Dr. Stan Beecham joins Herschel and Boss to bark about:
- Being the original Hairy Dawg
- Why he only wore the costume once
- The debut of the costume at practice leading up to the Sugar Bowl
- Possession being 9/10 of the law in his Hairy Dawg origin story
- Hitchhiking down to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl with costume in tow
- Memories of the Dawgs last national title and the debut of an iconic mascot
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Dr. Stan Beecham Interview Part I
Welcome to the blog, the dogs podcast. I'm Herschel Gurley here as always with my co host boss, dog bosshard people.
Welcome back everyone. Today we have something special for you all. We have our first interview with Dr. Stan Beecham.
Yeah, Dr. Beecham was kind enough to join us and spend about an hour of time talking with us. Dr. beechen is notable in dog's history because he is the first ever hairy dog. He's the first ever person to wear the hairy dog costume. And as history would have it, he only wore at once. But he had some great stories and we were thrilled to spend some time with him. So we'll have part one today and then we'll have Part Two a little bit later. But everybody get to get your hearts and minds ready and we'll have part one right here with Dr. Stan Beecham.
hope y'all enjoy it.
This is our first interview recording and we are jacked up to have Dr. Stan Beecham here with us today. Dr. Beecham is a sports psychology consultant and director and founding member of the leadership Resource Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also a 1983 graduate of the University of Georgia, and was part of starting the sports psychology department at University of Georgia, or maybe not part of it, maybe did start it and during his career, he has worked with Kevin Butler amongst other athletes at the collegiate Olympic and professional level. He is a noted speaker and author. He wrote a book called elite minds how winners think differently to create a competitive edge and maximize success. And one thing notably missing from his online bio, and we're gonna bust him up a little bit about it. documentation is no mention of the first person ever to Don the hairy dog costume. So, welcome to the program, Dr. beech, and we're thrilled to have you How are things today?
Things are great. Thanks for having me on Herschel and it's good to be with you guys.
Yeah, thank you so much. So one of the main reasons we're having you on the program is because you are part of some unique history as it pertains to University of Georgia, and to the football program itself. You were the first person to wear the hairy dog mascot costume. Could you tell us a little bit about how that came to be and what the story behind that is?
Yeah, so my sophomore year I was a cheerleader Georgia. I cheered my sophomore junior and senior years. My sophomore year, I was a cheerleader. That was the first year we had a JV squad. And and that was also the year that we played Notre Dame for the national championship and win. anyway, during the Christmas break, when the team was still in Athens preparing for the game. I got a call from Coach Mike astronics, who was the he wasn't really the coach. He was more like the cheerleading sponsor. And he said some guys in Atlanta had developed this hairy dog costume and they needed somebody to wear it. they needed to take some pictures. And they needed somebody to bring it up to practice and kind of debut it to the team and would I be interested in doing it. Of course, I was free to do it. So I did and that's kind of how all that started. It’s interesting I only wore the hairy dog costume one time. That was the Notre Dame Game. Of course, we won the national championship. And it was not a fun ride wearing that thing. It was really pretty hot and pretty nasty. And so, you know, after the game was over, I told him I said y'all got to find somebody else to do that full time. I'm gonna go back to just being a regular ol’ cheerleader. So if I was a cheerleader for three years, I wore the hairy dog costume for one game and everybody remembers that, you know, probably because it's such a damn good game.
