Greg Jackson wants the Lobos to suffer.
No, Albuquerque’s world-renowned mixed martial arts coaching guru doesn’t wish ill-will on the University of New Mexico’s men’s basketball team. In fact, despite not being much of a basketball fan himself, he’s pulling for the Lobos.
But he wants them to embrace what he calls the “normalization of suffering.”
Speaking to the team Tuesday morning on the invitation of new Lobos coach Paul Weir, Jackson shared some of the motivational tactics and methods he’s used through the past 20-plus years in becoming one of the most respected coaches in mixed martial arts.
“You push yourself to a place you don’t want to be,” Jackson told the captive film-room audience in the Rudy Davalos Practice facility. “You get to that point where you’re exhausted and what do you do? Calm down and breathe. You aren’t going to die. I promise you. Then (when exhausted to what seems like the limit), you do whatever skill set you need to train. …
“The point is you have to consistently do that (and push yourself to that limit) to normalize it.”
At some point in every game, or in Jackson’s wheelhouse in every fight, an athlete will likely be pushed to some physical extreme that naturally makes the body want to shut down. Making that moment as normal as possible through consistently training yourself to reach those moments allows an athlete to respond with a clear mind.
It’s in those instances athletes can gain an edge on their opponents, Jackson told the Lobos.
“Thrive where others suffer,” Jackson said. “That’s the key to success.”
The message was just one of many nuggets Jackson shared with the team Tuesday in the ongoing effort of Weir to expose his players to potential inspiration from sources outside the traditional basketball arena.
Just last week, Weir reached out to Jackson on the suggestion of some around Albuquerque who thought he might appreciate the coach’s cerebral approach to both sports psychology and, to a larger extent, to finding inspiration and strength to overcome adversity from within.
Not exactly an MMA aficionado, Weir wasn’t sure what he’d be getting. One visit to the Jackson-Wink Academy in downtown Albuquerque not only made Weir a fan of Jackson’s teachings, but has him hopeful his relationship with the fight game guru might be able to continue and help both his growth as a young coach and, in turn, help the continued growth of his team.
“Getting to know him, he’s reminded me so far of another unlikely mentor I’ve had in Mark Medoff,” Weir said, referring to Tony Award winning playwright of Children of a Lesser God and Senior Fellow in the Creative Media Institute for Film and Digital Arts at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
“Talking with both of them, I just really have those ‘aha’ moments. It’s just as stimulating to me talking with him (Greg) as it was when I’d go have coffee with Mark (in Las Cruces), and neither had anything to do with basketball.”
Jackson seemed almost surprised Weir reached out to him at all. But, like he did when UNM men’s soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein similarly reached out, Jackson now has an added interest in following the Lobos.
“What Paul does, like some of the great coaches, is he’s looking for sources outside the norm, which I see as a commonality of a lot of great coaches,” Jackson said. “For me, and I’m not a great coach but I try to be, it was looking at history, looking at different places for inspiration. A coach and a team lives and dies by its inspiration. He looks for other places to be inspired by ideas. I think that’s important to the growth process. Teams that are always pushing and growing are dangerous.”