It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
Anyone who coaches young men and women is inevitably going to do a few things wrong, lose some games, make some bad decisions, and have a few unfortunate incidents. It may seem trite to say, but no matter how disappointing the loss, the morning light will usher in new opportunities and challenges.
Our team is rarely as bad as we think in the moments immediately following a loss. The next morning will usually provide a more objective outlook and the confidence to make better choices.
Get mad, then get over it.
When we get upset, it is because we care about something. But we should not dwell on a negative experience too long. We are likely to find one loss turning into two or more... So, get upset, reprimand if need be. But then forget about it and move on, making sure to treat the young man or woman as we did before the errant incident.
Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
In order to be successful in the increasingly competitive world of sport, it is important to seriously question the old, comfortable ways of doing things. If we have been doing things simply because that is the way they have always been done, we should question ourselves. The old way may not be conducive to success.
Young teams will not progress without change, and the ability to change will be stifled by clinging to overly familiar ground.
It can be done.
Even when we cannot control the circumstances of a situation, we have the power to control our attitude. Exhibit a positive attitude, whether you are chasing that elusive conference championship or just trying to get your center to post up strong, and you will give your team a better chance to succeed.
Be careful whom you choose.
This is especially true in choosing people for your program. Having a "Yes-man" for an assistant may make life a little easier, but it will also make one of you redundant. Athletes with great skill but no sense of discipline or leadership may (or may not) win games, but will likely produce few championships.
Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
There is a scene in the basketball movie "Hoosiers" that dramatically illustrates this point. Coach Norman Dale sees one of his best players re-injure a bad cut on his shoulder during a playoff game.
The coach has almost no bench and is behind late in the game in a hostile gym. He starts to leave the player in the contest, but after a moment of self-questioning, calls a time-out and removes the player.
There will always be adversity to face in the form of injuries, academic ineligibility, upset fans, etc. As professionals, we cannot allow them to distract us from making the right choices.
You can't make someone else's decisions. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.
If you are operating within the rules and have the support of your administration, make your own decisions and stick to them. This does not mean that you cannot ask for help when needed, but it is your program to run. Nor does it mean that every decision affecting your basketball programs is within your power to control. Certainly, you are in a position to motivate, advise, influence, and even persuade, but the reality is that the responsibility for others' choices belongs to them and you cannot take it from them.
Check small things.
The best coaches are masters of details. For example, Tara Vanderveer made her 1996 Olympic basketball team carry both home and road uniforms with them to every game just in case there was a discrepancy between the international team uniforms.
Coaches understand that games often hinge on things that fans may not even notice, such as a poorly set screen or improper footwork. Coaches also know that a powerful motion offense attack will not work without proper spacing and cutting. These are small things that often make the difference in whether or not the big things happen.
Nothing will discourage a person more than working very hard, achieving a worthwhile goal, and then having someone else (especially the leader) take all the credit. Coaches who like to believe that "We won because I coached good," or "We lost because they (the athletes) played bad," will start losing their athletes quickly. While it may be true that head coaches get too much of the blame when things go wrong, all those connected with the program including players, assistant coaches, managers, and the administration deserve credit when things are going right.
Remain calm. Be kind.
Basketball is a fast-moving game that requires anticipation. This can be very difficult for a coach to accomplish when he or she is excessively emotional or reactive. Coaches who stay calm will diminish their chances of saying or doing something they will regret.
Have a vision. Be demanding.
Truly dedicated coaches spend a lot of time watching film, working summer camps, attending clinics, watching college practices, and studying the game in as many ways as possible. They learn what they want the game and, ultimately, their program to look like. Without this type of overall vision, coaches have nothing for which to strive.
Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
Coaches simply cannot please everyone. As the saying goes "Coaches who listen to the fans end up sitting beside them." In his book, The Fighting Spirit, Lou Holtz points out that in decision-making, leaders cannot let themselves flinch. Once a decision is made, coaches have to commit to it. The time to worry, (says Holtz, is when you are placing the bet, not after the dice has been thrown.
Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
Enthusiasm is contagious. A positive can-do attitude among all the players increases their strength and abilities. As coaches, we can never know how much we influence the people we lead. The ripple effect of either our optimism or our pessimism can be enormous.
Joe Paterno believes that if you do not truly believe your team has a chance to win, you should not step into the locker room because the players will sense it.
General Powell says he would almost always choose to follow the unrealistic aspirations of an optimist than the often grim views of a realist.
Both the seasoned veterans of the coaching profession and the beginner must have a solid, well-grounded foundation upon which to build. As basketball coaches, we have to determine what works for us and commit to it.
These 13 rules, compliments of General Colin Powell, offer a great place to start.