Now tell me about the genesis of hairy dog itself. My understanding from the limited reading that I have done is that Florida debuted a new mascot at the cocktail party in 1980. And after seeing it coach Dooley was madder than a hornet and wanted something more ferocious for Georgia and set to work finding somebody to design the new one. My understanding is it was a Mr. Tom Sapp that designed it. Yeah, that's true. What is your memory of all that? Yeah, there
was Tom Sapp and another guy, he had a partner and they had basically started a mascot costume business, if you will. And the hairy dog was, I don't know if it was the first one or one of the first ones but I remember him telling me that he was, you know, in the process of doing this for some other schools. I think these guys were kind of graphic design guys, and they were UGA alumni. But anyway, they would take a big piece of foam, and they would carve in the foam, the sculptor and then they would pour fiberglass on it. That's how they made the head and then they mounted that fiberglass structure on a pair of shoulder pads. And I remember he told me the eyes were lenses from pair of ski goggles. Yeah. And then after that, they just painted it on there. So that's really what it was. It was this fiberglass head that was mounted onto it. pair of shoulder pads. And if you remember back in the 80s shoulder pads were really big. They're not like they are now, you know, they really stick out and they've changed the costume a little bit, then you just basically wore a pair of football pants and they sewed a tail into the back of it. So it had a little stumpy tail sticking out the back. And then they gave you a bunch of foam that went over your arms. And there was some kind of imitation fur that covered your arms. And then the legs were just football pants and socks. And there was there was foam calves to make your calves look really big. And then I just wore pair football cleats. So that was a deal.
Now Dr. Beecham, you were kind enough to send Boston I some pictures of the debut of the costume at practice. Can you walk us through kind of what that day was like and what the reaction was from the team that day?
Yeah, so the whole deal was is that during football practice, I would actually just walk out unannounced on the practice field course Dooley knew what was going on. But I think he was the only one. So myself and the two guys that develop the costume. We drove up there. And somebody met us there and I put the costume on. And I just walked out in the middle of practice at the beginning of practice. And so everybody's looking around, of course, you know, thinking what the hell's going on here? You know, what's this guy doing? You know, people start gathering around, and they're all trying to guess who it was. They thought one of the football players had put this thing on. And so they're all trying to guess you know, you know, who is this guy? And then I just kind of stood around a little bit. We took some pictures, I set a cup up and then you know, we walked off the field. And I remember we went with the with the two guys that developed went over to normal town that used to be this old bar. I'm trying to think of the name Allen's I think it was it was old place. It was one of the first places in Athens, you could get a drink. And when these guys were in school, that's where you had to go. Athens I think was dry back then we went over there and had a couple of beers in the hamburger and went home. That was pretty much it.
Wow, that's awesome. And so then what was the lead up to the Sugar Bowl obviously playing Notre Dame national championship implications? What was the first time for everybody doing it that What do you remember about the prep for going down to New Orleans getting ready for the game? What what are the memories of kind of the load into that?
Yeah, so they didn't have any plans for this hairy dog person to be down there and I was a JV cheerleader and the JV cheerleaders didn't go get to go to away games. And so coach Mike had cut some deal with one of the local business guys got a dick Ferguson, who was going to be going down there on his own and Bergersen had a kid who was in high school, my understanding was, this high school kid was going to wear the hairy dog costume at the game. And I didn't like that idea. I thought a UGA student should wear the hairy dog costume. And in fact, the costume was in my room in my parents house. I mean, I physically had possession of it. So I talked to Tom about this. And I said, you know, I've been doing all this stuff with you guys. I'd really like to wear the costume and go to the game. And he said, Yeah, you should be able to do it. You know, Coach Mike said, Nah, we don't really have any room for you. We don't have we don't have any money to pay for you to come down there. So you know, this guy's kid's gonna gonna do it. That's kind of the way things were done back then. And Athens. You know, the good old boy buddy system was in place. Yeah. But I was a pretty hard headed son of a bitch. And Tom saps a great guy. And he said, Look, Stan, you you have the costume with you, you're in possession of it. Just tell them that if they want the costume to be at the game, that you're going to have to bring it down there and where and so basically, I ended up catching a ride with some family in their RV. I can't even remember their names, but they were nice. I just slept on the floor and one of the cheerilee I knew all the cheerleaders because I was a cheerleader. And I just slept on the floor in one of the cheerleaders rooms and and so that that's how I ended up wearing it. I basically took hairy dog hostage.
Oh, that's fantastic.
This is what these stories is the first time it's ever been told right?
Oh, man, that's, that's incredible.
