Guided imagery helps shape Kent State into winners with an ironic twist
MOBILE, Ala., Jan 04, 2013 (Akron Beacon Journal - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) --
When Darrell Hazell arrived at Kent State two years ago after seven seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State, one of the first things he realized in his first head coaching job was that the Golden Flashes needed an ego boost.
The program had suffered through decades of losing, and Hazell believed changes needed to start with the way the team perceived itself. So he began guiding the group though imagery sessions in the team room at Dix Stadium.
One of the first sessions Hazell conducted has again crossed the minds of many of the KSU players as the No. 25 Golden Flashes (11-2) prepare to face the Arkansas State Red Wolves (9-3) in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Sunday night.
The teams' nicknames were central to that session.
"Before, we all really didn't know what a golden eagle or a golden flash was," senior kicker Freddy Cortez said. "So at first when coach starts showing us films, we were like, 'Oh, he's just going to show us films of birds."'
Instead, Cortez and his teammates were surprised by what they saw.
"It showed the size of the eagle and what it does," he said. "How it soars around, looking for its prey then isn't afraid to attack animals much bigger than itself. That's when we really began to take pride in being a Golden Flash."
Shaped by the imagery, Cortez said he felt the team begin to mimic an eagle's mindset toward the end of last season when the Flashes rebounded from a 1-6 start by winning four of their last five games. Then this season from the start, Cortez said the Flashes were ready to attack, just like an eagle.
"We prepared all week like we were soaring around looking for our prey, then attack it with precision through preparation on game day," he said.
That imagery work began to take on an even bigger significance the past month and a half.
"In the clips, it showed the eagle zeroing in on a wolf," Cortez said. "The way that fell into place this year was just so ironic. We played the (Northern Illinois) Huskies in the MAC Championship game and then we'll play the Red Wolves in the bowl game. It's just kind of given us this meant-to-be feeling. Our last two games, the two biggest games in school history, are against wolves."
A Husky is a dog, but close enough.
When Hazell heads to Purdue after KSU's bowl game, sources at both schools said he is planning on taking a few coaches from his KSU staff along with him. Expected to join Hazell with the Boilermakers are defensive coordinator Jon Heacock, linebackers coach Marcus Freeman, running backs coach Jafar Williams, strength and conditioning coach Doug Davis and director of operations Tommy Cook.
Former speakers at the GoDaddy.com Bowl Mayor's Luncheon have included former NBA great Charles Barkley, Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Theismann and Terry Bradshaw and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. So, it was a bit odd when down home comedian Larry the Cable Guy was picked to serve as this year's bowl luncheon speaker on Friday afternoon.
"I guess I'm here to class the bowl game up a bit," he joked during a brief introductory press conference before lunch, wearing his trademark cut off sleeves and hunting gear.
He drew laughs from Hazell and Athletic Director Joel Nielsen when he said: "Believe it or not, I was going to play football at Kent State. But one thing kept me from that aEUR" high school."
At least some players appreciated the offbeat humor. After the luncheon, freshman kicker Brad Miller tweeted: "Meeting Larry the Cable Guy was pretty legit! #GitRDone"
Every day since arriving in Mobile, KSU players have been given a bowl gift. After arriving Wednesday, they were given Soul Republic headphones with the KSU logo. Thursday's gift was a large leather garment bag featuring the GoDaddy.com logo. Friday's gift was a watch. Before Sunday's game, the players will receive a commemorative game ball. Before leaving for Mobile, the university gave players and coaches new blue Nike warmup suits featuring the bowl logo on the back.
The Flashes had their final bowl practice early Friday morning at the University of South Alabama's practice field, but there is one big event left on their bowl week agenda before Sunday night's game. Today the players and coaches are being treated to a tour and lunch aboard the USS Alabama, the famous World War II battleship.
New KSU coach Paul Haynes arrived in Mobile on Friday along with his family and about 30 friends. In addition to his wife and three children, Haynes was greeted at Friday's luncheon by several of his former KSU teammates who made the trip, including former receiver Brian Dushon and defensive back Kevin Harris.
For fans that didn't make the trip to Mobile, there are still opportunities to cheer on the Flashes with fellow KSU supporters. Kent State's University Alumni Association is hosting game watch parties across the country in areas with larger populations of Kent State alumni. Visit www.ksualumni.org/bowlwatch for more information.
(c)2013 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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