Column: Did That Really Happen?

By J. SCOTT HELTON
I am fortunate in that my full-time job as a recruiter for Reinhardt University allows me to travel around our great state and take part in events that often will enable me to meet and talk with some very special people. Last week I found myself at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center presenting a scholarship for Reinhardt to the distinguished academic graduate of the latest Motor-Carrier Compliance Division basic training class, which is a part of the Georgia Department of Public Safety (The State Patrol) and the speaker at the event was the Director of Public Safety, Colonel Mark McDonough.
When Colonel McDonough began to address the crowd, he spoke of the Atlanta Braves who had been defeated in the NLDS the day prior by the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 13-1, but his speech was not about the Braves, but about the importance of focus in life, particularly in the world of law enforcement. But as Col. McDonough pointed out, we had all lost focus on what was relevant to the Braves, that day’s game. Fans and even announcers were pointing out that the Braves had not been to the World Series in 19 years, and we were all looking so far ahead, while the Cardinals were looking at one game, the next one and because of this, the Braves season has come to an end.
It may often appear that teams from Georgia are possibly jinxed or have some outside force working against them, because of the way they lose games. We can look at the Falcons Superbowl loss against the Patriots, the 1996 Braves World Series loss, or Georgia vs. Alabama for the National Championship a couple of years ago as examples, but perhaps it is not unlucky, but merely a lack of focus when it really counts. I am not talking about discipline; I believe Kirby Smart coaches a disciplined team. The Dawgs recently lost to an inferior South Carolina team. Was it because they thought there was no way they would lose? These losses have been an Achilles heel for the Bulldogs in the past, playing below the expectation against teams they should easily beat, and I hope these games are not creeping back into the program.
There is no secret sauce, no unique plan; it comes down to the mindset that leaders like Nick Saban and Bill Belichick create with their teams. The next game is the most crucial game of the year, and nothing else matters; the last game, win or loss is irrelevant… It’s that simple, that is the mentality these coaches create in their highly successful teams. The key to this way of thinking is focus, to block out the things you cannot control, the noise of others, and do what you must in order to achieve your goal, to believe that nothing comes down to happenstance and that you must do everything within your power to put yourself and your team in a position to win. I understand both coaches are great evaluators of talent and know how to use this gift in their specific system, but it also comes down to the belief in winning that they instill into their teams.
It has been an interesting week watching the Braves, and the Bulldogs lose to teams that they should have beaten. Let’s hope there are lessons learned, and both teams will be better in the future for losing sight of the goal, which is the next batter, the next pitch, the next play.

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