UConn’s 100 Wins is About More Than Talent

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Last night, with a win over the South Carolina Gamecocks, the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Team extended its already epic win streak to 100 wins. That 100th win encompasses more than two straight years of victories, the vast majority of which were earned by beating opponents by 40 or more points. It surpasses the team’s old streak of 90 games by a nice round number of 10 and beats the longest win streak by a men’s college  basketball team by twelve. The Huskies have weathered injuries, close calls and changes in talent to reach this unprecedented mark. It’s truly awe-striking.

Conversations about the Huskies’ sheer dominance and the win streak will inevitably involve the topic of talent.  There’s no denying that since at least the mid-1990s, Geno Auriemma and the Huskies have not lacked in talent. Since the WNBA’s inception, thirty-two Huskies have been drafted into the League, five of which were number one overall picks. Basketball greats like Sue Bird, Rebecca Lobo, Swin Cash, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi have all bore UConn across their chest. In fact, the triple threat of Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson were especially instrumental in securing this particular streak. So it is obvious that  Auriemma’s uncanny ability to consistently attract some of the best talent the nation has to offer has played a large role in securing the 100 game win streak. But to win 100 games in-a-row you need more than talent. Ask any of the incredibly talented teams who have missed the mark.

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Winning is about a mindset just as much as (if not more than) it is about physical execution. Winning this many games in-a-row is about culture just as much (if not more than) it is about talent.  Since November 23, 2014, the beginning of the streak, Auriemma has gotten twenty young women and his coaching staff to have an unbeatable mindset. He’s gotten twenty young women from different backgrounds, with different goals and different expectations to lay aside their individuality for the good of the team night, after night, after night. He’s gotten those women to push through grueling practices, strength and conditioning and film sessions despite demanding class schedules, relationship drama and the stresses of family and friends.  Auriemma has cultivated this laser focus and dedication in the name of winning.

That’s a pretty incredible feat. Think about it. It’s hard for most people to consistently focus on one task for more than an hour. What Auriemma has done is to convince twenty women to focus on a goal for 814 straight days; to work as hard as they possibly can each of those days. The Huskies give 100 percent at every practice and game in spite of their personal issues and regardless of who their opponent is. They work through any disagreements they have with one another and through the media and public who try to chip away at their legitimacy. All of this hard work is so that they can win every night, not just win the conference match-ups or marquee games. They work to play every game like it’s the most important game of the season. The Huskies don’t start the year off with the National Championship in mind. They start it off being focused on never letting up, on never letting their opponent taste victory. Never.

I get exhausted just thinking about it, but year after year Auriemma has gotten his team to buy into his system of relentless hunger for victory. In doing so, he’s created a culture of winning. A culture where each night when the jump ball is thrown up, the team has no doubt that when the buzzer sounds they’ll be notching another win. It takes so much more than talent to achieve that level of belief and flawless execution. It takes unflinching commitment, selflessness, faith and bravery. It allows for no mental lapses and no room for boredom or distraction. That’s how the Huskies got to 100. They weren’t always just the most talented team on the floor. They are the most committed, selfless, faithful, brave, focused team on the floor. If Auriemma and the Huskies continue to feed off of and pour into their culture of winning, there’s no one or nothing that can stand in their way.

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