Yeah. But but basically Tom said, Look, you should be wearing it. I felt that a UGA students should wear it you know, and I didn't think some high school kid should be wearing a hairy dog costume for the national championship game. And Coach Mike was a sweet guy but he was kind of conflict avoidant, you know, and he basically said, okay, he was not happy with it. You know, of course, I gave him a hard time the whole three years as a cheerleader. I'm sure he was glad to see me go. But then afterwards, you know, I said, Look, I don't you know, I don't want to do this. Then the next year, they did a try out and a guy, I believe His name was Billy McElhaney. And he was the he was really the first full time hairy dog. So that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Well, so tell us tell us what your recollections of the actual game or obviously it is the last national championship for Georgia football. You were you were in the dome that night, but just just kind of tell us your memories and go through it.
So Sapp had taken a football helmet and spray painted it gold like Notre Dame's helmets were. And then he took a saw and cut into the helmet as if a claw had ripped a piece of the helmet off. And so I walked around with this thing carrying it. And in the melee after the game, somebody stole it and took off. So there's somebody out there in Bulldog land, who has this Notre Dame helmet hanging up in their house. So if any of y'all know who it was, I'm glad it's still around, but let them know they're thief. But anyway, but so so what I remember to answer your questions, I remember that helmet walking around that thing that the eyes were such that it really had no peripheral vision, you couldn't see very well. So the TV truck that would go back and forth on the sidelines, it wasn't really a truck, it was just kind of a moveable platform, but it was motorized. I kept getting run over by that thing, cuz I couldn't see it coming right and it’d keep banging me in the side. But the other thing I did is for the kickoff of the game, I walked out to the coin toss and stood out there. Like I knew what the hell I was doing. And Coach, mike got mad at me, he's like, you can't be standing out there in the middle of field for the coin toss. And I was like, You can't tell hairy dog what he can and can't do. So that's what I remember. I remember eating a lot of nickel oysters at houlihan’s the week we were down there.
Now I remember you telling me that it was it was work because it was such a big costume. And I'm sure it was hot as the devil in the dome that night. Because so now what I've read is that now there are four hairy dogs that are chosen every year. by the Spirit by the Spirit Squad, they have a cut, they have a tryout fork for people are chosen. And they essentially rotate throughout the game because it is such a strenuous affair. So I have to share a bow. You had to rock it the whole time start to finish you were you awareness.
I did. I remember taking the head off at halftime and drinking about a gallon of water cuz you just you know really hot in there. So I remember how hot it was. And I remember that you couldn't see anything. So it was hard to watch the game. Right? Yeah. And I was I was not a very good cheerleader because I wanted to watch the game. You know, you're supposed to have your back to the field and looking up in the stands and doing cheers, right? I was always getting in trouble because I've turned around watching the damn football game. So I did try to watch the game, but it was hard to see because the vision was so bad. But I remember that I remember it being difficult to see I remember getting run over by the TV truck. And I remember just being hot as hell in that thing.
Well, I know boss has a question for you about kind of the legacy legacy of hairy dog. Bite boss. Yeah,
would you be the first official hairy dog with it kind of sticking around? You know, mascots come and go and have come and gone, you know, for years and years and not really stuck around. I know that damn Gator still around, unfortunately. But do you feel a sense of pride with that sticking around for 40 years,
you know, honestly, I don't really feel it has anything to do with me. I mean, I got to be a part of the story. But the hairy dog costume was really about Tom Sapp and, and his partner and what they did. I mean, they really made it happen. I mean, you could argue that if they didn't do it, somebody's gonna do it. Because the mascot we had at the time was just terrible. It was just you had this little outfit that was like a one piece jumper and then had this phone dog head that you put on it was really pretty pathetic. So So the way I feel about my whole experience at Georgia, right, I mean, I was there at the perfect time I was a cheerleader who went to the Sugar Bowl three years in a row and essentially played for the national championship all three years, so that the timing couldn't be better. And and because of my relationship with Georgia and the cheerleaders, what basically happened is I knew Kevin Butler. Yeah, he dated and now is married to one of the cheerleaders that cheer with Kathy collimate in any way. So I knew him and I in sport, psychology was a really a new field in the early 80s. In the US, the Eastern Europeans were way out in front of this. And I remember having a conversation with Butler about sport psychology, and you know, my thoughts about it. And I remember