So I was listening to the various post-game interviews from the players and Coach Leach today, and within each interview you can hear various explanations of why things fell apart. Mostly all of them being mental. They lacked focus (Simmons), they got complacent (Simmons), they don't know how to win (Leach), they are scared of success (Leach), they can't harp on the mistakes but only move forward (Wilson).
The last couple years with Coach Wulff it was a lot of the same mental fatigue: dropped heads at the first sign of defeat, or always coming out of the tunnel flat. Wulff tried to protect his players' egos and would re-direct the problem to their youth and lack of size but if often did seem the mental component was lacking as well.
It appears pretty obvious now after the Colorado collapse that it's definitely a mental issue. We are no longer noticeably smaller or slower than everybody else, which was a valid issue the first few years of the Wulff era. Coach Leach said this same thing during his post-game interview today.
I was trying to look up some information on who the sport psychologist is for WSU Athletics, and this article is the best I could come up with. It's from June 9th, 2000, if that tells you anything about the attention being shown to WSU's sports psychologist. They don't currently have a position or name listed within the current staff directory on the main athletics site, so I'm not sure if it's still Mark Summerson. If it is, on a more comical level, this excerpt captured my attention:
He is licensed in Washington and Idaho, is specifically trained in Threat of Violence Consultation, Corporate Crisis Management services and is a certified Crisis Prevention Institute instructor of verbal de-escalation and non-violent physical intervention.
We have our football guys potentially getting their heads filled by a shrink telling them to avoid physical and verbal conflict by all means necessary. No wonder they are scared to win or even stand within 5 yards of their coverage responsibility!
You may wonder if a psychologist can really influence the end result of a football game. While I personally have no clue, I do know WSU used to have a very good one in Jim Bauman, who former Associate AD Jon Oliver hired at Virginia (sound familiar?). In a Seattle Times article written in November of 1997, Ryan Leaf talks very highly of his time with Bauman during the Rose Bowl season and the effects on his play:
Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf credits weekly meetings with the Cougars' sports psychologist, Jim Bauman, for contributing to his success this season. "He does a great relaxation and visualization thing where we sit down and I close my eyes and he goes through visualization things," Leaf said.
"He counts me down until my body is real relaxed. We visualize things I'll do in the game the next Saturday. Or maybe on some nagging injuries I want to put out of my mind. Or the media attention.
"Or how to get focused for Boise State and Southwestern Louisiana."
Leaf said that as a result of visualization he already has seen some of the events that unfold in the game.
I wonder if our players are visualizing putting an opponent away?!
Overall, with the state of our football program, I don't think it's an area we should be looking to cut corners or let slide without accountability. I guess that's all I'm saying -- do whatever possible to get our players heads on straight!
What does everybody else think? Do you feel it's truly a battle of mental fortitude at this point for the Cougs?
I'm also curious if anybody has any real substantial knowledge of the sports psychology aspect to the athletic department? I know during my days at WSU I would always walk past the office on my way to the Sports Information Department and he always seemed to have somebody in his office. It would be cool to hear some insight on what those sessions are like and whether they are all pretty similar to what Leaf mentioned.