Icebox Athlete Spencer Wood presents at the 2011 Men's Final Four in Houston, TX.
This year's NCAA Division I Final Four for Men's Basketball was of special significance of Icebox Athlete President Spencer Wood. In addition to receiving an invitation to address this year's coaches on "Post-season Mental Toughness," his focus was also on one other very important component of the Final Four - the VCU Men's Basketball team. The VCU Rams were on of the teams that Wood had worked with that year and their journey through the NCAA tourney had been one of the great Cinderella stories of recent years. "I was so happy for Shaka (VCU's coach), his staff and his guys" Wood commented. "Of course" Wood continued with a smile "Selfishly, it always helps to speaking on mental toughness at the Final Four and then have one of your team's trail blaze a path through the tournament with a bracket busting level of mental toughness and make it to the Final Four. I think the fact that this team was a "Mid-Major" that few picked to even make the NCAA tournament made it all the more special."
Wood was asked to present twice and covered topics that spanned defining mental toughness, keys to performance consistency, pressure performance, and creating a mental skills and toughness training plan of action throughout the season.
STAPLETON: VCU good at playing mind games
Friday, April 1, 2011
By: Art Stapleton
New Jersey Record
Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart says some of the credit for his team's success in the NCAA tournament should go to a mental toughness coach.
As one of the nation’s preeminent mental toughness coaches, the 39-year-old from England has played a significant role in building the Big Dance’s biggest bracket buster.
Of those still in the hunt for a national championship, no one will bring more of a psychological edge to the Reliant Stadium court than Virginia Commonwealth as it prepares for tonight’s national semifinal against Butler.
Part of that priceless quality comes from the personality of Shaka Smart, whose coaching profile has increased incredibly with VCU going from the First Four to the Final Four.
Before the 11th-seeded Rams set out to prove countless critics wrong, leaving contenders from multiple power conferences in their wake, they gathered on campus for a Wood tutorial on what it takes to — among other things — perform with poise under pressure.
Smart and his players listened to everything Wood had to say, yet the sports psychologist paid to deliver a message was the one who came away impressed. “At the level of which Shaka and his players believed in themselves, you would have thought we were dealing with a major program that had a pedigree of six national championships,” Wood said. “They were extremely confident, and if you can back that confidence up with things you can actually do in a clutch situation to help develop poise, you’ve got something really special. “I don’t get to see that with every team I work with. This team, I saw it from the start.”
Believing is the essential part of winning, of course, and VCU believes it will hoist the NCAA championship trophy, even if most observers had the CAA runner-up failing to escape the tournament’s first round against Southern California.
Smart and the Rams relished being on the big stage for their open practice Friday.
Their confidence remains, and considering the stakes and the odds that were stacked against them, the swagger with which they continue to perform is quite remarkable.
“He’s definitely the best at getting people to understand what it is that they need to do to approach the game and also how to respond to any type of adversity,” Smart said of Wood. “He set up a good framework for us in terms of handling mental toughness situations, which can make a big difference in pretty much every aspect of the game.”
Wood was there for the Rutgers women four years ago, when C. Vivian Stringer called on him to speak to her Scarlet Knights during a rough stretch in the regular season.
On the heels of a 30-point loss to Connecticut that season, Stringer brought Wood — whom she saw give a presentation at the Final Four the previous year — in for a workshop.
Rutgers responded by winning eight in a row, including the Big East title and a run to the 2007 national championship game before losing to Tennessee. “I see so many similarities in terms of confidence between what Vivian and Rutgers had and what Shaka and VCU possess now,” Wood said. Smart, 33, seems appreciative of this enormous opportunity, as do his players.
With the way VCU carries itself, though, you would think this were a summer pickup game, not a chance at making tournament history, which could go a long way toward shaping the sport for the future.
Up until now, Smart has made all the right moves.
The balance he has struck between physical preparation and psychological motivation is something to behold.
Like his story of burning the entire month of February – actually, the entire page in a desk calendar – to symbolically prove to his players it was time to move on.
Smart and Wood planned on getting together Friday night for a powwow between coaches that would be part pep talk and part preparation for what looms as the most pivotal 40 minutes for a mid-major program knocking on the door of athletic immortality.
