In defense of a title

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    By Michael Bingham

    Every year, in every sport, individual athletes and teams all set out to accomplish one goal?to win a national championship. Many have tried, many have failed and few have succeeded.

    For the last few years, the BYU men?s volleyball team has been one of the few top volleyball programs in the nation. Since winning their first national championship in 1999, the Cougars have been marked twice more as the best team in the nation and finished second in 2003.

    BYU recently claimed the top spot in the USA Today/CSTV Top 15 poll ranking after a 3-0 start this season. With the 2004 NCAA National Championship banner hanging in the Smith Fieldhouse, the Cougars have set the standard and have proved that they are the team to beat.

    ?It?s true that we won a national championship, and that does add a bit of pressure,? BYU head coach Tom Peterson said. ?But the way that we look at it is not that we have to go out and beat teams because we are the national champs, but more that they have to beat us. We are the champs; we set the standard.?

    Volleyball, more than any other sport is about teamwork, cohesion and emotional control.

    Former Secretary of State George Schultz once said: ?The minute that you start talking about what you?re going to do if you lose, you have lost.?

    The same is true of defending a national title. Defending a title is not about bracing for the impact of losing or hiding from the competition, it?s about having the will to win, the desire to succeed and the urge to reach your full potential.

    The great teams have this focus, and they accomplish their mission more often than they fail.

    ?This week what I saw is that we have the potential to be a really good team,? Peterson said.

    BYU is a good team and has the potential of being a great team. The Cougars have the chance to do what only two teams have done since 1970, repeat as national champions.

    The Pepperdine Waves did it in 1985 and 1986, and the UCLA Bruins last repeated as national champions in 1995 and 1996. Now it?s the Cougars? turn.

    The Bruins have set the ultimate benchmark with 18 national championships including two three-peat?s and one four-peat, all under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Al Scates.

    Napoleon Hill, founder of The Science of Success, once said: ?There is one quality that one must possess to win and that is a definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.?

    Peterson sees this definiteness in his current squad. He said that some of his players have been there before and know what it takes to get it done.

    ?We place an emphasis on being positive,? Peterson said.

    This year?s team has the benefit of saying they had the chance to play against the best team in the nation last year in practice. Peterson said that when you spend you practices competing with the best team in the nation, you are going to get really good.

    Peterson, who is the only volleyball coach in NCAA history to win a national championship at two different schools, always makes it a point to pass the credit on to his team.

    ?They are the ones who make it happen,? he said. ?The team wins, the team works hard at practice,? Peterson said. ?It?s really about the team putting in the work. Volleyball more than any other team sport is about cohesion.?

    The players try to simplify it even further.

    ?I don?t think that there is really anything different after you win a national championship,? former BYU middle blocker Jon Alleman said. ?It?s still volleyball, and you have to go out and win just like any other day.?

    The key to defend a national championship is to play with desire and pride, one game at a time.

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