They”ve tried everything. Going back to passing and catching, simplifying their defensive schemes and using different starting lineups. But now the Michigan women”s basketball team is trying something unorthodox to solve its woes: Psychiatric therapy.
After the team fell to 1-4 in the conference, a record that now stands at 2-7, Michigan coach Sue Guevara and her coaching staff decided to bring in a friend of the athletic department, sports psychologist and Kinesiology Professor Tom George.
George, who has consulted for many of the women”s varsity teams at Michigan as well as a few of the men”s teams over the past 10 years, worked with Guevara”s team before the season began back in October. But because of its latest slide, Guevara brought George in last Wednesday for a 30-minute session with the team to go over the different skills on which he had worked with them previously.
“We”ve used him before, and you talk about the elite athletes and what puts them in the zone,” Guevara said. “That”s the difference between a champion and somebody who”s in the middle of the pack.”
George, who tries to show athletes how various psychological factors influence performance, tried to help the Wolverines instill the confidence that has been lost in recent weeks.
“Because there was such a turnaround in performance, you know their focus of attention has changed,” George said. “You know that they are more than likely experiencing more anxiety then they were, experiencing some self doubt and lack of confidence.”
But as for what exactly caused the team to hit its current skid, no one can really know for sure as there are so many events that can occur to hamper a team”s psyche.
“It”s hard to know exactly what happened, but over time you can certainly see some self doubt creeping in,” George said. “And you don”t exactly know when it occurs, especially during the course of a game or pregame, and how it affects players confidence.”
To try to deal with these problems, or any other problems a team that he consults may have, George tried to offer different skills to work on in order to help them play up to their best mental capacity. Some of these skills were how to focus more effectively, how to control anxiety and doubt, to talk and think more positively and how to be more goal directed while playing.
“You try to ground them again,” George said.
George also discussed with the Wolverines the problems they have faced when having to come back in a contest. Early in the season, like in its 71-70 win over Washington on Dec. 9, Michigan was able to play with intensity throughout the game.
But in conference play Michigan has often been in the game in the first half but fallen apart in the second.
“Early in the season they were down and they had it,” George said. “They looked at each other, and they believed that they could come back. And they did.”
But with just seven games remaining before the Big Ten Tournament, time is running out on this season. The margin for error is small, if existent at all.
“It”s a really interesting animal to deal with, momentum and all kinds of stuff,” George said. “You can certainly see it, but you can”t tell exactly why.”
But as for now the team”s woes remain.
“What I”m trying to get them to do is to look at the basics we have been working on, which is to focus in the here and the now and not dwell on what has happened in the past and what may happen in your future games,” George said.