him saying, you know, I'd like for you to come out and just kind of talk to me about about this stuff. So I said, well as coach Dooley, if it's okay if I can come out on the on the field. So, you know, he comes back say, hey, Dooley said come out to practice on such and such a day. So I'm standing out there football practice. This is the spring semester of my senior year. And this was back when they weren't semesters that recorders case I had one more quarter I dragged it out for another football season because I want to sit in the stands. After cheering for three years, I wanted to sit in the stands and be a normal student. So a victory lap. I walk up to Dooley and practice during spring training, tell him what I want to do. And he said, Okay, come back when we, you know, start practice in the summer. And you know, he got me a week. You know, we had McWhorter Hall which was a athletic dorm at the time. And so I stayed in athletic dorm I ate and I just went to practice every day and just work with Butler know, the kid kickers and coach Hartman was the kicking coach back then. There's really not much the coaching Kickers, he didn't give them in. Hartman was a punter even a played at Georgia. He was a punter in the NFL. And he would say like, just we're user bores or sugar you know, he was all about you know, don't get your leg tired, but he's just go use it, don't cook it for cookies or go use it. So I did a lot of visual imagery and just some really basic sports psychology stuff. So that would have been the fall of 83. That was the year that the team went and played Texas in the Cotton Bowl. So but when I graduated, I left I didn't go to the Cotton Bowl with them. In fact, I went out to Vail, Colorado and lived out Vail because I knew I was going to graduate school. I was just kind of, you know, wanted to have a little fun for went back to school. But anyway, duly called me back a couple of times in the 80s to work with some of the kickers who were struggling and so I'd come back and do that. And and then you know, we'd kind of lose touch. And, you know, he tracked me down and say, Hey, I got this kicker I need you to work with. Well, when I finished my graduate program in 9394, I was up at the University of Virginia. And at the time, there was a got universe Virginia named Bob Rotella. He's still in Virginia but I don't think he's with the university more. Rotella was a pretty well known sports psychologist, he was doing a lot of work with with professional golfers. And he had a sport psychology seminar class. And so the year I was up at Virginia, he let me sit in on it. And I really got to think of what I want to do after school. I didn't want to really want to do clinical psychology. So I wrote Dooley a letter and basically said, I want to come back to University of Georgia and start a sport psychology program. And of course, I didn't, you know, get an answer. And I'd call and I'd never get through to him. And he had, I think it was Charlie Whitmore who was used to be a coach with him, but now was kind of an assistant and Whitmore would call me and say, What do you want to do? And I said, I need to talk to coach Dooley. You know, I've done some work with you guys in the past. I want to talk to him about doing a sport psychology thing. So finally, I remember clear as it was yesterday, I was I walked home. It was a Friday afternoon. And as soon as I walked into my apartment, I was living in Charlottesville, Virginia at the time working for the University of Virginia, in the Counseling Center. finishing up my my graduate work, the phone was ringing. This is back when people had phones and hung on the wall. Y'all problem? Y'all probably don't remember that.
Yeah, yeah, I remember how to every phone. Oh, I remember. That's what it was.
And so the phone was ringing, I picked it up. And I said, Hello. And the voice on the other end said, Stan, this is coach Dooley, how you doing? And I said, Fine, coach, how you doing? And he said, Well tell you what it is you want to do. And I explained the whole thing to him. And I basically, I think I think what really kind of sold Dooley on the idea is I basically said to him, I said, Coach Dooley, there's going to be a day where you're going to have a support psychologist working for the athletic department. And I said you can be the first one to do it. Or you can be the last one to do it. But there's going to be a time when there's going to be sports psychologist and I was I was the first one in the sec. And and so he let me come He said, Well, we don't really have any money in the budget. We have these internships, you know, that paid something like $15,000. And I did that the first year. Then the second, third and fourth year they they paid me a wage that was enough to live on, but not enough when you had a wife and two little kids at the time. But anyway, so that's how it all started off. And we came in and we established a program. I think we just added women's soccer and women's fastpitch softball, so I think we had like 21 teams at the time. And I did and I did something with all of them. I was I was working with all the teams to some degree some I was really involved with some not so much so that the cheerleading thing became the hairy dog thing. And the cheerleading thing became the working with Butler thing which became the sport psychology program at University of Georgia. So that's kind of how it all played out. Pretty crazy story.
