Don’t Dominate the Action at Every Minute
I recall my father/coach yelling at me during practice, exasperated that our basketball team had no leadership. No doubt, at times like that I had failed to tell someone something, because I can clearly remember him urging: “You gotta tell them. You can’t just stand there and watch them mess up. Go get the ball. Tell them to give it to you.”
I remember following an instruction like that with some particularly abrasive action. “Gimme the ball! Get outta the way.” I was straining and struggling to become a good player and trying to do what my father/coach wanted, but I often had trouble—amidst my stubbornness and limited experience— figuring out what it was he really wanted.
What I’ve learned since, while trying to see things from both a coach’s and a player’s perspective, is that a coach needs to give a player some opportunities to be a leader.
Undoubtedly, there were many times that I failed to recognize what a good leader should have done, but sometimes I remember doing nothing because my very vocal coach was right there, yelling every minute, telling us everything that needed to be done.
Under those circumstances, it would have been extremely presumptuous of me to tell anyone anything, The coach was there, he knew what he wanted; he had decades of experience, and he was proving every second that there was nothing preventing him from making known whatever he wanted.
“Oh, we need a leader badly on this team. Why didn’t you tell him?” he asked me one time, with exasperation, after a teammate made some kind of mistake in practice. I didn’t answer. I had learned that it wasn’t usually wise to say precisely what I was thinking to a coach. But I was thinking and would like to have said:
“I said nothing because you were there and you were saying everything. Why should I risk being wrong telling him something when I’m having enough trouble just trying to please you with my own play?” My silence makes sense to me still. For a player to take the reins of leadership in practice, there have to be some times when the coach agrees not to say everything he sees, to observe silently, take notes, and then talk to the team—later—about what he saw.
THINK THE GAME
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When a basketball player has the opportunity to play in games or scrimmages or practice situations, knowing that you aren’t going to say anything, he is a lot more likely to use his voice to try to get the job done as well as possible. But if he believes you are going to interrupt and talk and correct constantly, he is wise to be silent and wait to hear what you have to say. Therefore, your constant talking is actually going to prevent him from becoming the leader you want him to be.
You need to give your players a realistic opportunity to demonstrate their leadership. Give them some leeway, some space. Make all the corrections and criticisms that you have to. Just hold them for a defined period of time now and then so your players have a chance to show you what they can do. You can’t expect your players to take initiative if you are always taking it for them.
—Excerpted from the book, “Running the Show”
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