good opponents.

      • G Joubert says:
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        Disagree, I thought Arizona @ home should have been a win.

        Taking the season as a whole it’s pretty clear the beavs and the ‘cats were pretty closely matched, and it’s hard to say which was better. So if the ‘cats win by a skosh, which they did, it’s not out of line either way.

        I will agree with you on this: the beavs seem to have a lack of confidence about going into the LA Coliseum and taking care of business against USC. That’s true. That’s the one I say they could’ve and should’ve won this year.

  • FreddyBeav says:
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    Get your facts straigt. OSU was 1-2 on 4th down and that was the first touchdown OSU had.

  • FreddyBeav says:
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    Players have also said that it only motivates them by being passed up by teams like USC. This isn’t a set back like you may think

    • angrybeaver says:
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      Players have said that, but they’ve also said that it still stings. Canfield and Peat were both quoted as such before the USC game, and they’re all-conference players. If they’re telling you flat out that it still affects them, then you can pretty much ignore the “we use it as motivation” line, as it’s clearly men avoiding vulnerability/rejection in front of the media. People twist logic, justify, etc etc when they’re rejected. Everyone is guilty of this. Real talk.

  • FreddyBeav says:
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    Everything that I’ve read at the time sounded like the team had the confidence, but just couldn’t execute when needed, but if there was any lack of it then it’d be on the defense. Sorry but this just wasn’t a very well written piece.

  • MonkeyLuv MonkeyLuv says:
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    I agree with the confidence piece to a point. I’m currently finishing my masters degree in sport psychology and work with a PAC-10 sports team on these very issues. The Beavers have less talented recruits AND do a lot of hoping to win. This does reduce our confidence, but helps us play those “BIG” games much more aggressively like you stated. But the real problem is that confidence isn’t initially instilled in our players from the start of the season. Riley commences with a “wait and see” style approach. Now this was great for us a decade ago when we weren’t expected to win, but we have to come in with more than just a one-game-at-a-time mentality. Of course that focus in necessary as well, but our end goals has to feel obtainable while we play along the way. We have to believe that we will take the title from the beginning and not just see if we get a War of the Roses at the end of the season. This is how you instill team confidence in Tier 1 programs and truly build longevity. (we lost for 30 years straight, can we win for 30?) My question is can Riley prepare us for Vegas without the hangover I’m still feeling? That will mean more to me for the confident start to next season than anything that happens between now and August 2010.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      Thanks for the input, ML. Nice getting that from someone in the psychology field.

      Listen, the bottom line is that when you’re not selected by the “best” whatever (whether it be school, girl, job, etc) you can go two routes:

      1. Convince yourself you’re good enough and everyone else was wrong.
      2. Accept you aren’t good enough.

      By the backlash here, I think fans want to believe #1, when #2 is the clear reality. What really needs to happen is the Beavers have to poach a few high profile recruits from USC, Oregon, Cal, and Stanford. Michael Phillip was a good start. If the Beaver’s 3-star USC rejects see a 4-star OL (who rejected Stanford) lining up next to him, he’s going to feel a lot more confident in himself and in the bigger picture.

    • Diggs says:
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      I think that the “one-game-at-a-time” approach versus “let’s take the title” is interesting. It’s two-faced no doubt. You can’t ignore the first, but you can’t arguably ignore the second either, and I believe we are guilty of ignoring the second. It’s those first few games that you don’t know what you’re playing for under Riley sometimes, and you don’t (in a way). But, I think an important aspect could be what if those early games you focused more on the end, at least for motivation, what that could look like.

      It’s just a fine balance is what it comes down to, but I think there is some validity to us ignoring the possible end result early in the season too much. I think there are a percentage to each game of our slow starts that are a product of this ‘theory’.

  • Beavgirl says:
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    I agree with what you’re saying angry. when confidence isn’t built up teams/players tend to choke when the pressure is on, simply because they don’t believe in themselves. Hell it happens to the best of us. In losing the civil war we took many steps back on building up confidence. At the same time this recent loss could work in our favor–the pressure will be off, the team can relax, regain their footing, and win some games. And I agree, this is a perfect time to hire a new/better sports psychologist for the team.

  • OrangeAid says:
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    Hey…their sloppy seconds aren’t so bad!

    Poor Jacquizz and James…they must have a real inferiority complex…of course, because of their height, it was easy to overlook them!

  • Channon says:
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    I completely disagree. Any player that is recruited for PAC 10 play is a stud when he is recruited. Even though Riley is famous for recruiting no name players and coaching them up, they are still great high school players. They just don’t come to college and know they are going to win, or lose. All of Oregon State’s (or any PAC 10 school, even WSU) players have incredible resumes, they are all; All State, All conference/district, etc. Even if they weren’t on winning teams in high school, they were individual winners.

    Secondly, all high schools players (except for a small handful) are thrown into an environment, when they arrive at any college football team of, we don’t care how good you were in high school, this is the big time and your nothing. That is done on purpose to make them work and earn what they get. They all know they are good or they wouldn’t have been recruited. They need to be knocked down so the coaching staff can build them back up they way they want them.

    Oregon State’s players aren’t losers, just as USC’s players aren’t winners. Its all coaching, making a group of young men believe in themselves as a group and individually. Riley is famous for taking an unhearlded group of young talented athletes and making them believe in themselves. His only problem is he can’t seem to do it until the fourth or fifth game. You are way off base with this one. Almost all scholarship players are recruited by several teams and made to feel like they are special and winners. Its what a coaching staff does to them that turns them into winners……or not. I’d say the sports psychologist OSU has is pretty good based on the Beavs 2000 record which is second to none in the PAC 10.

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