Saturday, November 18, 2006

USC Football Game Day: Tennis, Anyone?

As we’ve mentioned before, perhaps the best thing about Pete Carroll is that he’s a life long learner. The result is a coaching philosophy that continues to evolve and prove itself every time USC wins a football game.

We learned this week from Scott Wolf of the L.A. Daily News that the basis for Carroll’s philosophy is a book written in 1974 that is partially titled The Inner Game. I say partially for effect here, because the rest of the title is … of Tennis.

That’s right. A book called The Inner Game of Tennistennis … is responsible for teaching our man Carroll how to build a modern day USC Football dynasty.

Actually, it gets better. This book, The Inner Game of Tennis … tennis … written by W. Timothy Gallwey, apparently works as well as Carroll’s other spooky magic methods. Read it, believe it and good things happen.

Carson Palmer read The Inner Game of Tennis and he won the Heisman Trophy. Matt Leinart read it, and he also won the Heisman Trophy, not to mention two national championships. Heisman winner Reggie Bush also subscribed to The Inner Game of Tennis. The latest example is Lawrence Jackson who read the book last week before recording three sacks and 10 tackles against Oregon, after putting up goose eggs for sacks during USC’s first 8 games.
One of Carroll's prime philosophies is that in big games, teams that win don't play better, the losing team usually plays worse. It stems from Gallwey's book, which tries to eliminate fear, overthinking, overjudging and overadapting from athletic performance.

"It's an extraordinary philosophy and easy to understand," Carroll said. "It's a poignant read. I've espoused it since I read it. I met Gallwey in graduate school. I live with that philosophy." [...]

Coincidentally, about a year before Carroll came to USC, he met former Trojans tennis player Sean Brawley, one of the few who learned under Gallwey, to further discuss the philosophy. [...]

"When athletes don't perform, they think too much about what they are doing, or react harshly to making mistakes," Brawley said. "We all have a tremendous amount of potential to perform optimally and it's true we get in our own way."

As an example, Brawley said he worked with former USC tailback Reggie Bush, who experienced problems fumbling kickoffs one year.

"He was always thinking, `Don't fumble, don't fumble,"' Brawley said. "I got him to count from when the kicker kicked off to when he caught the ball to take his mind off fumbling."
Leave it to Carroll to create a culture of winning, based on a book about tennis … tennis. Not Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Not L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. Not Tony Robbins. That stuff may work for other people, but USC Football plays a different game ... tennis.

Let’s just hope the whole team read The Inner Game of Tennis this week. We may need it.

Once again … Fight On! Beat the Bears!

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