High-Wire or Haywire? CONFIDENCE in Question for the Ducks

Steven Smith Editorials

Are the Ducks are doing a “high-wire act,” or are we gonna be walking the plank? Either way, at the season’s midpoint, there is real danger below! We need at least one more victory before the Civil War game.

Why Oregon Needs a Signature Win

  1. Over 60 players witnessed or played in last season’s debacle. Please, not again.
  2. YouTube

    Walking the tightrope

    Those verbal commits for next year could walk (the dreaded de-commits).

  3. Walking the tightrope
  4. A restless and spoiled fan base giving up on players and coaches.
  5. National cache or brand is lost, and we become totally irrelevant again.
  6. Getting to a bowl game/all those ancillary benefits – gone.

What Oregon Needs to Get There


Kurt Russell sees clearly

Confidence: It’s an essential ingredient we often underestimate as a metric, critical-to-peak performance. It has been said of old that ”among the blind, a one-eyed man is King.” (Erasmus) So too the athlete or team with the “BIG C”. They see ways to improve, improvise and win! Blend confidence with the following ingredients and “Voila!” More victories.

Talent alone is not enough. Drive, or motivation, is vital. Intelligence is crucial. Being coachable always needed. Mental and physical conditioning is absolutely necessary. Fundamentals and technique – yep, gotta have ’em. Toss in a lot of repetition, too.

These make a wonderful tapestry, and yet … that dreaded demon, Doubt mortal enemy to all – creeps in and “mungles the mosaic.” We have all heard the often used bromide, “Whether you think you, or you think you can’t – you’re right!” (Henry Ford) SELF-DOUBT IS A TALENT-KILLER/CONFIDENCE DESTROYER!

We see players looking to the bench or sideline, apprehensive, indecisive and fearful, struggling to reach optimal potential. Coaches are not immune to this malady either. Time and again, they play not to lose. Conservative, shortsighted play calling, prevent defenses, calling the same predictable plays repeatedly … All of these are recipes for defeat! It is the “old chicken bone in the throat”, “gagging on it”, referred to commonly as “choking” under pressure. Hard to swallow, isn’t it?

Preparation: Chip Kelly and Dana Altman are coaches who prepare players to perform at high levels. They build confidence by often asking these questions of players who are in key situations: What did you just see? Why did that outcome happen? How will you perform on the next play? Execute what you have observed and learned. Wonderful, confidence-building teaching techniques!

Gary Breedlove

Coach Joe Salav’ea instilling confidence

Coach Joe Salav’ea is asking his players similar questions about d-line performance. They are steadily gaining confidence and competence. We need to see the same confidence building on the other side of the ball!

This begs the question: Are Oregon’s players seeing their potential? What can be accomplished? Perhaps what is missing is …

Apperception: It is the process by which a future experience is incorporated by an athlete to form a new successful outcome before it happens. Simply put, it means visualizing a positive result first in ones mind. It means seeing success before it becomes reality. Outstanding players use it all the time.

Successful coaches have their troops performing at high levels of uninhibited skill. They instill confidence via an ongoing process. This allows aggressive, assured competence on the field or court. Winning does not necessarily build confidence. It merely reinforces the process already in place. Does Oregon believe and teach this mantra?

Overconfidence: It’s the polar opposite and downfall of many a player and team. There are a litany of reasons why: disrespecting players, teams, coaches and programs; not to mention a lack of preparation, motivation and letting the little details slide. ASU anyone? Failure to study and respond to innovation is deadly, leading to upsets and ultimately to failure. Think Oklahoma/Iowa State last week!


General Robert E. Lee was known for using tactics that worked …

Robert E Lee, famous Confederate General, had superior skills in motivation and preparation. He said it best about Union Generalship during the Civil War.

“They came at us in the same old way, and we stopped them – in the same old way!

Change is inevitable; the opposition has good players and coaches, too; and complacency and status quo are dangerous!

Let’s not pretend that we are “young” either. Arizona has 50 redshirts, or freshman. This is college football. There is not a huge disparity in talent levels between teams. When in honest appraisal, has UW ever been short of talent? Yet, we owned them for a dozen years! How, you need not ask, now?

Alas, the “Dogs and Cats” both exhibit the aggressive confident demeanor that makes them undefeated. They’re the top two teams in Pac-12, now nationally ranked fifth and eighth, respectively. Those players on these teams know their roles, know what is expected, and execute. Great coaches facilitate a confident excellence in battle!

Oregon’s Season Is at a Tipping Point

Do we need a lot more time, experience, talent and scheme to challenge WSU and UW? Those programs took five and three years, respectively, to reach the North Division elite. Will patience prevail, or are the natives getting restless in Eugene? Utah, Arizona and WSU had injuries this season at QB as well, but they are winning consistently. Six and six is doable – and expected. Find ways to win with our talent, please.

Go Ducks!

Finally, each player on every team presents a broad spectrum of confidence — or a lack of it – to various degrees. Ferreting out the doubt and instilling a will to consistently strive for excellence is the goal of our coaches. Anything less is deadly to the “win” column. So when it comes to a winning program in the last half of the season, is it “look out below,” or “here we go”?

Come on Ducks, be our HEROES in some more ball games!

Steven Smith
Powell Butte, Oregon

Top photo credit: from author

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