Attend a sports psychology conference or schedule an hour with a sports therapist. It’s a memorable experience to say the very least. They talk about a positive attitude, a desire to win, goal setting, and character development.
Sports psychology is practiced on every playing field, every basketball court, and every tee box in Texas too. Sometimes when you live in one of the 49 states across the river, and you read something that was written in Texas, you start to feel a little antsy about it, ‘cause Texans just aren’t like other folks. Texans are as foreign to most Americans as athletes from any of the 196 guest countries represented at the Olympics. When it comes to sports, however, Texans have a way of expressing their psychological perspective that just makes the point a little better—and it doesn’t seem to matter if you were born in the Lone Star state or just got here by the grace of God.
In the following, some of the great Texas coaches, players, and others offer easily understandable explanations for some of the time-honored teachings and preachings of sports shrinks and others involved in athletics.
Adage: Losing builds character.
Jimmy Johnson, then Dallas Cowboys head coach. “I don’t believe losing ever helps. It puts seeds of doubt in the minds of players. I’d rather be good than mad.”
Adage: Breaks even out.
Darrell Royal, athletic director and former University of Texas head football coach. “The sun don’t shine on the same ol’ dogs rear end everyday.”
Adage: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Doug Rader, former Houston Astros gold glove third baseman. “I don’t take anything to alter the physiological condition of my body. It’s running too perfectly on 82 percent body fat.”
Adage: Practice make perfect.
UT basketball coach Abe Lemmons. “You’ve got to practice everyday. One day of practice is like one day of clean living. It ain’t gonna help.”
Adage: Never let adversity get blown out of proportion.
Professional golf hall of famer, Super-Mex Lee Trevino. “It’s one of those years. Jimmy Carter had four of them so I don’t feel so bad.”
Adage: You have to be motivated to win.
Randy Matson, former Olympic shot putt gold medalist. “The joy of winning doesn’t motivate me anymore. It’s the fear of losing.”
Adage: You have to be aggressive.
Lee Trevino. “There are two things that won’t last long in this world, and that’s dogs chasing cars and pros putting for pars.”
Adage: Keep a positive attitude.
Bum Phillips, former head coach of the Houston Oilers. “Before the game, I thought we were in a good frame of mind, but, hell, you can’t stop nobody with a frame of mind.”
Of course, just as New York Yankee skipper Casey Stengel and Yankee catcher Yogi Berra developed a loyal following of writers trying to catch another Caseyism or Yogism, Texanisms from other sports can have universal application in athletics as you can see in the following, “How’s that again?”
When country music singer Willie Nelson purchased a golf course outside of Austin, he explained his sub-par performance to a sports writer. “Par is anything you want it to be. For instance, this hole here is par 47. And yesterday, I birdied the sucker.”
Abe Lemmons was never one for conventional thinking, but everything he said was grounded in logic. He once explained his theory of basketball. “I tolerate defense, but I like offense. In every game we’ve ever won, we always outscored the other guy.”
In 1967, Darrell Royal found his Longhorns trailing Oklahoma 7-0 at halftime. It was the rivalry of the year, and the coach knew he had to give his kids a pat on the back and fire them up for the second half. In his answer to “Win one for the Gipper,” Royal explained, “There’s a helluva fight going on out there. Why don’t you get in on it?”
Mickey Rivers, after being traded from the Yankees to the Texas Rangers found himself and his teammates struggling one afternoon, and knowing that they would have to turn things around to win, he analyzed the situation. “We’ll do all right if we can capitalize on our mistakes.”
Sometimes in sport, laughing at yourself is the only way to keep from losing it. Several years back, star Texas Ranger reliever Jim Kern was going through an especially tough time where everything he threw up to the plate went awry. When a Dallas sportswriter caught him practicing one day, Kern told the journalist what he was up to. “I’m working on a new pitch. It’s called a strike.”
Sports psychology—especially out of a book—has a wide application, but with 260 million people in the U.S., a single rule can’t apply to everyone. Just as with other aspects of the sport, each person has to develop their own psychological perspective that must suit their personality, structure, and beliefs. It would be nice (and a little boring) if everyone could be positive, upbeat, goal-oriented, and driven, but it is doubtful that this will ever happen. It is more doubtful that if it did, that all athletes would express these attributes in the same way.
When you work on your mental game, overcome counterproductive behavior, but stay yourself. Every person mentioned on this page is unique, cut from a different cloth, and a winner. Not one personality type has a corner on the Champions market or an inside path to victory.