I felt as though we had prepared pretty well and had secured a game plan that we could live with. We had focused on one element of our team defence and made an effort to address the mechanics and execution as a means of achieving a marginal gain. I currently work from a pretty simple base, we try to do three or things really well as oppose to doing lots of things not so well. In fact, upon my arrival at the venue we spent fifteen minutes in the pre-game discussing who we were. I asked the players to each write on the board exactly who they thought we were. I was impressed with the ideas that flowed freely and confidently from them and the manner in which they each shared their ideas. We debated the various descriptors, exploring what each meant to us as a team and how we felt we demonstrated them. As we left the changing rooms the scene was almost on a par with the emotional exiting of the locker room following the very motivational speech given by head football coach Al Pacino in the movie ‘Any Given Sunday’.
We got out to a great start, one of the descriptors that emerged in the changing rooms was a good ‘running team’, and did we run? We were wide on our attacks, the ball moved at pace and freely up the court as we advanced towards the basket in waves. In fact, we started the game 10 – 0, including a trip to the free throw line, a three pointer and three lay ups. I couldn’t ask for better ball movement, player movement or indeed better shot selection. What followed however was a complete ‘left side’ attack. We suddenly changed the way we played, collectively we began to make gigantic mistakes, lose our confidence and fail to contain the ball. My frustration quickly grew and I began to let the team see first hand how I felt about our current bout of play. I was, by far, the loudest I had ever been with them, I was firm, forthright and disappointed and I let them know. In fact, I would say that everybody in the sports hall knew how I was feeling. Not a behaviour I was happy with or even content in displaying, however, the response was positive, we picked our play up again and began to return to a dominating position, one that played aggressive defence, applied pressure on the ball, filled the passing lanes and took advantage of errant passing and sloppy ball handling.
By the end of the game we had amassed a sixty point advantage, our play wasn’t always as ‘tight’ as I would have liked, however, our overall level of confidence was pleasing to see and much of our performance was effective. We had executed at both ends of the floor, played together and shown that we could be who we said we were. I knew the players were happy with themselves and that pleased me, they deserved to be, they had worked hard and had enjoyed being the dominant team. Could they lift their level of play even further? I believe so and now wanted to find a way to provoke further improvement, both individually and collectively, as a means of advancing who we were.
In the middle of all of this one of my players had somewhat of a melt down. He took offence at the manner and content of my instruction. In hindsight, I had not expressed myself clearly enough and we sat and discussed the matter for a while. I respect the player a great deal and hold promise for who he could be and where he could get too within the game. I did however feel that he had to deal with our situation in a manner that displayed maturity and an ability to mentally overcome difficulties and move on to the ‘whats next?’ It took a little bit of doing but we got him ‘back’, he acknowledged his part in the misunderstanding and we moved on. It was also a great learning moment for me, a point where I realised that I needed to be a better communicator and hold a better relationship with each and everyone of the players.
The drive home was a pleasant one, we had gone to 10 – 1 on the season. However, more importantly, we had demonstrated that we could be who we wanted to be, that we could compete at an elevated level of performance and that we could do it together as a team. It had been a good day, the players had done themselves proud and we had also managed to play a little basketball along the way.