The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Get the ball rolling

Exploring the aspects of ‘being in the zone’ and how momentum shifts during games

‘‘That’s half! Saratoga High: 28, Monta Vista: 6.’’

On Sept. 30, 2022, Football Head Coach Caesar Agront looked up at the scoreboard and tried to find the words that would motivate his team. He looked around and saw his players hanging their heads after a first half that had the team down by 22 points. He knew the Matadors were running out of time to turn it around, but he had faith in them to find a way.

The start of the third quarter was a shift in momentum for the Matadors. They ended up rallying back and winning the game 42-35, despite being down by 22 after the half. 

“We [came] back and we got a defensive stop,” Agront said. “It wasn’t just the defensive stop that gave us a spark. We made a great block and our running back [took] it for [a] huge gain, then we scored on the next play. You [could] feel the emotional change.”

Agront felt the tables turn after just a single play. In that game, Agront believes his team was able to win because of the consecutive stream of favorable plays they were able to deliver at the start of the third quarter.

“We want to ride that emotional roller coaster, so to speak because that’s what our kids typically do,” Agront said. “You just pile everyone on because you can ride that success, and then you have more success and more success. Looking back at it, we won, and it just took a couple of pivotal spots from specific players.”

Despite Agront’s belief that riding an emotional roller coaster can be beneficial from his years of coaching experience, he realized that relying on momentum to carry his team to victory can have both pros and cons. On one hand, players could become arrogant while winning, and on the other hand, they could feel disheartened when down by a large number of points. Agront emphasizes the importance of teaching players to be level-headed regardless of the score.

“No matter if we’re scoring or if the other team is scoring, I’m always saying [the score is] 0-0,” Agront said. “You have to have the mindset where the score doesn’t necessarily matter. If you’re thinking about the opponent, they can sometimes have a tendency to take the foot off the gas. If they’re down [points], it’s hard to not ride that emotional roller coaster.”

Sophomore and Varsity Badminton player Ryan Wong notes that his losses and wins come by a large margin at the end of the match. Similar to Agront and the football team riding an emotional rollercoaster, Wong believes that it all starts with only a few points scored consecutively, which builds momentum, leading to an eventual landslide victory. However, dealing with immense mental pressure is a consequence of being aware of the score.

“If you get one, [then] two points in a row, you [slowly] start feeling more confident,” Wong said. “You’re able to play more precisely and line up good shots. It’s all about [just] winning a few points.”

While Wong is affected by the mental pressure thatcomes from watching the score, he says audience and team spirit is also important. His teammates’ cheering usually motivates him, but loud, abrupt noises can also distract him from the game.

“Every time someone scores a point, usually [everyone] cheers, [along with] whoever’s watching,” Wong said. “That usually boosts my confidence without losing focus. [However],If someone [in the audience] is screaming loudly while cheering for a different game [since we’re all in the same gym], I lose my focus.”

Instead of the team boosting the confidence of a player like Wong, Senior, and Varsity Field Hockey captain Olivia Ho believes that momentum occurs in her team simultaneously instead of in individual players, which translates to an increase in efficiency. Ho can usually tell from her teammates’ energy and play style that they are becoming more unified.

Senior Sai Patel rushes down the sideline with the ball. Photo by Daphne Huang.

“Another big aspect of [the score] is how [it affects] the team playing as a whole,” Ho said. “I can definitely tell from the energy of the team if everyone is focused, trying their best, and communicating on the field.”

Ho precisely recalls this experience in a previous game against Leland High School, due to the fact that the score of the game was so close until the very end. She remembers feeling the energy of her team swing to a more positive note and their focus levels being higher than ever. 

“Both teams were scoring throughout the quarters and it was back and forth,” Ho said. “Ultimately, we [sent the game into] overtime,and [that made] the win really satisfying.”

Although Ho’s team has won close games in the past, she recalls certain times when winning made the team overconfident or careless, causing them to perform worse during the game. Ho recognizes these instances and tries to prevent them before they happen by keeping her team focused on the game, no matter what the score is.

“If it’s just by a one to two [point] margin, then [there] is definitely a possibility that the other team can win and score on us,” Ho said. “If it’s [by] a larger margin, it [becomes] really important for the team as a whole to not get too cocky or overconfident.”

Ho claims that she is not good at giving motivational speeches. However, she remembers a specific phrase that another member of the Field Hockey team, senior Alice Ross, says to help the team focus. 

“Something [Alice] says a lot [during halftime or between quarters] is to play the whole game,” Ho said. “It doesn’t matter what team we’re playing, we still have to play our own game … No matter if it’s gonna be a hard or easy game, we play a game that we’re proud of.”

About the Contributors
Arjun Dhruv, Sports Editor
Arjun is currently a junior and a sports editor for El Estoque. In his free time, he enjoys watching TV Shows and playing/watching sports with his friends.
Raj Thapliyal, Staff Writer
Raj is a staff writer. He enjoys playing volleyball, table tennis and playing video games. He's also a member of DECA.
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