This is part 1 of a 3-part series entitled Lessons Learned From My Players.
Do you even want to win?
That was the thought that was in my mind as I entered the locker room. We were in the middle of a season in which we would only win 2 games and we had just lost a game that we had been leading almost the whole way.
As I walked into the locker room with my assistant coach, I heard the players laughing and joking about a situation in the game where one of the opposing players received a technical.
The thought that was in my head came out of my mouth, “Do you even want to win? I mean we just lost a game that we should have won and you guys are joking around about someone from the other team getting a technical?”
After a few moments of silence one of the players responded, “Maybe that is how we deal with it.” Another player chimed in, “Maybe that is how we forget about it and move on.”
Boom! I have no idea what I said in the locker room after that because those statements were all I could think about. And it still haunts me to this day.
I couldn’t even tell you why we ended up losing the lead. Did we miss some shots? Maybe. Did we make some silly turnovers or commit some silly fouls? Maybe. Did the other team catch fire and start making shots they were missing earlier in the game? Maybe.
Did we give our best effort that night? Yeah we did.
I have mentioned before that I used to think that if you moped around after the game then that meant you really wanted to win and were more competitive. This situation was the beginning of the lesson that taught me that mindset is not the truth.
What would have been more productive in that situation? A lot of things.
Fellas, what did we do really well tonight? What are some things we need to work on to improve? Give me some ideas of what we can do at practice tomorrow to move us toward where we want to be?
I recently read an article about a high school coach who resigned after 20 seasons, the final 14 of which were at the same school, in order to focus on his family. I do not know what his overall coaching record was but he had at least four 20-win seasons and won at least one Regional championship. His athletic director had the following to say about him:
"The thing about John was that winning wasn't the most important thing. He wanted to mold the kids into better people. He cared so much about the kids. That said, I knew we would never be outcoached and that the kids would go through a wall for him."
So maybe it is possible to focus on developing people, rather than winning, but still work hard to teach the game and prepare your players and win some basketball games as a by-product.
After I was fired from my position as basketball coach for not winning enough games and being too focused on building character, I received the following text message from Tyler, one of the players who made one of those statements in the locker room:
Hey coach! My dad just told me the news this weekend about the school board’s decision and I just thought it was important for me to tell you that even though we didn’t have the most successful years together on varsity I do greatly value all of the lessons that came from going through that experience with you as my coach. I do believe that I am a better person and grew much more in areas I use everyday because of the coach you were. So thank you for being the coach that you were. I was very proud to play under you.
No, Tyler, THANK YOU for teaching me a lesson that I still use every day!
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