The tipping point for Coach Saban occurred in 1998 when he was coaching at Michigan State, because of the influence of his friend, Psychiatry Professor Lonny Rosen. Saban already had a legendary work ethic and attention to detail, but in 1998 in the week leading up to the Ohio State Game, Rosen sold him on a new mental approach which is now referred to as "The Process".
In an interview with the Lansing State Journal in 2003, Rosen explained some of his views on athletes and performance. "Motivation itself generally lasts about two plays—it's highly overrated. Give me a team that has a business-like attitude, a team that can deal with adversity when it comes. The most destructive phenomenon in sports is relief. It's typically followed by a decrease in performance."
In his book, The Making of a Coach, Monte Burke recounted the new approach Saban and Rosen agreed upon: "The Spartans, and their coach, would, starting in practice that week, take it one step at a time. Each player would focus on his individual responsibility. Rosen emphasized that the average play in the football game lasted about seven seconds. The players would concentrate only on winning those seconds, take a rest between plays, then do it all over again. There would be no focus at all on the scoreboard or on the end result."
Coach Saban recounted the importance of that week:
"There's probably one really memorable game that changed the whole dynamics of the psychological approach we use to motivate teams, and it happened when we played at Ohio State in 1998.They had been #1 all the way through, and we were 4-5 and not a very good team. We decided to use the approach that we are not going to focus on the outcome. We were just going to focus on the process of what it took to play the best football you could play – which was to focus on that particular play as if it had a history and life of its own.
Don't look at the scoreboard, don't look at any external factors, just put all your focus and all your concentration, all your effort, all your toughness, all your discipline to execute that play. Regardless of what happened on that play, success or failure, you would move on to the next play and have the same focus to do that on the next play, and you'd then do that for 60 minutes in a game and then you'd be able to live with the results, regardless of what those results were."
Michigan State was behind 29-9 with ten minutes to go in the third quarter. Undeterred, they came back and won 28-24. "The Process" was born.
What's your process?