Tubby Smith, U of MN BB Coach, Hires Catalyst

 Tubby Smith, the University of Minnesota men’s basketball coach has 16 consecutive 20 win seasons for a reason.  He is a great coach, and he recognizes when it is time to find a catalyst to help unlock the potential of his team.  This year’s 17-11 team is likely not performing up to its true potential because 7 of their 11 losses were decided by less than 5 points.  They have had major leads over ranked teams such as Michigan State and Purdue, only to see them erased in the final seconds.  In fact, they have only won 4 of 11 close games this season.

In an effort to find a remedy to the mental breakdowns his team was having with the game on the line, coach Smith brought in a sports psychologist according to Myron Medcalf of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  Players report that he taught them to use “positive affirmations” and envision good outcomes in tough stretches.  They further claim that the approach helped them survive a late game surge by the fighting Illini in a 62-60 victory on Saturday.  

For many, “positive affirmation” conjures up images of  SNL’s Stuart Smally (aka Senator Al Franken) looking into the mirror and saying “…and darn it, people like me”.  However, there is a lot more science to them than that,  and no doubt you have recently observed Olympians mentally rehearsing flawless performances on the slopes and on the ice before they compete.   This same technique works in coaching executives before  tough board meetings or  critical or contentious negotiations.

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To increase the odds of success for executives in these critical situations, help them:

  • Imagine themselves in the situation
  • Anticipate the tough questions and challenges they likely will encounter
  • Visualize themselves calmly and effectively responding to those challenges
  • Practice responding to those challenges with someone playing an adversarial role.

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The bottom line is that effective coaches and business leaders recognize when their teams are not performing up to potential, and do not hesitate to find a catalyst to help them get back on track.

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