My first plate appearance in college was as a junior transfer during an inter-squad game. With two runners on, and a 2-1 count against me, I tattooed the slider over the left field fence. With limited playing time, due to a senior ahead of me at my position, I batted .289 with a few dingers and a good OBP. My GPA for my freshman year was a nice 3.45 and the college life seemed perfect. Then I hit the “Sophomore Slump,” and never really recovered – athletically or educationally.
When people talk about going through the slump, it can range anywhere from movies to music, and from sports to education. Some examples include that of the band The Strokes – their first album “Is This It” was followed up by a sub-par “Room On Fire.” The movie “Ocean’s 11” was a great reproduction of the original; however it was followed up by a porous “Ocean’s 12.” Of course the clichéd term is often used to us sports fanatics as a stellar rookie year, very high expectations for next year and then being let down.
Whether you are talking about sports or education, the second year is a phase of developmental confusion. It’s a time of uncertainty and a realization that hard work is up ahead. During the second year we look for growth, all the while struggling with achieving competence, establishing an identity and desiring autonomy. I decided to take a look and compare Mike McCoy and Keenan Allen to well-known people in their jobs in the organization to, perhaps, get a glance of what we might see in the upcoming season. Now, I understand that there are many circumstances involved, so I went with basics for my assessment.
Coach McCoy during his rookie year as a head coach posted a solid 9-7 record and went on to play in the Divisional round of the playoffs. In doing research on five of the top 20 greatest coaches (NFL.com), one glaring point that I want to share is that Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells or Jimmy Johnson had a winning record in their first year. Gibbs was the closest with an 8-8 clip. The most notable trend is that all of them improved their record and their offensive and defensive rankings in their sophomore season. The biggest improvement was the Parcells’ hire with the New York Giants. In 1983, the Giants’ record was a dismal 3-12-1, while their 1984 record was 9-7. They played all the way through to the Divisional round of the playoffs. Some of you might argue that Joe Gibbs had the best second year due to winning the Super Bowl. As impressive as that is, and I am not taking that away from him, it was the strike-shortened season of 1982. I believe through polls and Twitter questions, most Charger fans are predicting at least a 10-win season and going deep into the playoffs. This would continue the trend as relating to these other great coaches.
Keenan Allen was very close to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year last year. Expectations are going to be huge for all of the San Diego fans, as well as fantasy football players. Keenan, during his rookie campaign, amassed 71 catches for 1,046 yards and 8 touchdowns. In reviewing five wide receivers, Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald and no one on that list had a better first year than Keenan. In addition, they all improved vastly during their second season. Fitzgerald made the biggest jump with adding 45 catches, 629 yards and 2 touchdowns compared to his rookie season numbers.
Are you getting excited yet? Are you feeling that with a healthy Floyd and a resurgent Vincent Brown that this could be one of the most explosive WR corps in the NFL? We all should be. However, I did stumble across a statistical graph at rookies winning honors and comparing it to their sophomore season. In the results it appears that the WR who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year made a dip, especially in yard differential, in all categories: victory differential, receptions and touchdowns. Are we now glad Allen didn’t win Offensive ROY? Nah, I would argue that he should have won the award last season.
So, does this jinx, an old wives’ tale, prove to be fictitious? According to my research, I see nothing but improvements for our sophomores of McCoy, Allen and others; Fluker, Addae and Te’o. Perhaps those that define the “Sophomore Slump” do not realize what they can do to overcome this demon. I thought of a few things that could be beneficial for the Bolt sophomores, especially the players.
- Get involved in extra-curricular activities such as community service or fund-raising events. When you immerse yourself into helping others, you gain a sense of accomplishment. This, in turn, increases your self-confidence, combats depression and defeats isolation.
- Swallow your pride and seek out a counselor, and/or coaches, that you can open up to. Talking openly and becoming vulnerable can help you get “unstuck” when things aren’t going the way you expect them to go. After all, just because the first year was so successful, the professional opposition is now aware of what you did and will try to defend it. That is unless you make a change. Opening up to others also develops insight and increases self-awareness by understanding your behaviors and the issues or events that motivate you or bring you down.
- Attach yourself to a veteran. They have gone through what you are currently experiencing. Sure, there are certain circumstances that might have changed, but the basis and certain scenarios are the same.
I believe that the great players overcome and conquer the potential downfall by staying humble and work their butts off. I have no doubt that McCoy, Allen and the others, have the intellect and the resources to assist them during this transition. Only time will tell. But I have a good feeling that our sophomores will be just fine. Let me put it on you, Charger fans, which Sophomore will have continue the trend and explode. Who do you feel will buck the trend and implode? State your answer and reasons why below. Let’s get some good conversation going!
LET ME HEAR YA, BOLTFAMILY!!
“PEACE….and Boltness forever” – BWK