Could going out and goofing off the night before a big sports game help players perform better? Cornell football coach Al Sharpe thought so, and tested his theory before the big 1913 rivalry game versus UPenn.
Twenty times in the twenty years prior to the then-approaching battle the teams of these two great universities had met on the football gridiron, and only once had Cornell scored a victory. “Going to Philadelphia for the annual slaughter,” was the parting shot of the Ithacan villagers each year.
Then Al Sharpe took hold.
He suggested a different pre-game tactic:
Imagine their sensation when, upon ascertaining all were present, Al Sharpe addressed them substantially as follows:
“Men, I want every one of you to chase out of this hotel. Go to theatres. Do anything you fancy will entertain you. And don’t dare to show your heads in here before midnight if you expect to get into tomorrow’s game.”
Did it work?
As might be expected, the members of the Cornell football squad slept long and late on the morning of the game. In fact, they awakened only in time to consume a very late breakfast before departing for Franklin Field and their game of games. The nervous, draggy hours that had furnished other Cornell teams with nothing but worries and doubts concerning their ability to defeat the oft-conquering Pennsylvania teams had passed, and before such doubts could formulate in their minds the game had begun.
The success continued:
Cornell, under Al Sharpe, won the 1914 game from Pennsylvania, also, and the 1915 game as well, and incidentally, in the last-named year, won a clean-cut victory over Harvard, a university Cornell never before had defeated on the gridiron.
Although this 1919 article was too prim to mention it, does “Do anything you fancy will entertain you” include sex? If it did, then it probably wouldn’t have hurt athletic performance either, despite a long-held myth that sex impedes subsequent athletic performance. A study last year in The Journal of Sexual Medicine by researches at California State University, San Marcos, found sex didn’t impede athletic performance.
Making Men Mentally Fit for Football: Gridiron Battles Depend Only in Part Upon Physical Condition, as Is Shown by These Anecdotes of Some Famous Coaches
Published: Sunday, October 19, 1919
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