“Sometimes when you win, you actually lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs.” -Gloria Clemente, White Men Can’t Jump
"Get the rebound!”
I scream at these athletes to be more aggressive under the basket, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. I have three of the tallest girls in the league and we are getting outrebounded! I slap my clipboard to get their attention, but it seems nothing is working.
Then, the plastic clipboard shatters into about ten pieces and falls to the court all around me.
I call a timeout. Embarrassed by my actions, I frantically pick up the pieces of my shattered clipboard. My sixth-grade girls basketball team walks toward me with their heads down. It is only the second quarter of the first game of the season.
“Girls, I am so sorry.” “Why do you keep yelling at me?” asks Halie. “I’m not yelling at you, I am trying to get all of you to box out and get the rebound.” I pause for a response. I get nothing but blank stares. The girls look back at me and say nothing. “Okay, a fresh start. No more yelling,” I say. "Let’s just have some fun out there. Randy, get a break and let’s get back to the game.”
The girls say a team break and I can tell immediately I have not only shattered my clipboard, but also their confidence in me as their coach. For the rest of the game, I try to win back their trust but I can see I have a lot of work to do.
We lost the game. The year before, the team went 0-10 under a different coach. It looks like I might be headed in the same direction. I kept the post-game talk to about ten seconds then released them to get on the bus.
A friend of mine came to watch me in my first game as a girls basketball coach. On the ride home, it is silent for a few blocks, then she turns the radio down and breaks the silence.
“Why were you so upset?” “I know, I am so embarrassed.” “But what did you want them to do?” “Just get a rebound!” I explain. "I don’t know why it is so hard. They are the tallest girls in the league, and…” “I know,” she interrupts. “Do they know what a rebound is?” “Of course they do!” What a silly question, I think to myself. “So, then what kind of rebound drills have you done at practice?"
There it is. Dang it! She was right. In three weeks of practice, I had not once taught the girls to rebound, much less “box-out” to make it easier to get a rebound. I made the common mistake of believing my girls would just inherently know how to use their height as an advantage. The fundamentals are never too basic to teach. I think of Coach Lombardi when he would start every football season as an NFL coach with a simple sentence as he held up a football: “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
Thanks to youtube, I found some great drills on teaching rebounding. I apologized to the team for my behavior and asked for their forgiveness. They accepted my apology, and and with hard work and determination, we ended up in the championship game losing in triple overtime.
Every season, no matter the level of the sport, a different team shows up. Though the athlete could be coming from the same school as the year before, every season has its own culture and feeling. 6th graders are now 7th graders, juniors are now seniors, so on and so forth. A lot changes in a young athlete’s life between seasons, and as coaches we should not assume fundamentals are as sharp as they were the year before, or that the athletes are coming with prior knowledge. As an adult, I need to be reminded more than taught, and that is also true for my athletes. Repetition breeds mastery, and as coaches we must not forget the importance of the seemingly mundane tasks of practicing the fundamentals. The lesson I learned was to focus on the basics and make it easy to unleash my athletes to reach their highest potential. The next time I coached at that level, I took a very different approach from the very beginning. (Here is a sample of one of the drills I do everyday).
Start your season with a clean slate, and make sure every athlete understands the expectations you have for them and the knowledge to live up those expectations. Good luck, Coach!
What does it mean to be mentally tough?
Here are two examples on the importance of getting your head in the game from Sunday's game. The first is the Cal Poly pitcher who started the game for the Mustangs fresh off rehabbing from surgery. As I watched him pitch I knew right away he was not ready to be on the mound. It had nothing to do with his form; in fact, he looked very strong as he sauntered up to the mound. He had heat on the ball, so it wasn't his pitching speed.
How does one develop mental toughness? As a sport and performance consultant I get asked this often. To answer, let's start with defining what it means. The short definition is: One's ability to perform at a high level under adversity. However, it isn't that simple.
A short list of books on mental toughness. Sport Psychology is the study of concentration, imagery, goal setting, relaxation, and rituals. These five topics are what separate good athletes from great athletes and the successful from the unsuccessful. Here is list of my top 10 non-fiction Mental Strength books.
I am addicted to ideas on mental toughness. My addiction is so strong that I am currently finishing up my masters in Sport Psychology. In 15+ years of coaching youth sports I have found that a confident, prepared player can beat a more athletically gifted player 1/2 of the time just by being in the right spot at the right time. I also can tell when that "gifted" player is having a fit because they have never had to deal with that kind of adversity. As a coach, I capitalize on that moment, not out of ego to beat a team with superior players, but because I know the lesson that athlete is learning will be valuable later in their athletic career, that is if they don't quit, because according to The National Alliance for Sports, 70% of youth athletes quit sports before they turn 13.
Mental training is important for athletes to master. Knowing how to deal with things like pre-competition stress, injuries, a superior opponent, and a host of other things is many times pushed to the side in exchange for lifting more weights or playing another scrimmage.
Be the athlete that soars above the competition because you can handle the high-pressure situations. Be the coach that teaches the mental game, not just the physical, tactical, and technical game.
- As a Man Thinketh, James Allen (1903)
- The Inner Game of Tennis, W. Timothy Gallwey (1974)
- The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training, Jim Taylor PH.D and Terri Schneider (2005)
- The Way of the Champion: Lessons from Sun Tzu’s The art of War and other Tao Wisdom for Sports & life, Dr. Jerry Lynch (2006)
- Mindset: The New Rules of Success, Carol Dweck (2006)
- "The way we communicate with others and ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives." -Tony Robbins
- "As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains." -James Allen
- We must "be" before we can "do" and we can "do" only to the extent that we "are," and what we "are" depends upon what we “think” - Charles Haanel, The Master Key System
- As a Man Thinketh, James Allen
What do you say to yourself that beats you up?
Remember when you were a kid and your favorite thing to ask was why? As we get older, we stop asking that question. In return for our ignorance, we do things that make us less productive and waste energy.