Nov. 23, 2012
We hear it all the time, how taking a glass-half-full approach makes a difference.
But how many of us really buy into it?
Old Dominion’s Lady Monarchs have adopted the approach and the result so far is a 4-0 record as Karen Barefoot’s second edition heads for the Thanksgiving dinner table. Evidently, there’s a lot to be thankful for so far this season if you are a Lady Monarch; even more if you are the head coach of those ladies. There’s been a buy-in to the power of positive thought.
Barefoot, after taking over for long-time ODU coach Wendy Larry, is trying just about everything possible to energize her squad, and that includes adopting the “10 rules” explained in Jon Gordon’s best-selling book “The Energy Bus.”
As the cover preaches of Gordon’s book, “Fuel your life, work and team with positive energy.”
Believe me, Barefoot’s bus doesn’t stop there. She had her team “skype” with former player Mery Andrade, who was one of the program’s all-time favorite energizer bunnies, a player who played full throttle basketball all the time and never coasted. And Barefoot also brought former ODU national player of the year Nancy Lieberman in to speak with the team.
“Let’s be extremely positive,” Barefoot said. “This is my fourth job rebuilding a program and one thing I’ve learned at each place is that it’s about changing the mentality. We choose faith over fear every day.
“If we’re in a game, I tell the players, ‘If we get up, don’t let up and if we get down, don’t give up.”
If there was ever a crack, ever a moment when Barefoot smirked or allowed doubt in the authenticity of her approach to seep in, all of her chatter would sound like a lot of white noise. But that’s the most amazing part: She never changes her approach.
Larry won over 500 games as ODU’s head coach, but in those final seasons it became evident that the Lady Monarchs had lost their edge. A change was needed. In came Barefoot, who had most recently turned Elon’s program around. ODU faithful, however, remembered her as one of Larry’s assistants years prior.
And old-schoolers from the region remembered her as the first NCAA player at any level to score 2,000 career points while handing out 1,000 career assists. She did that at Division III Christopher Newport over on the Peninsula.
“I’m a point guard by nature and a point guard’s job is to be creative and find ways for their team to score,” Barefoot said. “As a coach, I’ve just changed that creativity to try to find ways to win.”
The catch phrases roll from her tongue in an endless stream:
One player who bought into it was Jackie Cook , who has gotten off to a monster start this season. Cook is averaging 18.8 points a game at this early juncture, but the energy – there’s that word again – oozes out as she speaks.
“Coach Barefoot started emphasizing being in great shape, but she also emphasized having fun getting there,” Cook said. “It’s not like I was just in the gym firing up shots and running wind sprints this summer. I branched out to get into shape.
“I toned up and dropped a few pounds, and to do it I was doing cross-fit exercises, spinning classes, kick boxing and even hot yoga.
“As a team, we got after it in the weight room and on the football field. Yes, the football field. We were out there at 6 a.m. running wind sprints, running the stadium steps, doing agility drills and doing parachute runs.”
Barefoot saw all of that as a necessity if the Lady Monarchs were to succeed playing her transition-style game.
“We had moments last year when we’d play a really nice half of basketball,” Barefoot said. “But putting 40 minutes together was almost beyond us because we weren’t in the type of shape we needed to be in to do that. I didn’t want to come into this season spending the majority of the preseason trying to get the team fit. I wanted them to show up fit.”
To do it, Barefoot brought in nutritionists for the team and identified not only players who needed to lose weight but also players who needed to gain weight. And then they went about setting plans of attack for doing just that.
While it would be easy to claim that the Lady Monarchs aren’t playing nearly as tough a non-conference schedule as a year ago, it must also be pointed out that the Maryland Eastern Shore team ODU beat 62-46 on the road Tuesday came into the Constant Center a year ago and beat ODU 63-59. So that outcome right there was a flip in result. Anyway, after an 11-21 record a year ago, maybe a softer non-conference slate was the ticket the Lady Monarchs needed this season. Why take a pounding at the hands of Tennessee? Just to say you played Tennessee and kept alive a tradition? There comes a point where that’s no longer a good reason.
So the Lady Monarchs opened the season at Virginia Tech and popped a 55-35 victory over the ACC-member Hokies.
In four games, they have yet to be tested, but that first real test comes Nov. 30 when the Lady Monarchs host California, which will come into the Constant Center ranked No. 11 in the country. In preparation for that game, the players did not head home for Thanksgiving. They had the day off to partake in turkey festivities and such, but they planned to be back at it on Friday.
Be a curmudgeon if you wish. Knock Barefoot’s “positive energy” approach if you must. Laugh if you will when she states with all seriousness that her goal and the program’s goal is “to win that fourth national title for the school.”
But remember this: That beacon-like approach Barefoot brings is lighting up the landscape and landed two prime recruits from the area last year when Barefoot was able to sign Galaisha Goodhope from Virginia Beach’s Princess Anne High and La Quanda Younger from Warwick High in Newport News. Younger was the Daily Press player of the year for the Peninsula while Goodhope was the Virginian-Pilot player of the year on the Southside.
Just think about that last name: Goodhope.
It fits this program, now that Barefoot is in charge.