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Responding to Adversity

Sept. 18, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Running around like a mad man Saturday, I was able to catch the second half of Georgia Tech’s game by way of my computer I back-tracked to learn what had happened in the first: nobody stopped anybody.

Watching the second half, when Tech went down 24-17 after North Carolina converted Joshua Nesbitt’s ill-advised pitch into a touchdown, I had a bad feeling. The Tar Heels had four possessions to that point, and had scored on all of them – three touchdowns and a field goal.

Admit it; you had a sick feeling, too.

Then, a wonderful thing happened: the defense bowed up.

Turnovers were central to the game, and they worked out better for the Yellow Jackets than the Heels, and there’s too much ball left to be played to say Saturday’s 30-24 win at North Carolina was a watershed moment in the season. It was, after all, just the first ACC game of the season.

But that was HUGE!

The Jackets were sloppy at times, and some of that was a credit to UNC. Nesbitt’s bad pitch was simply fate; he had no idea Roddy Jones had slipped behind him and that his pitch man was not going to be there when he turned to toss. And yet the Jackets overcame.

If there was a crisis of confidence prior to the game, and coming off a miserable loss at Kansas and then watching Kansas lose an ugly game Friday night at Southern Miss after losing its opener to North Dakota State, it was easy to wonder if the Jackets were hugely over-rated at season’s start.

But the Jackets played from gun to gun with tremendous confidence, as if they believed. That, too, was huge.

There was much good to be taken from all precincts.

Scott Blair’s two late field goals were the winning margin (special teams), the defense stopped the Tar Heels several times late, and the offense churned out 448 total yards, the passing game was what, for the first time in a while, just about what most fans have a right to envision that it needs to be, and most importantly, again, the Jackets bowed up.

Tech went a long way toward solving whatever metaphysical crisis existed, if there was one.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School is a widely-respected expert on strategy, innovation and leadership, and has written and spoken extensively on confidence – what it is, what it means, and how to foster it in the business world, government and athletics.

She says that even the most successful suffer setbacks, but that often it can be their own fault.

“For the most part it´s not external factors which stop winners, but their own failure to maintain the discipline and support systems which enabled them to turn winning into a habit in the first place,” Kanter said in an interview with Mannaz, an international company/website devoted to leadership development.

Tech got away from good habits in the first two games, even in a win and certainly in a bad loss.

Coach Paul Johnson this week said, basically, seeing is believing. Don’t tell me, show me.

The Jackets did that, and there is good reason to believe some additional good may follow.

With a properly calibrated approach, Kanter suggests that something good may come of something like last week’s result and the poor preparation that led to it.

“Rather than interrupting the cycle of success, responding to adversity might actually accelerate it,” she said. “Potential leaders might become stronger when they have successfully resolved crises or weathered adversity. Troubles, in fact, might actually be good for winners.”

Indeed, although there are plenty of corrections yet to be made, nothing matters more than the bottom line, and the Jackets responded to adversity to create a tally that read gold by mid-afternoon.

Send your take to And if anybody has a suggestion on how to handle a day where the boy has a 9 a.m. football game, the girls an 11 a.m. softball game and a 2 p.m. birthday party way out in Lawrenceville, the boy has a 4 p.m. tennis match and then an 8 p.m. birthday party – and a little bit of work has to be mixed into the middle — without both parents going insane, PLEASE advise.


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