During preparation for the 2010 BCS Championship against an also undefeated Texas Longhorns team, Alabama head coach Nick Saban looked to an unlikely source to motivate his players - an Olympic hockey game.
In 1980, Team USA famously defeated Russia in the âMiracle on Ice.â Many forget that the USA team then had to play Finland for the gold medal. Saban equated 'Bama's SEC Championship win against Florida, which beat Alabama in the previous season and won the National Championship, as the team's USA vs. Russia moment. They still had to beat Texas to complete their goal - their USA vs. Finland game.
For Saban, it was all about inspiration and mental preparation. So it's no surprise that Saban for the past three years has utilized Athletic & Personal Development program Director and noted mental conditioning expert, Trevor Moawad, as a mental consultant for the Crimson Tide.
Moawad, who has also worked with Florida State, Jacksonville Jaguars and others, believes not enough coaches use time with their players effectively enough.
âOne of the common themes that I see at the highest levels is a large amount of preparation leading into what a coach is going to say,â Moawad said. âRelevant stories, analogies, inspirational quotes - they all set a tone.â
Coaches should focus not only on what they are saying, but how they are saying it, as athletes pick up more on the body language and tone than the actual words. Coaches should also be more specific with their messages.
âThe easiest thing a coach can do is observe and report,â Moawad said. â'We aren't defending well. We don't have enough energy.' A fan can do that. As a coach, you need to be better. Focus on exactly what your team should be doing.â
When Jimbo Fisher took the head coach position at FSU, he told the world that he wanted to change the culture of the program. A large portion of that plan involved creating a leadership group consisting of key players on the team. The players serve as a mouthpiece for the coach, serve as a mentor to other teammates when needed and even discipline other players for things such as missing class or misrepresenting the team.
âYou have to give that peer group real power,â Moawad said. âEmpower them to be true ambassadors for the team.â
Doing everything from bringing in speakers to address the players to creating unifying themes can add a sense of community to a team.
âIt's a way to unify a group,â Moawad said.
The Jaguars used âTake back our houseâ when coming off a season with a poor home record. Another team used a variation of the famous Apollo 13 quote - âI don't care about what it was designed to do, I care about what it can do!â - to focus the team during an injury-heavy time.
Set the example
Whatever you are asking of your team, you have to reflect.
âAs a coach, you are the example,â Moawad said. âPlayers see how much work you are putting in. If you're talking about integrity, you have to be honest. If you talk about details, you better be detail-oriented. You are a role model for your coaches and players.â