“The enemy at the Final Four is not the next opponent. The enemy is the Final Four for a Final Four team,” Wood said, “and it’s all about dealing and handling the weight of the expectations, for the athletes to be physically present and emotionally neutral. “The smartest thing as a coach is finding a way to manipulate those expectations and get confidence levels and expectation levels to match. The team that is able to do that best in the Final Four will most likely leave here with the championship.”
From the moment VCU was granted an invitation on Selection Sunday, Smart and his players have gone after every game as if it was theirs to win. With that mentality, the Rams have not lost yet.
“We think if we keep attacking people and not playing on our heels, we’re going to be great,” senior point guard Joey Rodriguez said. “We don’t even bring up the idea of possibly going home … we’re thinking we are going to be here until Monday night and that’s all we’re thinking. We don’t look at ourselves as Cinderellas.
“We believe we belong.”
VCU never has wavered from that belief, which is why America’s biggest party crasher is two victories away from ending the season atop the college basketball world.
University of Florida partners with Icebox Athlete to offer Icebox Mental Toughness Training workshops to all 19 campus sports!
Icebox is proud to announce that the University of Florida, one of the nation’s most successful athletic programs, has engaged Dr. Spencer Wood, President of Icebox Athlete and one of the country’s foremost experts on mental toughness, performance consistency and clutch performance, to travel to the University of Florida for a number of days each month to work with teams from a variety of sports.
To date, Spencer has already worked with over 10 men’s and women’s teams at Florida, including Men’s and Women’s basketball, defending national champions swimming and diving, the nationally ranked Golf team, the nationally ranked softball team, and the nation’s #1 ranked volleyball team, among a variety of other sports.
Billy Donovan, Head Men’s Basketball Coach and two time national champion, is one of many coaches who has commented on the impact that the Icebox Mental Skills and Toughness Training System has had on his team and program.
“Mental toughness, poise, focus, and confidence is critical for the success of my team at the University of Florida and Spencer Wood is somebody I use to help create that mental edge for my team. Spencer has worked with my team on multiple occasions both in the pre-season and to prepare for big games and he has done an outstanding job. His Icebox mental skills teaching methods have unlocked the secret on how you can effectively be at your best when it counts the most.”
Spring sports that Icebox will be working with include the national powerhouse University of Florida Baseball team. Commented Spencer Wood, “We are delighted to partner with the University of Florida Athletic Department and contribute to their on-going success. Their athletic department, athletic programs, and their outstanding facilities are among the nation’s best, as evidenced by their prominence in the SEC and consistent national rankings across all sports.”
Icebox assists Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators to return to the NCAA tournament!
After hearing Icebox Athlete President Spencer Wood speak on clutch poise, focus and confidence at the TABC clinic in Texas, Billy Donovan, Head Coach of Men’s Basketball at the University of Florida and 2X back-to-back National Champions, invited Spencer Wood to work with his team in both the pre-season, the regular season, and during the SEC tournament. In the last two years, the Gators had only received NIT post season bids after winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, and so were looking forward to returning to the NCAA tournament. Most experts agree that a 2010 NCAA tournament bid for the Gators would come down to a ‘must win’ game against Auburn in the SEC tournament. Coach Donovan again brought in Spencer Wood to help prepare his team for this critical game. Displaying tremendous toughness and poise, the Gators gutted out a tough win and received the necessary votes to return to the NCAA tournament.
Head Coach Billy Donovan commented: "Mental toughness, poise, focus and confidence is critical for the success of my team at the University of Florida and Spencer Wood is somebody that I use to create that mental edge for my team. Spencer Wood has worked with my team on multiple occasions both in the pre-season and to prepare for big games and he has done an outstanding job. His Icebox mental skills teaching methods have unlocked the secret to how you can effectively be at your best when it counts the most"
Icebox helps Olympic Program prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games
While a quick view on a map or globe gives the appearance that Trinidad and Tobago is a relatively small nation by land mass, the heart and soul of the nation is certainly ‘larger than life.’ That has been the recent experience of Icebox Athlete President Spencer Wood after he was contacted by Olympic Secretary General Brian Lewis to deliver a series of mental skills workshops for the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee and Program.
Said Spencer Wood: “The beauty and warmth of the people, climate and geography will stay with me for quite some time….Trinidad and Tobago also have a proud and noteworthy Olympic history and the number of world class athletes that are nurtured here is extraordinary relative to their general population….I am honored that Icebox has been invited to enhance this development.”
