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Preparing for the first game

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Posted: Thursday November 18, 1999 04:44 PM


Sylvia Hatchell coached North Carolina to a national championship in 1994. The Tar Heels finished the 1998-99 regular season 24-6 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. North Carolina is ranked No. 8 in the latest Associated Press poll. Check out Hatchell's diary every other week on

This week, we're getting ready for our first game, against UCLA in Lubbock, Texas, at the Four in the Fall. We know how good they are because we played them last year in Hawaii. We didn't give them much of a game there. (UNC lost 86-68). We got killed on the boards, that was a big thing. I think overall we're a better team now, but I'm sure they are, too.

With a lot of players returning for us, we're a little farther along than we were last year at this time. Our practices have been shorter, but they've been more intense and they've been better. Our players have been working hard, but I think they've enjoyed practices. They've really challenged each other.

We've been doing a lot of mental work, too. In the past week, we've attended a mental toughness seminar and also participated in a ropes course here on campus, working on our team-building skills. We're trying to put the whole package together and you'd better do that if you're going to go play one of the teams that's ranked top 5 in the nation. Every day we're learning a lot and seem to be getting better, and closer as a team. I think a lot of the things we're doing right now will make us a better team come March.

We're very fortunate to have on our campus Dr. Richard Coop, whom many people consider the best sports psychologist in the world. He and Dr. David Cook did the mental toughness seminar with our whole team last Saturday morning. It was really good, a lot of good information about how to stay focused and eliminate interference from your concentration level. I was very impressed and I think the players got a lot out of it.

Monday we did the ropes course at Carolina Adventures Outdoor Education Center here on campus. That's something we do every year just before we go to the ACC Tournament, and we feel like it has paid off for us. This year we decided to split it up, so we went this week and we'll also go at the end of the regular season.

They do an outstanding job there. They give the team different tasks to accomplish and they're things that you can't do by yourself. They're hard to explain but for example, one task involves getting a bucket of balls out of the middle of a big circle without stepping into the circle. All you have to work with is several ropes of different lengths. The players have to work together to come up with a solution. After they get the balls out, each person has to swing on a rope and land inside a hula-hoop, which represents an iceberg. The team has to make sure no one falls off and drowns.

It sounds confusing, I know, but it really is a lot of fun and it's valuable for our team. You have to work together, rely on other people. You learn who your leaders are, who is task-oriented and who's going to be tough in difficult situations. It's good practice in communicating.

Otherwise, we're just trying to get in some good practices before we leave for Lubbock on Thursday. We're trying to get everybody over the nit-picky injuries, pulled muscles and things. It's amazing how as you get close to game time, everybody seems to get well.

We're looking forward to Saturday. With a game like this, you find out what you're made out of early. Win or lose a game like this is going to help you down the road.

-- Coach Hatchell

Related information
College Basketball Diary: Learning a lot
College Basketball Diary: Sylvia Hatchell
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