Diagnosing Kentucky Football's Fear of Losing

In honor of our football preview hitting newstands this week, <i>Inside Kentucky</i>'s lead staff writer/analyst Jared Bonshire wrote a special FREE story on Kentucky Football just for our internet members entitled, "Kentucky Football's Fear of Losing." Check it out.....

The long and storied history of Kentucky football is long, but hardly storied.

In fact, I cannot remember a single time someone has taken my attention away at a football game with the stories about the glories of old.

You know, one of those "hey young man, you will never believe the 60's, a time where everyone was afraid of the boys in blue. There it was, week after week of hard fought tough battles, tough battles that always ended up in a win. Ahh how great that was."

If the stories are told, they are short lived themselves. "Do you remember, that one year, ya know, when Kentucky actually had a winning season in the SEC? Sure we were on probation and couldn't go to a bowl, but we did it."

Yes, those glorious probationary years when Kentucky football actually played good football.

How in the world, of all the luck, did Kentucky finally succeed only when a time when they couldn't make it to the "big dances" of NCAA football?

There are some who believe that Kentucky won during those probationary seasons because of cheating that led to the probation itself.

Yes, indeed, Kentucky had cheated and been caught trying to recruit better athletes into the program, but it is not conceivable for this to be the only reason.

Life is always filled with too many factors leading into just a single outcome, its just too complex for that.

More importantly, there was a mental factor present during those years that has never been present in any other.

Simply put, during these years the Kentucky football team did not fear losing.

Maybe there was a bit more talent at one or two positions, but Kentucky has not been stacked at any position since the "Bear" Bryant days.

I had never really thought about the role of fear in athletics until I read a book entitled "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," by Robert Kiyosaki.

In the book, Robert explains why some people are poor, and why some people are rich. To sum up a general theme, it basically states as a general rule folk are poor because they are afraid to lose money, and folk are rich because they do not share that same fear. They take calculated, informed risk and thus profit from taking those risks.

With each passing paragraph and line, I noticed an almost impossible to avoid correlation between the reasoning for why people are wealthy, and why Kentucky Football has become a perpetual loser.

Losers fear taking risks, because they are afraid that risk will fail, and thus stop taking risks. Winners take risks, fail, learn from that failure and continue to take risks.

Eventually that risk leads to winning.

It is this fundamental difference between "winners" and "losers" that can be seen in the difference in attitude between Kentucky basketball players and (at least so far) Kentucky football players.

Just ask what a Kentucky basketball players expects out of his season, and then ask a football player. The basketball player states "well, we are going to work hard to win every single game that we can, and we expect a national championship." On the other hand, the football player states "we want to play hard and compete, hopefully get to a bowl."

Does anyone else see the contrast in these two statements? Both players state that they are going to work hard in the off-season to become better players in their chosen sport, but one seems to have a more lofty of a goal.

Let us take another for instance. Last year, after the miracle 15 footer by UAB guard Mo Finley, Gerald Fitch is seen walking to the bench shaking his head, obviously signaling he KNOWS this game is not over, and he WILL be the one hitting the game winner. The thought of him missing that shot never entered his mind.

Flip back to Commonwealth, and the snake bitten eyes of Jared Lorenzen BEFORE his prayer-not-answered interception. It was as if his interception happened before anyone stepped on the field.

Kentucky football players have been so afraid to lose, they have condemned themselves to losing.

The saddest part is much of the same attitude has now permeated through Kentucky football fans and the local media. When Kentucky makes a mistake in the 4th quarter, you can FEEL the fear in the air at commonwealth, from the stands to the media booth.

You think that feeling is felt in "The Swamp?" Nah. There may be a feeling of shock and dismay, but that shock and dismay soon turns to anger, revenge, downright meanness! Which eventually turns into a dog fight come the rematch of that particular rival.

Where I feel hope with the new coaching staff, and with the new athletic administration that they will get this terrible turn of events turned around is that they recognize the problem. From day one Coach Brooks spoke about how he needed to change the attitude of the players, the fans, the media and the administration. Some replied "well, win games and I'll change my attitude", but without the change in attitude the wins will never come. Life does not hand you confidence, its built from within.

The sooner Kentucky football players attack the mental game of football the same way that Jordan approached the game of basketball, the wins will start coming. They still may not be able to win 10 games, not yet, but when a loss is not the end of a season, and every game is just another chance to prove how good you are, UK will become SEC elite.


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