Kelly gets psychological on winning

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Brian Kelly’s keynote speech at the Opening Night Dinner for Notre Dame Baseball was a smashing success, and another reason why many are incredibly excited for Kelly to take the reins of the Irish football program.

Kelly’s attention to detail and methodology behind building a championship team was incredibly detailed. And while some have compared it to the motivational tactics of Lou Holtz, Kelly actually went much deeper than the Tao of Doctor Lou.

Kelly’s comments were actually based on a learning theory developed in the 1940s by psychologist Abraham Maslow, who also wrote one of the groundbreaking theories on human motivation.

(I’ve got a feeling we’ll be tackling this one when the subject of pregame speeches comes along…)

Maslow was the first to posit the “Conscious Competence” theory, a theory that Kelly laid out for an audience eager to hear anything of substance from the new head football coach. And while Kelly did a great job relating everything to the recent instability of the baseball team after head coach Paul Mainieri left for LSU, you don’t have to have a Masters in psychology to figure out how to apply this theory to the recent struggles of the football program.

“A lot of people know how to win,” Kelly said. “Winning once and a while, a lot of people can do that. How do you consistently win? How do you win them all? That’s a process.”

And so Kelly went on and laid out the four stages of competence, which Kelly tweaked into the four stages of winning consistently.

Stage One: Unconscious Incompetence

Maslow said: The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it.

Kelly said:

“You know what that is, you don’t know that you don’t know what it takes to win. You get that blank stare when you say, ‘Listen, pay attention to detail. Do this right. Go to class. Be on time.'”

Stage Two: Conscious Incompetence

Maslow said: Though the individual does not understand or know how to do
something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing
it.

Kelly said:

“You know know what Coach wants from me on a daily basis. You now know what the formula is, but you can’t do it yet, because you have so many bad habits. You can’t seem to finish the drill. You can’t seem to pay attention to detail.”

Stage Three: Conscious Competence

Maslow said: The individual understands or knows how to do something. However,
demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of
consciousness or concentration.

Kelly said:

“You now know the message, you are able to do it, but it’s really hard. It’s hard for you to stay on task. That’s where great coaching comes in and keeps you focused, keeps you involved in the process. It’s not, ‘Hey, I want to be a champion.’ Everybody wants to be a champion. What are you going to do about it? Conscious competence is that area where coaches really need to remind their players every single day what it takes to be a champion.”

Stage Four: Unconscious Competence

Maslow said: The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes
“second nature” and can be performed easily (often without
concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may not be able teach it to
others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Kelly said:

“That’s the habit-forming, you know what to do, and you know how to do it every single day. You don’t have to be reminded about what it takes to win on a consistent basis because it’s been instilled in you. It’s been instilled by your family, your parents. It’s been instilled in this community. It’s been instilled by your coaches. When you want to win the championship, when you want to win them all, you need to get to that level of unconscious competence because then it just happens naturally. The journey has been great, but keep your eye on the process.”

The entire speech is available to watch at UND.com, but it really is an impressive performance by a coach that’s learned a ton in his 20 years of head coaching experience. Kelly is by no means the first person to take psychological theories and apply them to the sporting world, but if there’s a perfect dissection of the problems that plagued the Irish football team under Charlie Weis, it was the never-ending, mind-blowing battle for consistency.

With Kelly at the helm, you get the feeling that this won’t be a problem for much longer.