Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tigers Snap, Bounce, Fight Back for Coach

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tigers Snap, Bounce, Fight Back for Coach

Article excerpt

Yes, that was University of Missouri football coach Larry Smith dribbling a tennis ball around an Iowa hotel lobby last Friday. His wife, Cheryl, didn't necessarily approve. But he had taken the unorthodox measure of issuing tennis balls to his players as part of his motivational theme of the week - "bounce back." So . . .

"Oh, sure, you've got to be part of it," Smith said.

It was at least the second time this season Smith had resorted to such a peculiar measure. After Illinois skewered MU 42-0, Smith issued rubber bands to his players, a cue for them to "snap back." And they did, winning 16-0 at Houston the following week. The Tigers won 34-20 at Iowa State on Saturday.

Smith, an ardent optimist, said such gimmicks have use only if deployed properly.

"I think there's the right time for them, when you need a little levity or humor," he said. "We were coming off the Nebraska game with our heads in the sand and really dragging. And I just felt that, hey, we've got to get rid of that game and let's move on to the next one."

The idea, Smith said, has been more to serve as a distraction or point of amusement than as a serious psychological statement.

"I don't think it makes the difference in whether you win or lose the game," he said. "Because a tennis ball doesn't block or tackle for you, that's for sure."

Just the same . . .

"Life is like a bouncing ball," Smith said. "If you're at the very bottom part of a bounce, you're on the ground. But what does it do? It comes right back up. And the harder it hits, the higher it comes."

As of Tuesday afternoon, no props appeared to have been issued this week. Smith didn't rule it out, though.

"Sometimes it may be a gimmick," he said, smiling, "and sometimes it's just an approach you've got to take for that week."

Four-Square: At 2-2 in Big Eight Conference play, the Tigers are in a four-way tie for third place. …

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