Icebox ‘hits the target’ for USA Shooting at the United States Olympic Training Center
Icebox Athlete President Spencer Wood was recently asked to deliver the Icebox Mental Skills and Toughness Training Workshop for the USA Shooting conference at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Following the workshop, Bill Roy, Director of Operations for Team USA Shooting wrote: “Thanks for your extraordinary visit to Colorado Springs and for a terrific presentation…several of the participants commented that your presentation was the best of the conference, and I agree. I plan to send out letters to several other High Performance Directors in various Olympic National Governing Bodies. In addition to praising your presentation, I’ll assure them that the US Shooting Team hopes to call upon your services even more in the future.”
Icebox congratulates Team USA shooting on its on-going success in the Olympics and World Championships! Go USA Shooting!
Icebox works with University of Maryland to win National Lacrosse Championship!
They have the most dominant record in the history of women’s lacrosse with ten national championships to their name and more NCAA tournament victories than any other program. And yet remarkably, since 2001, the most storied program in all of women’s lacrosse had been in a national championship drought. A Final Four appearance in 2009 was as close as they had come to bringing the national championship trophy back to College Park. Instead, a new power had emerged…Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse had won the last five consecutive national championships.
This year, the Terps began their season with a fresh approach. After hearing Icebox Athlete President Spencer Wood speak on “clutch poise and focus” at the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association National Convention in Rhode Island, Head Coach Cathy Reese invited Wood to work with the team throughout the season to work on their mental toughness, big game mental preparation and poise.
Spencer Wood commented: “I was delighted to receive the invite from Cathy and assistant coaches Quinn, Brian and Kennis, to work with the Terps. They had fallen short the previous year in the NCAA Semi’s by not playing to their full potential and failing to rise to the occasion…a mistake they did not want to repeat this year. Working with the team was an absolute pleasure because they were so hungry for success, had great chemistry and followed through to practice and work on every toughness trait, skill and concept we had discussed.”
Wood worked with the Terps during the pre-season and before critical games during the season and post-season, including directly before the elite 8 game against the University of Pennsylvania, the semi-final game against Syracuse, and again just hours before the national championship game against five time defending national champions Northwestern.
Wood continued: “I believe you do not have to be perfect to play to your potential, because great athletes aren’t great because they are perfect, they are great because they often have the perfect reaction to their mistakes. The early part of the game was a perfect example of this. Dip (Brittany Dipper – the goalie) was playing with the sun directly in her eyes and had a tough time locating the ball as the Terps went 6-0 down, yet she maintained her poise and focus and had a spectacular second half. The defense also tightened up, the offensive found some momentum and the entire team displayed as much poise, grit and confidence under pressure as I have seen in any team I have worked with this year. And now they are national champions. I am so very happy for this team.”
Congratulations to the Maryland Terps’ Women’s Lacrosse Team from everyone at Icebox!
“This mental toughness training was very important for our team and helped us win a national championship. Spencer worked with the team on things like poise, confidence and mistake management, all things that we needed and used during our championship journey. Working on and perfecting your mental skills are just as important as working on your fundamentals and lacrosse skills. We worked on both every day and the results speak for themselves.”
"The mental game is just as, if not more, important than the physical game. Our work with Spencer is a direct reflection of that. He had an immediate impact with skills and practices we could work on everyday and they absolutely had a hand in the end result of our season. We definitely had the talent, but after working on mistake management and clutch performance, we were much harder to stop! It was so important for our girls to learn not only that they didn’t have to be perfect, but how to react when they weren’t. The tools Spencer taught us aren’t just bandaids for a problem, but a skills set that help the girls to keep on succeeding."
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Icebox Athlete Spencer Wood presents at the 2011 Men's Final Four in Houston, TX...(more)
Icebox helps Olympic Program prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games...(more)
University of Florida partners with Icebox Athlete to provide Icebox Mental Toughness Training workshops to all 19 campus sports!...(more)
Virginia Commonwealth head coach Shaka Smart says some of the credit for his team's success should go to a mental toughness coach....(more)
Icebox ‘hits the target’ for USA Shooting at the United States Olympic Training Center...(more)
Icebox works with University of Maryland to win National Lacrosse Championship!...(more)
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