October 24, 2013
How Monken Is Instilling Self-Assurance In His Players
Famed poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "A man of genius inspires us with boundless confidence in our own powers." To Todd Monken and his staff, Ralph Waldo Emerson would most likely say, "Good luck with that, guys."
Monken may be tasked with rebuilding a once-proud program from the bottomless pit of despair it is now in, but his most difficult job to date isn't dealing with X's and O's. For the first-year head coach, making sure his players still have enough confidence to actually believe they can win may be his hardest duty of all.
After eighteen consecutive losses dating back to 2012, it's impossible for the Golden Eagles to have the same type of self-assurance that came with the winning seasons and bowl games of past teams, but this year's squad has not given up - a sign Monken believes has them headed in the right direction.
"I see effort, I see energy, I see want-to, I see enthusiasm and that's how we're gonna be," he said. "So as the leader of this program, that's how I'm gonna be."
If it has been hard to stay positive and encouraging in such desperate times, you would never know it by watching a practice or listening to Monken speak. To him, the team's confidence will grow as they continue to repeat what is necessary to be successful, both in practice and in games.
"I just know that confidence comes from doing the same things over and over and over and having success. That's like anything. My confidence in standing in front of (the media) comes from doing it more often," he said. "Whatever we do, we get more confidence. Hopefully that's happening. That's why we keep trying to do the same things, so eventually you can gain that confidence. "
Peeping into a practice session at Joe P. Park Practice Facility on any given Wednesday, you will most likely hear loud rap music blaring from two booming speakers near the sideline. Players bounce around to lyrics of Lil Wayne or Kanye West with relative excitement, and the screams and yells and cracking of pads can be heard from as far away as the student union.
It surely doesn't look like the scene of an 0-6 team that last won a game two seasons ago. Yet despite the energy and enthusiasm displayed in practice every day, Monken has struggled to gauge the inner morale of each individual guy in the locker room.
"I don't know if I can get in the minds of each player as to where their confidence level is in their individual play, which is first and foremost, your individual confidence in any sport," he said. "In baseball, it's a team sport, but if I line up at the plate and I'm going up against Justin Verlander, do I really think I can get a hit off of him? We may still win and I'm not confident so how that comes about and how you know that, I don't know."
What Monken does know is that his team isn't there yet, both physically and mentally. Eighteen straight losses is a tough pill to swallow and he realizes the constant losing has only exacerbated the team's problems. But the first-year head coach has not wavered in his efforts to bring Southern Miss up from the ashes, and it is his spirit that serves as a driving force in slowly bringing the team back to life.
"That's where it starts, with me as head coach and then our assistant coaches. That's why I said we're not going to waiver. We're going to continue to coach our guys. We're going to continue to be positive," Monken said.
"I love being the coach at Southern Miss. I'm not going to let anything deter me from what my goal is, which is to put the best product on the field. That's what we're going to continue to do."
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