Wednesday, February 23, 2011
(Image: California Institute of Technology).
The California Institute of Technology is known as one of the world's elite universities: it's an extremely selective science and engineering-oriented institution which, despite having a tiny enrollment -- its undergraduate enrollment is approximately 950 and its graduate enrollment is approximately 1,200 -- has produced 31 Nobel Prize winners. Perhaps not surprisingly, Caltech (as it's commonly known) has a reputation for being the ultimate "geek" school (with apologies to M.I.T. and the University of Chicago). One thing that's certain, though, is that Caltech is definitely not known as a basketball school. The Caltech men's basketball team carried a 26-year, 310 game conference losing streak into Tuesday night's game against Occidental.
But Tuesday, Caltech beat Occidental 46-45. It was the Beavers' first win over a conference rival in the NCAA Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Association since their 48-47 win over the University of La Verne on January 23, 1985.
Congratulations to the Caltech men's basketball team and to Caltech Coach Oliver "Doc" Eslinger. Coach Eslinger is a what might be termed a "friend of the program" here at Drive and Dish. His fine blog, "Doc's Head Games" has been in our blog roll (which remains, somewhat regrettably, at the bottom of the site ... at least for now) for the last several years. Due to Coach Eslinger's highly demanding schedule, he doesn't have much time for blogging. As a result, "Doc's Head Games" often goes weeks (and sometimes months) without being updated. But Coach Eslinger's posts are always interesting and informative, regardless of the date on the last posting. "Doc's Head Games" is an outstanding basketball blog that offers first-rate analysis of any number of things pertinent to the coaching and execution of good basketball. But the blog's real focus is sports psychology. Drive and Dish recommends strongly that readers who have any kind of interest in the mental side of sports -- basketball in particular -- bookmark and subscribe to "Doc's Head Games."
Anyone who's ever endured a slump or losing streak in a sport, regardless of level, probably knows all too well how much of a burden a slump or losing streak can be for individual athletes and for teams. But it's difficult to imagine the psychological strain that carrying a 26-year conference losing streak into each game must have placed on Caltech's players. Ending that colossal losing streak gets the mother of all proverbial "monkeys" off Caltech's back. Coach Eslinger, with his background in sports psychology, may be more well-placed at Caltech than he would be elsewhere. Caltech's players are expected to lose nearly every time they take the court. That's a tremendous mental obstacle for any team to overcome, regardless of how bright its players are off the court. The mental side of athletic competition is a bigger factor in sports than most people realize. As such, there's a great deal of truth to the old cliche that winning begets more winning, and vice-versa. After Tuesday night's game, Coach Eslinger said, “I hope that everyone who has participated in Caltech men’s basketball is able to celebrate a little bit tonight.” Indeed.