In my last blog I wrote about Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, mental toughness and “the headband” from a sport psychology perspective. I argued, among other things, that taking her head band off during the game signals to the opponent, her team, and fans that she isn’t playing well and therefore telegraphs weakness and vulnerability. I suggested she either start with the headband off, or regardless of her level of play she leave it on.
Last night Notre Dame faced Maryland for a berth into the Final Four. The game was anticipated to be close and contested. It wasn’t. Notre Dame dominated the game, controlled the pace of play for the entire game and earned their second consecutive trip to the Final Four with a score of 80-49.
More specifically, Diggins dominated the game and earned her first triple-double in her career by scoring 22 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and five steals. Coach Muffet McGraw stated it was the best game she played all season. Diggins looked focused, had on her game face, her swagger was back, and she was running the floor and leading the offense. She looked like she was on a mission. ESPN color commentator Rebecca Lobo kept remarking that Diggins “came to play tonight.” Maryland All-American Alyssa Thomas stated, “She went off on us tonight and we really didn’t have an answer.”
Diggins started the game with the headband, and it never came off. This was the first time all season on televised games that the headband stayed on the whole game. Best game of the year. Triple Double. Dominating Play. Headband on. Coincidence?
I’m not suggesting Diggins read my blog or took my advice to heart, but what I am pointing out is that for Diggins the headband appears to be symbolic of playing well. Mentally tough athletes focus on what they can control and regardless of the situation or how they are playing, they figure out how to compete, persevere in the face of adversity, and give their best effort. In past games, if she wasn’t playing well, she took off the headband. Maybe taking it off was an easy out instead of bearing down, figuring it out and fighting.
Last night she didn’t and played consistently well and never looked back as her team punched their ticket to the Final Four in Denver.