The coaching discipline is partly an exercise in maximizing a team’s physical skills.
But it’s also a mind game.
Tobin Slaven witnessed the perfect storm of peak physical performance and sheer determination in 1995 when Machias upset defending champion and top-ranked Central Aroostook of Mars Hill 35-34 in the Eastern Maine Class D title game.
Central Aroostook was riding a 40-game winning streak and wasn’t just squeaking by, having won their final six regular-season games by an average of 39 points.
But the Bulldogs’ own talent, and the belief their patience could persevere, produced an upset that wasn’t a fluke.
Machias, which entered the tournament with a 10-8 record, tipped another unbeaten, Hyde School of Bath, 41-37 in its next game to win the only state crown in the program’s history.
“So much of it is self-confidence,” said Slaven, the team’s head coach during that title run. “When Machias beat Central Aroostook that day, they absolutely believed they were going to do it.”
Slaven stayed at Machias for four years, then moved to the University of Maine at Machias women’s basketball program for six seasons until opting for a career change.
But his interest in the mental part of coaching that separates the best from the rest has remained.
Today, nearly eight years after guiding a team on the court for the last time, save for stints at the youth-league level, the 38-year-old Blue Hill native and Bangor resident is “coaching” at yet a different level — as a certified hypnotist.
“I always wondered how you could have two athletes with basically the same physical attributes and one could turn out to be Tom Brady or Steve Nash while the other one would remain in that ‘potential’ stage,” said Slaven, a former high school basketball player who competed at the subvarsity level in college.
“Steve Nash is about the same size I am, and he’s been an MVP in the NBA.”
There were no such MVP honors for Slaven, but his exposure to motivational ploys as a player and use of them as a coach led the Colby College graduate to believe a similar box of tools — hypnosis — might help enhance performance even further.
“I remember seeing a demonstration on stage and thinking that if you can get to people’s latent abilities on stage, why can’t you do it in sports?” said Slaven.
“It turns out it is done. A lot of athletes use sports psychologists, but they don’t really like to share that. It’s part of their competitive edge.”
While some of Slaven’s work these days is sports related, much of it involves clients interested in weight loss or boosting their self-esteem.
There’s also a fundraising component to his business, as will be evidenced by “Get Mesmerized,” a stage show he will perform at Bangor High School’s Peakes Auditorium at 7 p.m. Saturday as a benefit for the school’s music department.
The event is described as family-friendly comedy entertainment in which the stars come from the audience.
“But not everybody can be hypnotized, you have to want to do it,” said Slaven, who undergoes self-hypnosis each day.
Shows such as “Get Mesmerized” also are an opportunity to expose the public to what remains a somewhat mysterious technique.
“Having people see a demonstration like this is the most compelling way to be introduced to it,” he said.
More information on Saturday’s “Get Mesmerized” performance is available by calling the BHS music office at 992-5569.