MHERST - University of Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint has brought sports psychologists in to speak with his team before. And while the practice is popular among both professional and college sports teams, Flint had never been a huge believer in the value of such a visit.
But after one day of Dr. Joe Carr's three-day visit with the Minutemen, Flint is officially a convert.
"He's been great. It was unbelievable," Flint said. "I've never been through anything like this. We've had guys up here before but we've never really handled it as a group. It'll be interesting to see how things go the rest of the week."
Carr was part of a team that developed the NBA's early rookie-orientation program. In the past two years, he's worked with several college athletic teams, most of them basketball.
One satisfied customer was Cincinnati Bearcats coach Bob Huggins, who convinced Flint that Carr was a helpful tactic.
"I did my homework and talked to some coaches," Flint said. "Huggins said it was huge for his team."
Carr calls his program the Midcourt Roundtable. It consists of a collection of exercises and activities to facilitate team camaraderie and help players deal with difficult situations on and off the court.
"Some of the objectives were to empower players with leadership to handle and cope with difficult situations," Carr explained. "To facilitate coming together as a team and to manage difficult decisions.
"There is no hocus-pocus involved in it," he continued. "It's just seeing the practical things that they can do. I give them homework assignments every night. They come back and talk about it. It's directed to on the court and off the court."
The doctor's initial impressions of the Minutemen were positive.
"The prognosis and diagnosis for this team is pretty positive," he said. "They all see the big picture. I credit coach Flint with being receptive to the idea that this is going to work. He really wants to see the players come together. When the coach is the primary stimulator for something like this, it makes it easy for an intervener like me to give the team specific tools to come together."
Flint said he was proud of his players' openness to the activities and their willingness to open up to their teammates.
"Some of the things guys said, I'm very proud of them," said Flint. "They've said it to me, but I didn't think they'd say it with everyone. You find out why guys are certain ways, and it's an eye opener. You get a different perspective on individuals."
Senior captain Monty Mack said he thought the experience was helpful.
"I think everybody got a lot out of it," Mack said. "We're looking forward to meeting with him again a couple more times. He does things to help you get to know each other better as persons, too."
Carr said he thought his status as a former Division I player (at Sacramento State) helped him relate to the players.
"I bring an experiential factor as well as a technical factor, so I combine the clinical work with the sports side," Carr said. "I blend the two things together and deal with the total person."
Carr will be with the team through Wednesday, in the midst of visiting some 30 teams. But he will return.
"When I come in and do things, it's not for just one session," Carr said. "I come back midseason and postseason, so I follow the kids. I even have telephone consultations."
Flint thought the experience would leave lasting positives.
"He made us understand how important each person was, in terms of what we had to bring to the table instead of just thinking about yourself," Flint said. "This definitely brought us closer together."