Mental Toughness Deserves So Much More Credit

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Katie Lou Samuelson. (Photo by eric wang/The Daily Campus)

Being a Division I collegiate athlete is not easy. Players balance a lot between classes, practices and games. Being a member of the UConn women’s basketball team is no exception. In fact, the players on that team experience demands at a more amplified level.

Due to their success, the team has one of the largest fan bases in women’s college basketball and, because of that success, fans have high expectations. Any season without a trip to the Final Four is viewed as failure by many despite the fact that in many programs just getting to the NCAA tournament marks a hallmark season.

The team also deals with an abnormally high amount of media for a women’s collegiate basketball team. While this of course is a good thing, the players must consistently answer questions about “difficult seasons” despite only losing a few games.

Of course the standards for the women’s basketball program at UConn are very high, which the players know when they commit, but such a large part of the game at this level is mental over physical.

When senior Katie Lou Samuelson scored only six points in the Sweet Sixteen matchup against UCLA, she could have let the mental side of the game get to her against Louisville in the Elite Eight. Head coach Geno Auriemma even said that the day after the UCLA game was a difficult one for Samuelson.

“She was not in a good place yesterday physically or mentally,” Auriemma said of Samuelson.

When the ball was tipped in the game against Louisville, fans waited with baited breath to see how Samuelson would fare.

She had the game players dream about when they’re young. A 29-point performance in which she was the leader on the floor and fully changed her attitude from the day before.

The amount of mental stamina it must have taken to turn her attitude around is completely unimaginable to me. The amount of confidence she had to have in herself to be able to hit those shots is impressive. If she did not have the confidence to play well, UConn would have lost.

Of course sports are about hard work and talent as well, but the drive and confidence to succeed is what makes great players stand out from good ones.


Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mariana.dominguez@uconn.edu.

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