Before becoming the very successful football coach at Notre Dame, Lou Holtz brought his University of Arkansas team to the Orange Bowl in 1978 to play against heavily favored Oklahoma. Pundits gave Arkansas slight to no chance of winning.
Dejected players filed into a team meeting a few days before the game. Holtz picked up some newspapers and pointed out that papers have a front page for people who want the news, an editorial page for those who want opinions, and comics for people who want to be amused. He continued, “I’m amazed that you’re ready to roll over and die because you read your obituary in the newspapers.”
He warned them, “Don’t let other people tear you down and destroy your confidence.”
Holtz then asked each athlete to stand up and explain why he thought Arkansas could win the game.
Each player stood, one by one, and pointed out one of the team’s strengths or what a particular individual had to offer. As they talked, Holtz reported that he could actually see their attitudes changing. They realized their strengths and made a commitment to one another to do their best.
Following that meeting, the Arkansas team had an unbelievable practice. The next day, they beat Oklahoma 31-6.
Holtz’ motivational secret was to prompt the players to tell him why they were good. After he pointed his players in a positive direction, he just listened.