It’s March and that means it’s a great time to be a basketball fan. Tournament mania has already begun. The conference tournaments will determine who will be playing in the NCAA championships for both men and women. The seedings will be revealed this weekend and then the fun will really start. Who will prevail and who will fail? That is perhaps one of the most talked about questions that will occur this month. Which teams will play to their seeding and which teams will be upset? Why do some teams lose who are favored to win? The biggest fear many have is getting upset. So why do upsets happen? There are several reasons.
First, the NCAA tournament always brings out the best and worst in college basketball teams. After all, these are teams made up of young men and women mostly between 18 and 22 years of age, who may not know how to handle the excitement that comes with playing in the highest echelon of college basketball. The first reason a lot of teams get upset is simply “nerves”. A lot of these athletes and teams have not been trained or prepared to deal with the emotional swings that come with playing in these tournaments. Proper preparation, not just physically, but mentally as well should be essential this time of year. Some favored teams lose games they are favored to win because they have not been prepared to mentally handle not just being ahead, but being tied or behind as the game progresses. I think coaches should take the time to talk about all of these situations with their teams as they prepare for the tournaments. Teaching their athletes proper relaxation and visualization exercises can be very helpful in these situations.
A second reason is a lack of good leadership. This cannot only be from coaches, but from the players as well. Being a good leader in this time of year can be positive from many perspectives. Good leaders will not wilt under the pressure. They will use it to their teams advantage. They will not be afraid to lead not only by example by their play, but also by what they verbally express. If the pressure is on, they will speak up and help guide their teammates and take charge whether it is during a timeout or on the floor. A team without solid leadership will fall apart quickly.
This leads to the third reason why upsets happen. I think this is when teams fall apart under the pressure with players starting to point fingers and blame others. The emotional and psychological strain from falling behind a team you know you are better than can cause players to get upset at their teammates. Instead of looking at how they were playing and taking responsibility for their actions, some athletes are quick to get angry at their teammates. Consequently, they become so angry, they lose their focus and can emotionally fall apart.
At this time of year, I believe coaches should spent more time focusing on the mental game, talking about these situations and being prepared for whatever they believe could get in the way of their team playing to their potential. If they focus more on their personal effort and on what they can control, they will have a much greater chance of success and playing to their seed, and as a result not get upset.
As always your thoughts….