Oregon football coach Mario Cristobal has a problem on his hands and hopes to turn it around against UCLA on Saturday.
The Ducks have played back-to-back poor games, losing to Washington State and Arizona, and faces a crucial point in the season. Does Oregon get better against a mediocre Bruins team or does it continue its death spiral?
The World War II book "Band of Brothers” took a hard look at the forces that test the will to win in soldiers. When soldiers become exhausted they lose their mental edge, and when they lose the mental edge they lose hope, and without hope they are doomed. At the end of the Arizona loss, you watched a group of Ducks who looked like they were doomed, by the lack of the observable will to win.
How do players show the will to win? Watch for it Saturday. Hopefully, you will see enthusiasm and spirit from the players throughout the whole contest, whether the Ducks are ahead or behind. Look at players’ and coaches’ reactions to mistakes or poor play — they don’t hang their heads or feel sorry for themselves, and they show interest in what’s happening on the field regardless of circumstances.
Sports psychologists have a lot of information about slumps in sport. That's when athletes tend to lose focus, make more mistakes and become apathetic. Trainers will tell you that players should have ongoing mental attitude training in which they develop skills such as self-confidence, concentration and motivation, strengthening their resilience to the negative psychological effects of sub-par performance.
It is a must for athletes to combat negative psychological factors by employing mental skills that prevent them from getting mired in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle of low self-confidence and poor performance.
Another factor leading to slumps can be the physical condition of the athletes. The Ducks have had their share of injuries that have disrupted the confident play they showed in wins over Cal and Washington. Incorporating rest into athletes’ training and competitive routines lessens physical deterioration.
In football, with weekend games, having mandatory Mondays off is a good way to ensure that athletes are able to recover from the prior week’s training and the stresses of the previous day’s competition.
Successful players have that silent switch in their minds, the one they turn on when everything else is gone. When the reserves are dead and the tank is dry, where do they find a spark? The answer is through willpower. This is the time when the victors rise to the top and the rest give in. This is where a player rules himself, and wills his way to victory.
Former Oregon player Ken Woody coached college football for 18 years, including as an assistant at Oregon, Washington, Washington State and Utah State.