The time when you started the the sports psychology department when you're talking with Coach Dooley. That was if I'm remembering right, that's in that 93 window. He was the athletic directors that time, correct.
That's right. He was the athletic director, Ray golf was the football coach. Mm hmm. Yep. And I remember when I came, he's like, Stan, I need you working with the football team. And I said, well, Coach Dooley, that's not up to me. Ray golf was a nice guy. But he didn't really get the whole sport psychology thing, but I ended up doing a little bit of work with him. So I was there for the last two years ago. And then the first two years of Jim Don, and, of course, Don and wasn't having anything to do with any of it, Don and Donna didn't understand the mental part of the game at all. You know, he was a kind of an offensive genius, I guess you say but he wasn't really interested in having me work with this player. So it was kind of difficult with Don and but because the other coaches in Georgia were tremendously receptive.
Can you talk a little bit about in your career and this is more of a general question, not not as much dog focus, but I still think it's a Interesting from a sports perspective, what has the shift been in the acceptance and use of tools like sports psychology as it pertains to intercollegiate athletics, professional athletics, Olympic athletics, and how big a role the mind plays in athletic performance?
Well, there's no doubt that when you when you look at any activity, any physical activity, there's, there's the physical ability, right. And then there is the, what you might call the mental ability. And so what what you see in at the college level, is anybody who gets a scholarship to the University of Georgia, or any D, one school, that's the top 1% of high school athletes, right? So, if you if you're a D, one athlete, you have some physical ability. Now, you can argue there are people who have more physical ability, right, there are the, you know, the Herschel Walker's of the world, but but everybody has physical ability. But what's interesting is are people who have physical ability, but they don't have the ability to really manage themselves or control their mind and think of your mind is really your thoughts and your emotions. Right? So can you control your own thought process? And can can you control your emotional experience? So the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of really gifted athletes? Who can't do that. With me. Yep, absolutely. So if if you're talking about arena, we're pretty much everybody's talented than then how do you create a competitive advantage? Well, you want to get into a mindset where you can fully use your skill set, right. And at the collegiate level, there are very few athletes that do that, when you get into the professional level, they get better and better at it, because that's part of what fleshes you out, your ability to manage yourself, your ability to stay focused your ability to not be distracted, I work quite a bit with with professional golfers. And I mean, if you if you were to go to a PGA or LPGA event and just stand on the practice tee and watch people hit balls, everybody hits the ball beautifully. Right? All right, well, the the ability to, to strike the golf ball is there. But then you you know, you get out of the course. And now you got a three foot putt for, you know, a couple $100,000 and not now it's a different game. And so the ability to manage yourself, specifically, the ability to manage distraction, to not be distracted by your own thoughts is really what you're trying to get to. So a lot of people they want to know, like, what is it that elite athletes are thinking about when they're in the zone? And the answer is nothing that's part of being in the zone is that your mind is quiet, you don't have any thought process. In fact, you don't even have any awareness of yourself. There's no me there's no I there's no ego, you're so engrossed in what you're doing. That your own sense of self kind of dissolve. So there are things that you can do to train people to get there. But that's essentially what it is. But but still in sport today, it's still underutilized. I talked to a professional baseball player at my gym a couple of months ago, and he was telling me I forget who he is with, I think he's with the Arizona with the Diamondbacks.
Yes, that's right.
They had eight sports psychologists, four of them, with the major league team and four with a minor. So it's coming on, it's getting there, you know, the universities are still far behind boards, like golf, tennis, they tend to get it more, they didn't understand the mental part of it. There's still a lot of coaches who think that they should be the sport psychologist, you know, that they should be able to get there. And there's truth to that, because really good coaches do that, you know, they coach the physical and the mental part of the athlete. But there's still a lot of opportunities, we got a ways to go.
