Yogi Berra, that master of the malaprop, once said that "baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical." The math might be a bit hazy, but the crux of Yogi's comment rings true. No matter how far you can push a sled or how many beer cans you can crash over your forehead, the most important action on an athletic field happens in between your ears. And if there's one squad at Penn that takes that notion to heart, it's the field hockey team. Coming off an injury-plagued 5-12 season, the women of Penn field hockey -- who have only four of 11 starters returning and boast 22 freshmen and sophomores -- know they have an unenviable task ahead of them. They aren't backing down. Taking a page out of Norman Vincent Peale's book, the Quakers are extolling the power of positive thinking. Yes, this sort of approach might be hokey, even a bit naive, but it's right more often than it isn't. This young, inexperienced team seems to have just the mindset it needs to succeed. That all might change, but at this point the Quakers are psychologically prepared to surprise everyone. "One of the most vital things we can do is make sure that they learn to believe in themselves," Penn coach Val Cloud said. The Quakers have spent the last two weeks in an unrelenting series of two-a-days, pushing themselves to their limits and proving to themselves that they have what it takes to excel. Penn knows it can win, so its unofficial rallying cry is terse. "Prove it." They tell it to each other, scream it coming out of the huddle like a "Whoa Bundy" and use it to focus their energies. In this, a season where Penn isn't expected to win much of anything, the Red and Blue have everything to gain, and that's what's going to make them interesting to watch. They want to prove that they're winners. "We know that not much is expected of us," Penn senior co-captain Amna Nawaz said. "That's why we're focused on doing better than what people expect." Toward that end, Penn is employing a sports psychologist for the second straight year. In the fall of 1999, sensing potential rifts in her team, Cloud enlisted Keith Waldman to help cultivate team unity. This season, however, the problem of team disunity hasn't reared its ugly head. Instead, the psychologist handling the Quakers this year -- who comes from the group headed by esteemed professional Joel Fish -- is focused more on helping the members of the team set good and realizable goals. This shift in focus from the team to the personal is telling. Whereas last year's Quakers needed help on keeping the team together, this year's squad seems to have a clean bill of mental health in that department. "Because we're a close team, we can tell when people are having problems," junior co-captain Monique Horshaw said. With this sort of attitude, it's a shame that all the good slogans are taken. "We are family" would fit. So would "Ya gotta believe." But at least the Quakers have one they like. "Prove it." It's short, to the point, and who knows -- it might just workComments powered by Disqus
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