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'Caring Climate' Could Enhance The Kansas City Chiefs' Chances For A Second Straight Super Bowl Title

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, left, and Tyrann Mathieu celebrate after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday in Miami.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, left, and Tyrann Mathieu celebrate after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday in Miami.

The Kansas City Chiefs have one Super Bowl title under their belt. As they head into the playoffs, a University of Kansas sports psychology professor believes the team has what it takes to win again.

The Kansas City Chiefs are bidding to become the first NFL team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since New England in the 2003 and ’04 seasons.

And science could be on their side.

University of Kansas professor Dr. Mary Fry, who’s been studying sport and exercise psychology for more than 20 years, says Arrowhead Stadium has been the ideal scenario for her “lab” work because of the Chiefs’ on-field success.

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Andrew Fry
Dr. Mary Fry, a professor in sport and exercise psychology, talks with a Ph.D. student in the lab at the University of Kansas.

It boils down to the core of her scientific diagram, like the pistil in a five-petal wild rose, labeled the “caring climate." She says, “It’s all centered around: What would that optimal environment look like to help every athlete reach their potential?”

Fry, an outside observer who unabashedly calls the Chiefs her favorite team, says head coach Andy Reid is the center of that “caring climate.” In her opinion, Reid creates a caring climate that enables five facets, or the wild rose petals, to function in sync.

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Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs coach Andy Reid moved into fifth this season on the all-time list for coaching victories with 236. He's trying to lead the Chiefs to the NFL's first back-to-back Super Bowl championships since the New England Patriots in 2003 and '04.

“I think that’s what’s exciting about the Chiefs,” says Fry. “They really are sort of the poster child for this work.”

So how do the Chiefs fall into that poster child category for this ongoing study? Let's start with their 43-16 victory at Denver on Oct. 25.

Two previously undrafted and unheralded players, Dan Sorensen and Byron Pringle, scored touchdowns in that game. While much is justifiably made of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the MVP of Super Bowl LIV, the value of Sorensen and Pringle has not been overlooked.

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Kansas City Chiefs
Bryon Pringle scored on this 102-yard kickoff return in the Chiefs' 43-16 win at Denver on Oct. 25. Pringle is in his third year with the Chiefs after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State.

Reid addressed that in his postgame news conference when asked about Sorensen and Pringle. “Two of my favorite guys,” he said. “They play. They come and show up every day.”

Reid’s remarks represented three of the five petals on the wild rose diagram: 1. Every athlete plays an important role on the team; 2. Effort and improvement are valued and recognized as both Sorensen and Pringle’s pro careers have been developed solely through the Chiefs, and 3. Mutual kindness and respect are fostered and valued.

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Photo Illustration-Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3

When things go wrong as they did for the Chiefs in Miami last month, another petal comes into play: “Mistakes are part of learning.”

Mahomes said he got angry with himself after he threw a pair of first-quarter interceptions, but Reid wanted Mahomes to shake it off. “I don’t want it to affect him,” said Reid after the game. “I want him to keep firing, so just learn from it and let’s go.”

Despite the mistakes, the Chiefs won anyway, 33-27.

The last of the five petals on the scientific wild rose is “cooperation among teammates.”

Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, now a studio co-host for NBC’s Football Night in America, says that’s what fueled New England in ‘03 and ’04.

“You can have all the talent in the world, (but) you’ve got to have the right people, good people, unselfish people,” he said. “Guys that don’t care who gets the credit. Guys that encourage one another.”

The Patriots made it back-to-back championships by beating the Philadelphia Eagles, coached by Reid, in Super Bowl XXXIX. Now Reid is wearing the other shoe, and if the shoe fits, it’ll reinforce Mary Fry’s caring climate core value.

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