This would be the first game that we had actively included the opposition in our planning, in fact I would go as far as to say that we scouted them. We watched video footage, designed our game model around what we felt they would do and targeted a number of players. Did it work? Our number one target was good for 26-points per game and he score 18! A marginal success I guess, but not what we were looking for. Or perhaps the more accurate phrase is not what I was looking for.
It is difficult to put my finger on exactly what was going on but I coached in a very frustrated state. I think I was torn between feelings of pressure and knowing that we can perform so much better. This being said, I am not sure that in actual fact it is more about my inpatients than anything else. I have spent the last few weeks observing a number of games and in particular I have focused on the coach. I genuinely wonder if a lot of the actions of the coach, and I include myself in this, are as a result of the play not matching their vision or model of what it should look like. Are we missing the bigger picture? Should we be focused on the process or the outcome? I have always been of the opinion that my focus rests with the process, the movement patterns, technical execution and decision-making demonstrated by the players. I see these as the cues to coaching, to teaching and developing the player. However, some of my frustrations and certainly my rotations would suggest that I am more outcome driven than I report to be. I appear to be back at the philosophical congruence debate.
I cannot count how many times I rolled my eyes, dropped my head and crossed my arms, all of which are negative gestures by any standard. And the truth of it is, the boys played with heart, they demonstrated resilience and ‘boxed’ their way out of two if not three difficult moments. I am not sure that I can ask anymore of them. But then I know we have a ‘Sunday Best’ in us, a model that doesn’t make many mistakes, doesn’t turn the ball over without any real pressure being applied and is able to finish within side two-feet. As an example, I believe we spend a great deal of time attempting to emulate our elevated hero’s, a finger roll here, a reverse there and a little bit of ‘spice’ to top it all off. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t be exploring skills and the various executions of them. After all, it is the individual innovation that makes the game of basketball what it is. In fact I encourage deliberate play as a means of extending a players skill range, the game is a creative one after all. However, I am a working class coach, a ‘get the job done’ as oppose to lets make it look attractive. Fundamentally, the twisting and turning of the wrist and fingers adds difficulty to the lay-up shot. Moving the ball around differing planes whilst trying to keep it on target makes an easy shot much harder to execute. Perhaps my frustration is merely a clash of generations? A lay-up shot to me is the upward and forward propulsion of the body, the extension of the arms and flicking of the wrist towards the identified target. This movement provides accuracy to the shot and a high rate of success. But then I did play some many moons ago and the game as changed considerably.
We eventually finished the game on top, beating the second placed team by 14 points, the boys had played well overall. I on the other hand, well lets just say that it wasn’t my best performance. My rotations were poor, in fact at one stage my rotation of players cost us 10 points in 90 seconds and I lost the will and motivation of a number of players. I wasn’t good at all! On reflection I go back to the concept of vision, this idea that if something doesn’t look the way I believe it should be then I have a difficult time trusting it to work. I wonder, am I applying the same logic to the players? Do I require them to buff their shoes, align their bunks and ‘snap to attention’ in each and every moment of our game model? I was always efficient, focused, ‘switched on’ if you like and any detraction from that I struggle with. Equally, I see the ‘we’ as oppose to the ‘I’ and yet it feels different in my coaching practice. I am constantly confronted with opposing challenges from the collective equality band and the ‘best first’ school of basketball. The messages are clear, everybody wants to win and they want to play. At my very best, I couldn’t unpick this equation with a Hawkins like brain if i tried, it doesn’t seem possible.
Twenty hours post game, post victory and post frustration and I remain deadlocked in a bid to find my ‘Sunday Best’, to identify a model of practice that sits comfortably inside my philosophy, meets the needs of all the stakeholders and the identified goals of the players.