The high school basketball season began during the first week of November. After months and months of battling teams and being on the grind the Freshmen and JV Teams are done. The time has come for the varsity teams to head off to district playoffs. In a few weeks we will know who is the best of the best in high school sports. We will know who will be crowned champions in the state of Michigan. We will also know who will be named Mr. and Ms. Basketball. These are great and exciting times for us hoop fans. I remember years ago when I was a high school player it was always a challenge. There were so many pressures and obstacles to face. I had the privilege of being coached by one of the best coaches in the State of Michigan. I was on his very first State Championship Team. Our team had a lot of strong personalities. Sometimes the challenge was not with other teams but with our own internal group, as we tried to make things work within our system. Having a coach that is strong-willed and having players that are equally strong-willed can present a challenge like no other. How can you win a state championship that way? How can you win a league championship or even the district championship with these kinds of obstacles and challenges?
After all these years later, as a coach, I understand what it takes to organize and facilitate the strong-willed personalities on a team. My high school coach was strong-willed (stubborn). I have inherited the same coaching trait (stubbornness) In the form of believing whole heartedly that I am right and I put together the correct game plan for my teams. I do not back down easily from a debate about strategies and team personnel. I believe that I always assemble the best group to play together. However, things break down when players personalities collide or players have an off day. This is when coaching begins to separate. There are coaches and there are GOOD COACHES!!! Being a coach is being a teacher, mentor, big sister figure, mom figure, and beyond. Good coaches try to be whatever they can for their players. I have had to pull out the big sister on the sideline and then 10 minutes later scold a kid like I’m their mother. Being a coach almost makes you have multiple personalities (LOL). Being a good coach is also being a manager. It takes a lot to manage kids that don’t always get along with each other. It’s an ideal dream if you have a close-knit team and its like a big happy family but what happens when you have a “Medea Family?”
I’m joking but at the same time, I am very serious. When you have student athletes that don’t perform their best because they don’t get along with you as a coach or they don’t get along with the other players on the team this creates chaos. How do you as a coach manage these situations? How do you help get the team to put their differences aside and focus on the greater goal? How do you as a coach and human being, put aside your personal differences, opinions, and beliefs to compromise for the greater good of the team? Trust me, it’s not easy. My JV team started out with major issues. I had players who didn’t know each other and didn’t care to know each other. I had players who didn’t like me or my assistant coach. It was a very difficult start. My assistant coach kept kicking kids out of practice and we only had 8 players on the team. To put it plain and simple we had “ISSUES.” We had to force the team to do team outings so we could bond. We had to force the team to talk during several team meetings. I had to facilitate lots of conflicts between players. I had countless meetings with parents and kids. After all of that, I can say it paid off. The girls finally began to break down the barriers and began working together like we knew they could. We had our struggles on the court but we won some games that we wouldn’t have won if they continued to keep their walls up. Our troubled players who we thought would be kicked off the team turned things around. Our less skilled players showed major improvements. We ended up having a united team and had a great finish to our season.
Things can turn around if you are committed and dedicated to help institute the change. You have to be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good of the team. You have to be willing to compromise but not lose your beliefs and moral compass in the process. You have to be firm but fair. You have to be strong but gentle and you do these all delicately and at the same time. It’s not easy being a GOOD COACH!!! An average coach will compromise in the wrong ways or do what’s easiest. Sometimes the easy way isn’t the right way. Sometimes you have to go through the process in order to become better.