What We Can Learn From Saint Peter’s Basketball
I’m a big fan of March Madness— It’s the best tournament in sports. The games are entertaining, the storylines are amazing and the “One Shining Moment” montage at the end of the tournament is the best highlight reel in sports.
I wanted to briefly recognize and share the amazing accomplishment of the Saint Peter’s basketball team. The school is located in Jersey City—5.9 miles from the LeagueApps office and home of some LeagueApps team members. As one of the lowest-seeded teams in the entire tournament, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks pulled off three straight improbable upsets including victories over two of the top-10 teams in the country. They even won on National Peacock Day (who knew that existed?).
During the Elite Eight, they finally lost to UNC—just one step away from the Final Four. Saint Peter’s is the first #15 seed, out of 147 teams in history, to ever make it to the Elite 8. In fact, no 13th or 14th seeds have ever made the Elite 8. Quite simply, Saint Peter’s basketball made history and will forever be part of March Madness lore.
Youth Sports Lessons From Saint Peter’s Basketball
Just 5 weeks ago, Saint Peter’s was an average .500 basketball team competing in one of the lowest-rating conferences in all of college basketball. The team had poor facilities and challenging conditions (according to this former team manager). The average attendance at its basketball games was just 546 fans. Saint Peter’s had never previously won an NCAA tournament game.
But then, they won ten straight games to reach the Elite 8, make history, and become legendary. Their winning streak included six straight victories in games that would have ended their season. They were the underdog in almost all of those games, but if you watched them play the last few games, it seemed like they were the heavy favorite.
So I’m wondering—how the heck did they do it?
After reading a bunch of articles, watching all of their tournament games, and collecting as much information as I could find, here’s where I think it nets out.
Saint Peter’s believed.
Yes, it really looks that simple.
Saint Peter’s basketball Coach Shaheen Holloway—also known as Coach Sha—had a vision. He gives his team “extreme confidence,” as one player said. They expect to win every game, regardless of the data, their opponent, or the point spread, because of the confidence Coach Sha instills in them.
When asked about his team’s chances against the much larger and more athletic Purdue team, the coach responded, “I got guys from New Jersey and New York City. You think we’re scared of anything?” They went on to play like they had no fear. Coach Sha is described as leading his team with confidence, while simultaneously remaining egoless.
Throughout their magical run, Coach Sha continued to comment that this is all part of their plan. Here’s the post-game interview after their Sweet 16 victory. It’s fun to watch.
So what can youth sports organizers, coaches, and players take away from this legendary run by Saint Peter’s basketball? Stay humble, be confident, work hard, and believe in yourself. The rest will come.