It's been a pretty brutal year for the Michigan State Spartans on the gridiron. 5-5 isn't the worst record in the world and a bowl bid is still ultimately likely, but it's still far, far off from the pace everyone in the program expected coming into the season.
Luckily, there's one outlet for sanity (or at the very least sports sanity, if that's a thing) in that tumultuous program—Michigan State's sports psychologist. Here's more from the Detroit Free Press:
MSU coach Mark Dantonio [said], "Yeah, we talk to our sports psychologist a lot."
That would be Lionel Rosen, a professor in MSU's Department of Psychiatry since 1970.
"I've met with him numerous times," MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell said. "I know a lot of players on our team have met with him numerous times. He just brings a different perspective, because he's not in the program every day, and he's able to look at it from an outside perspective and a more cerebral perspective and put things in a way you've never thought about before.
"But when you have to sit down with him and have a conversation, it makes a lot of sense. So that's something I've benefited from, and I know a lot of guys on our team have also."
Now, the initial knee-jerk reaction might be something like "guess that guy's not doing his job" or whatever. Whenever a team underperforms its expectations, you look for anything to blame.
But it's not Rosen's job to make Michigan State go undefeated any more than it's the groundskeeper's job to make sure all the socks are washed or the tight ends can seal the edge properly. It's Rosen's job to help these Spartans properly contextualize their sport, their season and their experiences on and off the field, and if he's been around Michigan State for over 40 years, he's probably really good at that.
Most, if not all teams should have a guy like him. Football is about more than just running, hitting the guy in front of you and lifting weights. It's about joy, anger, pride, humiliation, standards, inequality, brotherhood, hatred, the fair, the unfair, highs, lows and so much more. That is a lot to deal with for anyone, particularly 18-to-23 year-olds who are barely scratching the surface of adulthood.
Football is life for these players. It's what's gotten them so far, and most hope it'll get them even farther. But football's also a pretty limited scope to view everything through, and it can be easy to overreact to everything in it—and take those overreactions off the football field.
That generally doesn't end well.
So yeah, absolutely, this is a cool thing for Michigan State to do. Hopefully every team does it. And hopefully enough people are aware of this aspect of taking care of players that if a team doesn't have its own sports psychologist, a recruit and his family can ask, "well, why not?"
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