Last Monday on September 14, Mike Keller and I were featured with the Rock Star- the Jim Harbaugh radio show in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jim Brandstatter was the moderator. Coach Jim Harbaugh was pleased and talked about the team’s first victory against Oregon State University. The coach was asked about a particular play in the game, in which the Oregon State punter took a couple of steps to his right after receiving the snap from center. At that point, the punter was outside the tackle box before he kicked or punted the football. A flag was thrown as a University of Michigan defensive player made physical contact with that punter. Coach Harbaugh went nuts on the sideline and was visibly upset, screaming at the line judge about the call. After the game, that line judge apologized to coach Harbaugh for missing that call. The coach was right about the incorrect call.
I had a few moments to talk to Jim after the show. I confessed to him that I didn’t clap for him while he was coaching the San Francisco 49ers, because my favorite team was the Oakland Raiders. I added that I was happy that he was the quarterback position coach with the Raiders in 2002 -2003. He then said to me “what’s your second favorite team?” I responded that the Detroit Lions were my second favorite team. Afterwards, I thought more about the question. My favorite baseball team is the Oakland A’s followed by the Detroit Tigers. When it comes to college football, my favorite team is the University of Michigan, followed by Michigan State University. I remember during spring training 2015 that coach Harbaugh visited the Athletics manager Bob Melvin in Arizona, and was part of that celebrity coaching staff.
One main theme expressed by coach Harbaugh was about expecting his players and team to improve. It is believed that improvement in practice results in better team game performance. The cliché is” one plays how one practices. “So it’s always about the individual player improving. This fits nicely with the idea of the ego ideal, which is the unconscious drive to continually improve -psychologically, physically, emotionally, etc. When coach Harbaugh talks about improving, that corresponds nicely within each player’s psyche. Unconsciously, we all want to improve and remove our deficits. When the head coach expressed the idea of everyday improvement, that is in consonance and congruent as everyone wants to improve and get better.
Self-improvement for a football player means greater on the field achievement. Murray’s “n “or need for Achievement fits well with athletes. Murray defined n Achievement as accomplishing something difficult; to master; to overcome obstacles and attain a high standard; to excel; to rival and surpass others and to increase self-regard, or esteem. Throwing a football with accuracy with a plus or minus 250 pound opposing player running at you, and wanting to throw you forcibly to the ground, I would say is a difficult on the field situation. Some quarterbacks have mastered the ability to stay in the pocket even when surrounded knowingly they’re likely going to receive a tremendous physical blow to their head, body, or both. Certain quarterbacks have the reputation of “happy feet”, meaning they leave the pocket too quickly, and likely throw an incomplete pass or interception. So despite potential achievement for success, the football player has to physically and mentally defeat his opponent in order to be successful on every play. In so doing, Murray’s n Abasement is also in play. This need is about accepting injury, blame, and punishment; to admit wrongdoing or error; to blame one self and to seek and enjoy pain or punishment in the process.
In other words, every football player has both n Achievement and n Abasement in his psychological makeup and these needs are expressed over and over in practice, and during game day. In a recent discussion with running back Fritz Seyferth, he told me about that the hardest football hits [tackled] he received were from teammate Mike Taylor. Fritz scored four touchdowns in one game against the University of Minnesota; was drafted by the New York Giants, and played for the Calgary Stampeders until an injury forced his retirement from professional football. Middle linebacker Mike Taylor was a consensus first-team All-American; and selected as one of the 100 greatest Michigan football players of all-time. Taylor was a first round selection by the New York Jets and started five games for this team as a linebacker. He later signed a multiyear contract with the Detroit Wheels of the World Football League. Head Coach Dan Boisture said, after the signing, that Taylor would be the focal point of our defense. Fritz said he can still feel the hits by Taylor.
Mike Keller, a defensive end-linebacker, an All-American; third pick by the world Champion Dallas Cowboys; and player, scout said that going up against offensive guard Reggie McKenzie in practice was no picnic. Reggie was an All-American; first pick by the Buffalo Bills; was the head of the electric company [it turned on the Juice] and primarily and instrumental in OJ Simpson’s setting, the NFL rushing record of over 2000 yards in a single season. Both Fritz and Mike demonstrated the Need for Achievement, and Abasement during their University of Michigan and pro football careers.
Is true that coach Harbaugh’s father Jack coached at the University Michigan. It’s also true that Jim Harbaugh was an All-American quarterback at the University of Michigan playing for Coach Bo Schembechler. According to Fritz and Mike, coach Schembechler at times single-minded mission was to run the same play over and over again. Success was when play was run without error. In fact, Reggie McKenzie repeated to me, one of Bo’s infamous sayings “do it right, the first time, every time, and all the time.” Every member of Bo’s teams got it. And, Jim Harbaugh is instilling that dynamic with his University of Michigan Wolverine football team. It is no surprise that coach Harbaugh focuses on improvement. As with coach Schembechler, coach Harbaugh believes in constant improvement and is never satisfied with the status quo.
More about these individuals, can be found in Bo’s Warriors-Bo Schembechler and the Transformation of Michigan Football.