One of the oft used clichés in athletic competition is the phrase, “we are taking the season one game at a time.” While this phrase is neither new nor unique, I was able to watch the implementation of this philosophy first hand as instituted by Coach Eliah Drinkwitz in our 2020 football season at the University of Missouri. We were going into the season with a new staff, a new philosophy, and a new virus, Covid-19. Along with those issues was the response to the death of George Floyd and the outrage and protests that came with it.
With only three days of spring practice and limited practice time in July and August, we were faced with the first ever 10 game SEC schedule. Our first three games were Alabama, Tennessee, and LSU. If going 1-0 was ever a philosophy to be followed, it was the 2020 season.
This 1-0 philosophy is better defined as a mentality. It means if things are good today, you forget about it and do your best to go 1-0 TODAY. If things are bad today, you forget about it and do your best to go 1-0 TODAY.
I have written about the reason we did away with our goals at Greenwood High School after I read Joshua Medcalf’s book, “Burn Your Goals”. We used to spend a lot of time and energy working on our daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals with our team. As I read Joshua's book, it hit me our goals were not always applicable to our daily preparation. Our football team decided they would have only one goal stated very simply: “Win Today”. Chip Kelly, the head coach at UCLA, has for years talked about his team’s goal was to “Win the Day.”
We talked to our team about the importance of making every day, every rep, every lift, every drill, the very best it could be and do it even better the next day. It is a mindset. A mindset that requires a short memory. We started the season off in 2020 playing the eventual national champions Alabama. While we were competitive at times, against Alabama, the final result was not pretty. The next week, we played at Tennessee and to understate, it did not go well. Week 3 opponent was defending national champion LSU. Our choice was to feel sorry for ourselves and our tough predicament. Or to come in on Sunday with the determination to learn from our mistakes and focus on making our Sunday work and workout the very best it could be and then do the same thing Monday, Tuesday, and every day.
Going 1-0 each week is hard. Going 1-0 each day is even harder, especially when human nature, the internet, and the press is telling you all the wrong things. Coach Drinkwitz came into the staff and the team meetings with one basic thought, “GO 1-0”. You don’t forget the past, you learn from the hard lessons from those hard times you have experienced in the past. The lesson is you never let your past determine your attitude and your effort TODAY. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is the future, all we have is TODAY.
After being down 10 points earlier in the game with LSU, Mizzou went up 4 points in the 4th quarter with 5:18 remaining. The Missouri offense had 586 yards of total offense, yet, with 44 seconds left in the game, LSU had the ball, 1st and goal from the Missouri 1 yard line. With their backs against the wall, the Missouri defense held LSU on all 4 attempts from the 1, to win the game and go 1-0 that day.