Clemson basketball turns to psychology for acc program boost sports postandcourier.com electricity quotes by benjamin franklin

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell works the bench. Dr. Milt Lowder, Clemson athletics’ team psychologist, and his family sit behind the team bench. The Clemson Tigers played host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game Saturday, February 24, 2018. Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier Gwinn Davis / Special to The Post and Courier

He has spoken with some of Brownell’s players in the past on an individual basis, but Brownell craved more of his gentle personality and thorough expertise. He wanted what Swinney had — access to Lowder and his Synergy partner Cory Shaffer on a regular basis.

“If that means two more wins it changes the narrative of our whole program. That’s how crazy some of this is and that’s the kind of impact a guy like that can have. It may be really small — but it has ramifications that you can’t measure.” ‘A little way to get better’

On a hot July day in Clemson and with the campus mostly empty, Lowder drove to Littlejohn Coliseum. He knew exactly what was about to happen on this summer afternoon. He would meet the Clemson basketball team as a group for the first time and he knew what the players were probably thinking.

But some 20 years ago, after he was the first on the scene when his mother survived a horrifying car accident … after he broke his arm as a senior quarterback on his high school football team … after he got to Clemson and was cut by the baseball team he dreamed of playing for … after his parents’ 27-year marriage ended in divorce and after his best friend’s girlfriend died in a car accident … After all of this in a two-year period, Lowder saw a psychologist himself at his mother’s urging.

The concept is centered around what he labels a “growth mindset.” A “fixed mindset,” Lowder said, is what he wants to avoid. If a fixed mindset would be the Tigers comparing themselves to other players on the court or opposing teams in the league, a growth mindset would be them focusing on the best versions of themselves and letting go of external factors they cannot control.

Back in July, every member of the Clemson basketball team participated in what is called the ProScan survey. Lowder and Shaffer analyzed the results in August and gave them directly to Brownell and his coaching staff. The survey was intended to learn more about a player’s makeup: how he is best motivated, how he communicates, what causes him stress, how he leads, how he connects to others, what causes him to peel back, what de-motivates him.

The idea behind it is what Lowder teaches: the concept of awareness. What works for Player A in terms of motivation might be the opposite for Player B and Lowder wants Brownell to know the exact intricacies behind each exam with five different personalities on the court at any given moment. The test is a microcosm of how the Tigers carry themselves as a whole. It is a vital tool.

“Having the courage to do something different is what I believe creates so much frustration and undue pressure and stress and discouragement,” he says. “Knowing I need to change but not knowing how to do it, or not even knowing the process.”

"This is what I told our football team a few years ago in the first national championship game,” he said. “‘If you believe you’re the best team in the country, then just go play like it. There’s great power and freedom when you act and play and live and work according to what you believe.’

Clemson is winning mostly because the ACC has taken a collective dip and an older group of Tigers has been boosted by Brownell’s latest new transfers, Mark Donnal and David Skara. And with Lowder’s help Clemson has won 21 games this year with two more regular-season games, an ACC Tournament and an NCAA Tournament berth still to come. The Tigers won 17 total a season ago. Before the start of this season, they were projected to finish 13th in the ACC.

In games that have come down to six points or fewer, Clemson is 7-2 this year. In close games last season the Tigers were 4-12. Free throw percentage is up from 73.1 to 74.9 percent now that Lowder is working with players on their breathing routines at the line.

“We all have his number so I can just text him and he texts back right away. It’s a different voice to hear, to talk to,” said senior guard Gabe DeVoe, adding that Lowder is also more than happy to work with any player going through difficult personal issues. “I’d say it has helped.”

Seniors forward Donte Grantham (32), forward Mark Donnal (5) and guard Gabe DeVoe (10) are recognized. Dr. Milt Lowder, Clemson athletics’ team psychologist, and his family sit behind the team bench. The Clemson Tigers played host to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game Saturday, February 24, 2018. Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier Gwinn Davis / Special to The Post and Courier

What makes Clemson different in hiring Lowder is that the Tigers have been on the cutting edge of sports psychology long before some of their ACC counterparts jumped on board. Lowder first pitched a model of mental health and performance to former athletic director Terry Don Phillips back in 2005, dabbled in that realm for a few years, then started working with Swinney’s group regularly in 2009 before joining Brownell’s group this season.

Asked what Lowder has meant to him over the course of their time together, Clemson senior forward Donte Grantham referenced a pair of sneakers he has. Inspired by Lowder’s message, Grantham wrote on his practice shoes some of the words of wisdom Lowder shared with him before the season started. When he was in a game and found himself frustrated, Grantham could look down at his game shoes and know what they represented.