New article on the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice says sports psychology played a major factor in Team USA’s improbable victory over the heavily favored Russians.
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An article in the NY Times asks “How Miraculous was the Miracle?” breaking down the different factors that lead to the win over Russia nd ultimately to the gold medal. One of those factors was coaching and US coach Herb Brooks’ psychology background:
He graduated from college with a degree in psychology, and was a successful college coach at University of Minnesota, winning three championships in four finals appearances. Brooks gave each prospect a psychology test to help him select a certain type of player. He wanted players who were open-minded, easily coached and willing to learn a new style of play.
He consciously addressed many of the key concepts of sport psychology to improve his team’s chances of succeeding at the Olympics. One such factor is team chemistry. Nine of the American players played for Brooks at Minnesota. Several others were from the Boston University. This helped team chemistry instantly.
On the other hand, Brooks knew that the rivalry between the University of Minnesota and Boston University could cause problems, so he organized forward lines by region, which helped to build team chemistry and camaraderie. In addition, Brooks, always a disciplinarian, made a conscious decision to be tough. He thought that if the players hated him more than they hated each other, they could become a cohesive unit.
Brooks’s philosophy can be summarized by his statement: “The common denominator of all the guys … was that they were really competitive, very hungry, very focused, and mentally tough — to go along with whatever talent they had.” While the team was talented, Brooks preferred to tell the world that they were underdogs.
Read the full article here.