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Going into the women’s basketball national championship game, Syracuse was a 26-point underdog to UConn. Unfortunately for Syracuse, the Vegas oddsmakers weren’t far off. The Huskies beat Syracuse by 31 points.
The major storyline from the Huskies’ fourth consecutive title centered around head coach, Geno Auriemma, leapfrogging legendary John Wooden in the record books. For decades, Wooden’s iconic record of ten national titles as head coach of the UCLA Bruins seemed to be an insurmountable feat. After reaching the eleventh championship at the tender age of 62, Auriemma looks poised to add even more hardware to the Huskies’ trophy case.
While Auriemma was the center of attention during post-game interviews, Quentin Hillsman, the Syracuse head coach, provided a blueprint to guide competitors on their quest to convert losses into wins. Here are three key takeaways from his remarks:
Ignore Vegas — Create Your Own Odds
When the women’s basketball bracket was released, Syracuse was given a 7 % change to win the tournament. Hillsman, used those odds to motivate his players. Although Syracuse was a 26-point underdog, Hillsman made sure to exhibit the utmost confidence to his squad. Hillsman recalled, “I told my kids we were on upset alert as soon as the brackets were put up and they had a 7 % chance.”
Hillsman knew that in an age when information travels faster than the speed of light, all of his players were seeing the same news stories that predicted their paltry chances of advancing. Wisely, he addressed the odds and coached his players to beat them.
After losing a match, there is a human tendency to recoil and withdraw. Hillsman has a practice that is uncommon for many coaches who lose in tournament play – he stays and watches the rest of the games. Oftentimes, coaches will leave the tournament as soon as their teams are eliminated. Hillsman, on the other hand, wants to see how other coaches motivate their players and execute strategy. He goes into data collection mode as he sits in the stands and watches the action unfold. Instead of retreating, he adds to his personal library of best practices by watching the tendencies of winners.
Practice Standing In The Confetti
The true gem of Hillsman’s coaching approach is his commitment to “practice standing in the confetti.” According to the Syracuse coach, “I sit here until it’s all over and watch the confetti fall…I watched the confetti fall because I wanted to practice to see how the confetti falls in your hand. I do it every year.”
That practice of not just watching but feeling the byproducts of the ultimate victory is a novel take on visualization. It’s important to put yourself, your team or your company into the space where future success will be realized.