Ed suggested three things for me to do during halftime:
“He suggested that I point out the mistakes I wanted to correct at the beginning of halftime and not mention them again.
“He said that after I pointed out their mistakes, I should tell them exactly what I wanted them to do.
“Then he suggested that I take it one step farther: that I remind the players of a successful play they had made and then tell them to do it like that again.
“I put those three suggestions to work immediately. After all, it was that kind of thinking that had gotten us to the state championship when I was a player.
“During the first half of that night’s game, I encouraged them, I praised all the good plays they made and I made sure that they always went onto the court with positive images of what I wanted them to do.
“At halftime, my assistant coach went to the blackboard and started to write down the mistakes that we needed to correct.
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“I stopped him and erased what was on the board. Instead, I talked to the players about what had happened in the game so far, and I told them what I wanted them to do in the second half: ‘Juan, remember to get under the basket so you can get the rebounds. ’ ‘Tony, guard that big guy a little bit closer, and he will miss his passes.’
“Then as we were ready to leave the locker room and go out for the second half, I spoke to each player, praising them for something good they had done in the first half: ‘Robert, you made some great passes that helped us to score those points.’ ‘Jerry, that was great the way you stole the ball and drove it down the court. ’
“Then we went back out on the court, armed with our new positive mental attitude.
“Did it work?
“One of our players was hesitating to take a shot because he was so far out. I kept calling to him,
‘ Shoot it, you can make it. ’ But he passed to a teammate.
“The teammate passed it right back to him. ‘ Shoot it, you can make it,’ I called out again. Finally he turned and shot.
“The shot went in. We got two points. And he turned to look at me with an expression of amazement.
“We could do no wrong that night. We did everything right. We amazed the other team, and especially their coach. We were playing a team that had beaten us just two weeks before.
“The final score was 80 to 47 in our favor.
“My favorite quote came from the coach of the other team He told a reporter, ‘This was a much improved team ’ He said it was the most improvement he had ever seen in such a short time, only two weeks.
“If only he had known that all of the improvement had come since 3 o’clock that afternoon when I talked with Ed Bernd!
“The coach even came and asked me what we had done differently. I told him that we had changed our way of thinking, that we wanted to win. He found that hard to believe.
“But it was true. We had not changed the way we practiced. We still had the same players on the team We still had the same plays and the same strategy. The only thing that was different was a new attitude.
“Our players beat a team that had beaten us earlier in the season. That’s the mark of true champions. When a team can come back that strong after being beaten, then they have the right stuff to go all the way. They are stars in my mind superstars in fact. And I let them know it.
“How did we do the remainder of the season?
“The first five games we were one win and four loses. After that shift in attitude, we finished the season by winning eight of our last nine games, giving us a season district record of nine wins and five loses. We lost our final game 77-74. In the final three minutes, we scored 12 unanswered points.
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