Dealing with failure is one thing; dealing with success quite another.
West Virginia University, which plays a crucial three-game baseball series this weekend in Charleston against coach Randy Mazey’s former TCU team with first place at stake, has seen both sides of that story.
When the season started, the Mountaineers were picked last out of the nine-team Big 12, and it didn’t help that they were shut out in their first game, and after having lost two of three in their first conference series and being shut out by Marshall, they were 8-12.
That was the bottom, the time when they had to deal with their failure, follow the guidance the coaching staff had given them.
They split their next two games before running off an eight-game winning streak, which allowed them to believe in themselves enough that even a brief losing streak didn’t overwhelm them. They put things back together and rushed into contention in the conference, sweeping Kansas.
Pittsburgh was next, and Mazey remembers what transpired well.
“We had to flip from how to handle adversity to how to handle success. That’s a whole different ball game when you do that,” he said.
Suddenly, they were looking at being able to accomplish more than anyone had ever imagined, but the obstacles in the way were different from those they faced when they were operating in obscurity.
“You start winning, we talked to them then — I think it was before the Pitt game after we swept Kansas and put ourselves in position to do some things in this conference — we said, ‘All credit goes to you about the way you handled the adversity we talked about. You did a great job doing that. Now the trick is to handle the success you’re having,’” Mazey said.
That often can be harder than handling losing.
“I gave them four examples of programs around the country that as soon as they jumped into the top 25 or top 30 they immediately followed it up where they lost two out of three games to a bad team or that type of thing.”
What happens when a losing team becomes a winning team? What are the land mines?
Cockiness comes first, especially in this “me-first” day and age. But there is also dealing with new-found celebrity, of having people know who you are and what you do and telling you how great you are at doing it.
“If you start having success and start listening to everyone who tells you how great you are and saying you guys are wonderful ... if you get caught up in that, then that’s how you have a bad weekend and lose some games,” Mazey told his team.
“You have to continue to do what you did to put yourself in the position you are in, which is play the game from pitch to pitch without distractions and grinding out at bats and executing pitches,” he continued. “If you continue to do what you did on the way up, you have a chance to continue moving up or at least staying where you are. If you relax at all you won’t be able to do that.”
Sometimes, though, kids don’t listen. It’s nice to be a star and to be noticed on campus and to have people who ignored you before now pay attention.
You lose sight on your goals, so Mazey brought it all back into perspective with an eye-opening approach as to what he wanted.
“I told them about some other professions that if you look at you see based on those professions they can’t afford to take a day off. Imagine if a heart surgeon doesn’t give 100 percent at work or if a pilot doesn’t give his all one day. What’s the result of that?
“My main example is as a father. As a father, you don’t have the luxury to take a day off. You’re a father all the time. If you’re a winning baseball program or a championship team and put yourself in that position, you can’t take time off. Every day, every practice you have to try to get better. Every game you can’t give away an at bat; you can’t lose focus pitching to a No. 9 hitter.
“If you’ve proven to be a winner, that’s how you stay there.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
Mountaineers face crucial series with TCU in Charleston
Dealing with failure is one thing; dealing with success quite another.
- Bob Herzel
HERTZEL COLUMN: Defense needs to be WVU’s No. 1 priority
When Dana Holgorsen took over as West Virginia’s football coach, he came carrying the credentials of an offensive innovator and with an unbroken history of offensive success, the assumption being that it would carry over from Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State to WVU.
Gonzaga avoids upset at WVU
For most of Tuesday night’s battle at the Coliseum, West Virginia did a number on Gonzaga star Kevin Pangos, and because of that and some dazzling first-half shooting by Eron Harris and second-half heroics of Terry Henderson, the Mountaineers seemed on their way to an upset of the nation’s No. 20 team.
WVU hoping for home-court advantage against Gonzaga
On the surface, you may wonder what chance West Virginia has at victory at 9 p.m. today when Gonzaga comes into the Coliseum to face the Mountaineers.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Gonzaga brings excitement to WVU Coliseum
Gonzaga comes to the Coliseum today to face West Virginia in a 9 p.m. game televised nationally on ESPN2 and, like it or not, it is Gonzaga and not the Mountaineers that has the star power to make this an attractive national game.
HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU game attendance questioned
You might remember Rick Harshbarger. We introduced him to you almost a year ago as the guy driving the car parked in the Coliseum parking lot with the license plate: NO1WVFAN.
HERTZEL COLUMN: There are no sick days for athletes
So you wake up on a Monday morning and it’s cold outside; a couple of inches of snow have fallen. That’s bad enough, but then as you roll out of bed and put your feet on the cold floor, you realize you head is aching and your back hurts and you’ve got the sniffles and then …
Huggins implores Mountaineers to play to their strengths
Bob Huggins’ message to his West Virginia University team coming out of its disappointing 80-71 loss at Missouri that never really was as close as the final score indicates was a simple one – do what you do.
“We come out and we have too many guys playing out of character and doing things they can’t do instead of doing things they can do,” he said immediately after addressing his team on Thursday night in Columbia, Mo.
WVU women win seventh straight
Unlike the West Virginia University women’s basketball team she plays for, Asya Bussie draws a crowd every time she steps onto the Coliseum court.
The crowd, unfortunately, isn’t fellow WVU students or paying customers.
Dreadful shooting costs WVU in 70-61 loss to Missouri
West Virginia University couldn’t get out of Columbia, Mo., fast enough Thursday night, but the predicted snow/ice/cold storm had far less to do with it than the storm the Missouri Tigers brewed up for them.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Days later Iron Bowl finish still shocking
In reality, Shelly Poe had thought she’d seen it all but she had no idea what was awaiting her.
There she was, down on the sideline, caught up in a thrilling renewal of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry, the score tied and regulation seemingly over when Alabama coach Nick Saban, a one-time West Virginia neighbor of hers, so to speak, got one second put on the clock.
- More Bob Herzel Headlines
- HERTZEL COLUMN: Defense needs to be WVU’s No. 1 priority