Yeah, it's interesting that you bring up the golf example, because my dad and I were fortunate enough, a few years back to attend the masters. And one of the things that struck us about it was you have 86 golfers they're competing for the green jacket. And to your point. They're all athletic freaks. They're golf freaks. They just strike the golf ball, like you've never seen it. But somebody has to win, right? One of those 86 wins. And what's the difference there? And to your point, it has to be that mental piece, whoever's clearest between the years seem to have that advantage, because talent wise, the difference is not that vast from how they strike the golf ball shape, the golf, all those things, and I would have to imagine it's the same in other sports, whether it's, yeah,
Do you think in a game like football, there are all positions have a big mental aspect or do you think certain positions have bigger mental aspects? Now there's like Kickers, for example, like with Kevin Butler. I mean, obviously, there's a lot of time to sit and process and think about the job you have to do. Do you think that's more of a tougher road to hoe They say somebody who's playing 50 plays a game and kind of move on very quickly.
That's That's exactly it. So kick kicking a football is very similar to golf. It's a single player event. So if you're a kicker, you might get a chance to go out on the field, none, or one or two, or maybe three or four times, right. So, to your point, when you make or miss it, there's a lot of time to think in between. So kicking footballs like it's very similar to golf. So you could argue that that's kind of the mental part, I would suggest playing defense in football, you're not really so much thinking as you are reacting. Whereas you could argue that say, an offensive lineman, there's a lot more thinking, you know, you're looking, you know, you're reading the defense, and you're making adjustments. And now the games become so sophisticated, where, you know, they go to the line, after call it a couple of two or three plays, and then based upon the defense, you run that play, so you kind of have to think and remember, so the game is certainly becoming more mental. But really, what you want to try to do with any athlete is you're trying to get the mind to be quiet, where you're not worried, and you're not concerned about your performance. So when you start thinking about yourself, you're pretty much done. When you start thinking about how am I doing? Or I got to do better? Am I doing well enough? All those types of thoughts are really quite detrimental for an athlete.
Well, that goes back to one of those things that you always hear about announcer saying about quarterbacks about one of their best attributes is they have a short memory when they make a bad pass or an interception or something like that. Yeah, but that always comes back to I mean, I'm assuming they they have a short memory during the game time, but they remember it afterwards, when they're going back and watching film, and when they're dissecting their play.
Well, yeah, there's two things. One is the memory and the other is the judgment, right? So you can make a, you know, you can make a mistake, you can make a bad play, and be very objective about it said, You know, I threw it to this guy, I should have thrown it to this guy, right? You can also do that, and then beat yourself up for it go, I can't believe I did that. That's so stupid. And when you get into that mode, now, you're really kind of being destructive to yourself. So yeah, part of it is a short memory. But the other part of it is the ability to reach refrain from judging yourself and being critical of yourself. And so a lot of athletes, they think their perfectionism is what helps them to get better. And you could argue that, you know, in the practice, arena, perfectionism could be helpful. But when you're playing in competition, perfectionism is pretty detrimental. So yeah, there's two parts. There's the memory part. And then there's the judgment, the critical part.
Well, that sums up part one of our interview with Dr. Stan Beecham boss, what
were your thoughts? Just so much knowledge, I mean, so many great stories from his time as a student and as a cheerleader at UGA. And just his memory of the Sugar Bowl when and his memory of you know, not being able to really see much of the Sugar Bowl itself being Harry that one time and just great stories all around really big fan of the interview? I thought it went really well.
Yeah, I love the idea of him not being the planned wear of the costume for the Sugar Bowl him essentially just saying, well, I've got the costume, so I'm going to wear it and hitching a ride down there hitchhiking down to the Sugar Bowl to be hairy dog. I just think that's a phenomenal story and one that should be told a little bit more. So a great first part of the interview with and he's got a lot more to come in part two. So again, we're just we're super excited to have Dr. Beecham with us and we look forward to to getting y'all Part Two as well, but but thank you for tuning in for part one of the interview with Dr. Beecham. And as we always say, Go dog second. Go dogs.