Rain, rain go away — Athletes and coaches talk weather psychology

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While BYU athletes are in control of their training regimen and diets, they are sometimes subject to severe thunderstorms, rapid temperature changes or any number of challenging weather conditions.

Cougar faithfuls witnessed the football team struggle in a 19-16 loss to Virginia that seemed to come at least in part due to the two-hour rain delay.

“It’s hard to describe,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said of the delay at the time.

“All kinds of thoughts go through your head of whether you’re going to play the game,” Mendenhall continued. “What is the best approach to have for our players during this two-hour delay? After the emotions of traveling, you get to the game, stop and then go through pregame again. That was a unique challenge.”

Mendenhall and his players beat the Texas Longhorns 40-21 just one week later, after another rain delay.

Fans run for cover to hide from the severe thunderstorm that delayed BYU's home opener against Texas. Photo by Sarah Hill.
Fans run for cover to hide from the severe thunderstorm that delayed BYU’s home opener against Texas. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

“In Virginia, I was tight. They were tight. There was tons of anxiety. We had already been through that,” Mendenhall said after defeating Texas. “If we get another delay, maybe we’ll play even better.”

Other BYU athletes and coaches playing outdoor sports must take weather changes into consideration as well, and they often have to make physical and mental adjustments.

Baseball players learn to deal with weather delays regularly.

“Baseball is subject to weather delays all the time. Since the field gets muddy, we can’t play,” said Mike Littlewood, head coach of the BYU baseball team. “It’s something we deal with quite a bit.”

Still, rain before a game is not a strong enough reason to stay off of the field if the weather permits action during game time.

“Unless it’s raining during the game, we’re going to get on the field,” Littlewood said.

Littlewood said players try to have fun during rain delays in order to stay mentally loose and focused on the game.

“It’s basically a comedy hour,” Littlewood said.

Playing in Provo and other cities that experience cold weather has its effects as well.

“It takes a little longer to get warm in cold temperatures so you just have to give yourself enough time to be prepared,” said Desmond Poulson, a senior pitcher.

Poulson explained that cold weather also affects game psychology and sometimes tilts the game in the pitcher’s favor.

“It’s harder for a hitter to hit when it’s cold than a pitcher to pitch,” Poulson said. “It hurts their hand more. It just gives me more confidence. It makes winning a little bit easier.”

Like Poulson, BYU track and cross-country athletes take a little longer to warm up before a race in colder weather. There are times where runners will be out training in sub-40-degree temperatures.

“Thirty degrees Fahrenheit is not fun. Sometimes we’ll go on an 8-mile run and not warm up until mile 5,” said Lindsey Nielson, a fifth-year-senior on the track and cross country teams.

Extreme heat can also be a problem for runners.

“Good weather, I would define as mid-60s and sunny. The sun just helps you have a better attitude, and cool weather is obviously better,” said Tylor Thatcher, a senior track and cross country athlete.

“Anytime I go to work out, I think, ‘Oh, this is gonna be rough,’” Thatcher said of temperatures above the 60s.

While baseball players wait out rain in the clubhouse, cross country runners must go on with their race unless there are thunderstorms.

“If it’s really cold, you have to wear the long leggings. That can slow you down,” Thatcher said, who also wears longer spikes for better traction.

Rain or snow is something the BYU women’s soccer team has also learned to expect.

“We will play in anything but lightning,” said head coach Jennifer Rockwood. “In soccer, anything goes.”

Rainy weather also affects the soccer team’s style of play.

“The ball moves so much faster so you have to be conscious of that and not play into space as much,” said Ella Johnson, a freshman outside defender. “It’s also a lot harder for a goalie to make a stop because it skips a lot on the ground.”

Ultimately, rainy-weather game time performance is determined by preference and approach.

“I love playing in the cold and in the rain,” Johnson said. “You never get overheated. I just get into my zone.”

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