“How will the [Insert Team Here] live up to the hype? We’ll discuss with our leading expert [Insert Name Here] when we return.”
How many times do we here that line coming from the television during the summer? Lately, talking heads have been inserting “Trojans” into that first category.
And for good reason.
If you are familiar with the story, then you know it almost reads like a Spielberg movie. And if it turns out to be happily ever after, it might actually be a great script one day.
But to live up to the hype of the perfect ending, with their Heisman-winning quarterback leading them to a national championship, they are going to have to ignore all of it.
Lane Kiffin knows that. The first thing you see when entering USC’s practice field are the words “PREP NOT HYPE” emblazoned on the field. And he will repeat that phase until he turns read in the face. Why?
Let’s pretend we have a degree in sports psychology for a moment.
Most romanticize the idea of the motivated athlete into an image of passionate, burning desire to succeed that only comes from within. And for the best athletes, that is often the case. Ideally, the motivation does comes from within.
But many others fall in the trap of letting others, whether they are qualified or not, telling them what they are capable of. A player feeding off the energy of his teammate’s praise is one thing, but a player performing so he can get on SportsCenter’s Top 10 is what every college coach has nightmares about.
Hype is a fickle form of external motivation. Therefore the only thing to do is ignore it. Remove the danger.
There are certain programs that will always deal with a little bit of hype even in the worst of years. And when a historic program is on the brink of restoring its glory, the media will be the first to hop on the bandwagon.
Remember, the media does it for themselves. Some writers and talking heads no longer care about accuracy in reporting. They care about Nielsen Ratings and Google Analytics.
So the players need to be in it for themselves, too.
But it’s so tempting to cave to the pressure. And of course a bunch of 18- to 22-year-old guys want to know that they were on the evening news and LSU or Alabama wasn’t. So what does Kiffin do?
The coach needs to use the King of Calm.
If there has been one phrase that has been used to describe Barkley ever since he broke onto the scene as a 14-year-old starting quarterback at Mater Dei, it is “even-keeled.” Nothing gets to him.
And definitely not hype.
If Barkley stays focused and takes whatever the media says, good or bad, with a grain of salt and teaches his teammates to do the same, then it doesn’t matter how much attention this team will get. They won’t notice. They will be too focused on results to realize the entire country is waiting for them to make history.
It is strange, but true. If you take the hype out of the picture, then you might be able to live up to it.