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Beating the Odds

How Upsets Happen

“They were so frightening, you even watched the TV highlights from behind the sofa.” — England cricketer Keith Fletcher

How do upsets happen?

How does DePaul, which hadn’t won a conference game all season, finally do it in the spotlight of a tournament?

For answers, just go to the greatest upset stories of all time. First there’s the tortoise and the hare. You remember the tale. The speedy hare challenges the slow tortoise to a race, and loses.

Here’s what happened: The tortoise and the hare were FOCUSING on two different things. The tortoise focused on the race, and the hare focused on the odds, the rankings, the reputations, etc.

It’s a lesson for everyone. The best team doesn’t necessarily win. The team that plays the best wins. If you focus on playing instead of on the score, you improve your chances.

Then there’s the story of David and Goliath. Here’s how sports psychologist Dr. Rob Gilbert gives his version of the story: The night before the battle, David’s friends come to his tent for a visit. They know he is facing Goliath in the morning, and they want to say goodbye.

Everyone is somber except for David. He asks them why they are so sad. “David, you’re facing Goliath tomorrow! He’s three times your size. How could you possibly hope to beat him?”

David replies: “You’re right. He’s three times my size. He’s so big, that when I use my slingshot, how could I possibly miss?”

So it’s all how you look at it.

Put those two stories together and you realize that competition is all about two things: full effort and positive attitude.

Coach Tully’s Extra Point: Plato said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”


One comment for “How Upsets Happen”

  1. There are probably a dozen different ways in which upsets happen. I’ve always found inspiration in the lesson from the game of tennis that most players have a “go to” shot. For some that’ll be the cross-court forehand, for others, perhaps, the sliced backhand. Upsets can occur when you’ve studied your opponent’s game to know what they think their safety play is so you can predict and get to the next shot early. Yes, you should find your opponent’s weaknesses; but, don’t forget to study their strengths. Winners get lazy, too, you know.

    Posted by Peter Hirsch | March 11, 2009, 1:27 pm

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