Power of Positive Thinking:
An excerpt from: A 12-step guide to understanding the University of Colorado’s Popular Head Football Coach.
11) Be Abnormal
I’d been in the football War Room with Hawkins, attending a meeting with his assistants. It was time for the next meeting. Hawkins’ day is highly structured. It moves, much like a football practice, in regimented increments. As we left for the auditorium downstairs, Hawkins handed me a blue plastic bottle of water. “Try this,” he said. “It’ll change your life.”
He was joking. He’d handed me something called AquaVybe, “a premium bio-energetic drinking water infused with 72 essential trace minerals derived from Power Organics Krystal Salt from the Himalayan mountains.” Companies give Hawkins free stuff all the time, hoping for his endorsement, or at least to be able to claim their products are used by the University of Colorado football team. “Three water companies have approached me and said, ‘If you don’t drink this, you’re done,'” Hawkins told me. I don’t expect to see AquaVybe on the Folsom Field sidelines anytime soon.
Which is what makes Scott Sharp Armstrong’s involvement with the team all the more remarkable. Armstrong is a self-invented “life coach.” “Let Scott Armstrong Show YOU How to Live the Life You Were Born For,” is the opening line on the Web page of the Boulder Coaching Academy. Before the 2007 season, Armstrong cold-called Hawkins at the Dal Ward Center, pitching his services as a way for the Buffaloes to “break through self-limiting boundaries,” to “learn how to ‘Dream Big,'” and to “design [lives] that tickle [their] soul[s].”
Hawkins talks a lot about being different. It’s a staple of his stump speech, which I heard first at Valor High, then heard again several times in the weeks that followed. Be different. Don’t just be a carbon-based life form existing until you die. Don’t have an average job or an average marriage. “Being an average person is really easy to do,” he says. “Mammals want to get into a comfort zone. They want to know exactly where to get dinner or a haircut. Reinvention requires courage and the guts to think a little different.”
Hawkins’ relationship with Armstrong ˜who’s known around Dal Ward as Coach Armstrong˜shows Hawkins’ willingness to take risks, to be, as he says, abnormal. During spring training last season, Hawkins let Armstrong meet with the players and coaches once a week. This spring, Armstrong met with the team twice a week.
I sat in on one of the sessions. In the Dal Ward auditorium, the entire team and all the coaches flipped through Best Affirmations Workbook: A 30-Day Guide to Actively Creating the Life You Want. It was time for Day Four: The Power of Smiling. Frowning takes more energy than smiling, Armstrong declared, standing in front of the team. Smiling more will attract far more success to our lives, he added.
He talked about a trip he took with his wife to Mexico. After the porter had brought their bags to their room, Armstrong had given the man his business card, which looks like a fake million-dollar bill. He then handed us our own fake bills, telling us to hand them to our girlfriends or wives. “They’ll get a big kick out of ’em,” he said.
It was a tough room. While some of the players and coaches followed Armstrong closely, others snickered. When we acted out the day’s exercise: closing our eyes and smiling for 60 seconds, the malevolent vibe˜emanating from roughly a quarter of the players˜made me wince. After that exercise we again closed our eyes to listen to the theme song from Chariots of Fire.
“I think Scott kinda knows it seems really cheesy,” Cody Hawkins told me. “Even for me. You’re sitting around with a bunch of 18-year-old guys listening to a song that all these parody movies make fun of, with fat girls running on the beach or whatever. I’ll be sitting next to my best friend, and we’ll have just seen this funny movie, and now we’re listening to Chariots of Fire, trying to relax while our legs are touching.”
The hostility in the room is probably unavoidable, Cody says. A lot of the guys on the team come from tough backgrounds, and have a hard time dropping their defenses. After the session, in the locker room where the coaches dress for practice, Hawkins admitted not everybody’s going to glean something from a life coach. “I just throw it all out there, hoping some of it sticks.” Josh Smith, a wide receiver on the team, subsequently added his endorsement: “I don’t know how most guys take it, but I know that it’s just positive. To have a good team you got to have everybody positive.”
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