OU's building maturity leads to success

Sooners participate in "Shave for the Brave" and improve togetherness as a result

The Oklahoma baseball team gathered around a buzzing sound all to familiar for anyone that has been in a barber shop.

It was time for one or two haircuts, or maybe almost three dozen.

For the second straight season under second-year coach Pete Hughes, the Sooners shaved their heads as a part of the “Shave for the Brave” campaign in an effort to fight childhood cancer.

The wind whipped up as multiple barber chairs sat in a row, the Oklahoma players waiting their turn for a clean shaven head.

“We got a lot of question last year: Why did you shave your head? Why don’t you have hair anymore?” said Oklahoma shortstop Sheldon Neuse, who added that shaving his head last year “affected me in a greater way than I even thought it could”. “We’re raising awareness for cancer. We’ve got 35 guys doing it. The biggest thing I told the new guys is if you have to shave your head to raise awareness and save a kid’s life, that’s all you have to do, I’d do it every day.”

Sitting in a barber chair or drawing awareness for childhood cancer won’t have a direct impact on the Sooners’ on-the-field performance. The Sooners raised more than $25,000, the most of any team in the country for this cause.

Hughes thinks that events like this build maturity, and that’s something that could help on the field even this weekend in a three-game conference series against Kansas.

“The more things you do as a team, off the field or out of the clubhouse, the tighter they become,” Hughes said. “And when they take part in projects of helping other people and doing it together, they build a tighter relationship with each other. I think it plays into it a lot. Obviously, that’s not why we instituted the 19 Ways program. We did it to help as many people as we could. One of the results of that is getting a tighter knit group of guys and take pride in doing a lot of great things together. We build a brotherhood that way.”

Oklahoma lost the first two games against Baylor last weekend before rebounding for a Sunday victory and a mid-week shutout win against Central Arkansas.

Neuse said the unity developed by off-the-field programs like “Shave for the Brave” and “19 Ways” has helped the Sooners (19-12, 3-3 Big 12).

“That ties into the game itself,” said Neuse, who is batting .308 entering the Kansas series. “Just doing little stuff like this, it just brings everybody closer together. It’s always going to help your performance on the field when you’re playing as one unit instead of 35 different people.”

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