How does a coach motivate his team after it went 1-9 a season ago and has just lost four games in a row? Emotional speaches? Sure. Trying get the players to believe in themselves more? Absolutely. How about listening to some music at practice?
That last one sounds crazy, right? Well, it’s not — it works. Just ask the football team. “It kind of lightens the mood for everyone,” said senior captain Ryan Lempa. “It gets us ready to play football.”
Apparently it does. After a four-game losing streak, dropping the team to 1-5 overall and 1-2 in Ivy play, head coach Jim Knowles ’87 decided to turn up the volume on his Thursday and Friday practices — literally. The response couldn’t have been better, as the Red has won three games in a row since that point, all against Ivy League opponents. The icing on the cake for the squad was its improbable 32-26 victory over Columbia this past Saturday, after being down by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter.
The music ranges from the usual “pump-up” tunes of AC/DC and Van Halen, to the new-agehip-hop tracks of the Black Eyed Peas, to more unifying songs like the classic Sister Sledge song “We Are Family”. Yet the music is just one component to a whole new attitude that Knowles has brought to Conell football — and after a rough beginning, it’s starting to pay dividends.
“Every day at practice we’ve got a winning edge now,” Lempa said. “It’s a whole new mentality.”
A new mentality is exactly what the squad needed after a season which saw the team go winless in the Ivy League for the first time since 1975. The team’s nadir came in its last game against Penn when the Quakers massacred the Red 56-7 at Franklin Field. Going into this year’s rematch, the Red wants to show everyone — including the student body — that it has come full-circle.
“When you’re losing, it’s not fun,” Lempa said. “I would tell people I played football and they would laugh — now I’m proud to be a part of this program.”
The program will be in search of another thing to be proud about this weekend because second place in the Ivy League will be on the line. The squad will also be looking to make history as it tries to reach the .500 mark for the first time since 2000, and its first four-game winning streak since 1999. The win would also give Cornell a 4-1 record at Schoellkopf Field, with its lone loss being a hard-fought 10-6 defeat at the hands of Colgate.
With so much on the line for Cornell, Knowles better pump up the volume real high at practice today.
Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor