Most pool parties don’t occur before 8 a.m., but that didn’t stop coach Patrick Chambers from giving his team an early wake-up call in West Lafayette on Sunday.
The second-year coach said he got his players out of bed and into the hotel pool well before their noon tip against Purdue because he felt they needed a chance to clear their heads after losing the first three conference games.
Although the outcome didn’t pan out well in the short term, with the Nittany Lions losing to the Boilermakers, 60-42, Chambers said he thinks team-bonding activities like this will prove vital as Big Ten play intensifies.
Chambers said his players have struggled to cope with some of their recent losses — with some players even falling to tears following games — but made sure to note things haven’t been all sour for them recently.
“Trust me, we had fun Sunday morning. We had a pool party at 7:20 a.m.,” Chambers said. “They were playing their music. We were blaring it in the hotel. I just tell them to have fun and enjoy this experience, enjoy being on the road, enjoy being together.”
In Chambers’ short time in Happy Valley, he has attempted to promote awareness for the program in many ways, but he said he knows the team must start stringing more wins together to create more of a following.
With this in mind, Chambers said his players may recently have been feeling too much pressure as they began their grueling conference schedule.
“There’s no doubt,” Chambers said. “They want to win so bad that they’re not making shots and they’re making mistakes, because they want to win so bad. And I keep telling them, ‘This is a marathon. This a journey. Relax.’ ”
Players echoed Chambers’ thoughts that they may have been playing with too much of a sense of urgency recently, and thus enjoyed the chance to at least briefly get basketball off their mind.
Redshirt sophomore D.J. Newbill said players were in their warm-up clothes and expecting to go watch film Sunday morning, before Chambers got the fun started by saying, “Everybody in the pool!”
However, the Lions’ inconsistent play continued against the Boilermakers quickly after the ball was tipped. Penn State shot a poor 25.9 percent from the field and now will look to attain its first Big Ten victory against No. 18 Michigan State on Wednesday.
Even though the festivities were followed by a loss, senior Nick Colella said the team embraces occasional chances to take the pressure off their shoulders.
“[Chambers] does do a good job to try to do different things like trying to wake us up early in the morning, and we really enjoy and look forward to those,” Colella said. “But, it was just one of those days and we just got to keep a positive attitude.”
Chambers’ players said he often finds ways to increase the team morale — anything from watching motivational clips during film sessions to 30-minute long speeches.
Newbill said these ideas demonstrate to players that their coach has certainly not lost hope for this season.
“It just shows his passion,” Newbill said. “He’s just trying to do anything to keep us prepared for the games. It’s to make sure our morale doesn’t drop…Right now, we’re on a low stretch, but we just got to keep it back up.”