The feeling that joins me on game morning is like no other, it is almost an all consuming paralysis, it quickly takes hold regardless of how much you wish to control and dampen your emotions, you lose with regularity. The me wishes to employ an appropriate presentation – controlled, calm and professional, but it has always been the same, the excitement of game day moves me to an elevated state of arousal, a place where I know coaching is my comfort blanket, the place I wish to lay my head.
I haven’t done much planning for today, my new nine to five is somewhat crippling at the moment and has left me some way short of where I want to be, which is of course in full out coach mode! However, the walk into the gym is as it always is, full of excitement and anticipation. As I enter the venue the previous game is playing out its last 7 minutes and 30 seconds, not an uncommon affair, hardtops are a difficult find and an expensive one at that. I sit with the players and pose questions based on the play of the two teams on court, we laugh and there is a joviality to our conversation. But I am also trying to get them to think, to engage their analytical tool box as a means of reflecting on their own play. The time goes by quickly and we are now changed and on court.
The warm-up is something I have given over to the players for the past three or four years now. At the beginning of the year we talk through what they believe a warm-up should accomplish, how they wish to warm up and what is the most appropriate exercises to include in the routine. I often find myself correcting some of the movement, but generally speaking they are pretty good at it and it provides them with an opportunity to lead. The pre game talk is short, a motivational sandwich with a hint of instruction and lots of smiles. I can see that one or two of the new players are nervous, hence I try to relax them with a smile and a joke.
The ball goes up and for forty minutes there is a mix of behaviour and performance, some good and some not so good. Whilst I try to confine by interactions to the bench I find myself, on more than one occasion, bellowing instructions out to the court and the five players that occupy it. It continues to be a fine line between supporting players and providing instruction at every roll and bounce of the ball. Our performance is very much up and down, the highs provide an array of fast break points as a result of wide running and swift ball movement. The lows leave us stood spectating as one players over dribbling of the basketball that reduces our ball movement principle to a distant memory.
At the end of the game I believe my frustration was more at my inability to get them to make decisions and own them, to understand their role within our five principles. This being said, I was also quite harsh on them, after all, it was the first game of the season and they executed many of the things we had talked about during practice. The short of it was, I perhaps needed to better understand the cause and effect relationship between training and competition and have a little more patients!! An hour later and I get a phone call to congratulate me on our win. The question is, when is a win actually a loss, and when is a loss actually a win?