I spent some time planning this evenings practice, we had what we considered to be a ‘big’ game and I wanted to be more prepared, more prepared than I was last weekend. I watched what game tape I could get my hands on, I analysed statistics as a means of gaining some indication of ‘who they were’ and I built up a mental image of what we needed to do. Having arrived at practice early, I walked the Rock Road, agreed where we had gone wrong and put the whole thing behind me.
The start to practice was a self-organising one, I allowed the players to determine the tempo, intensity and direction of our play, in short, I said and did nothing. I waited and I watched. A total of eight minutes passed before the players were all fully engaged in the moment, they had reconstructed one of our warm up activities, it was our fast break action (rebound, outlet, run to ‘strongside’ and play), simple, but we owned it and we did it well. I called them in to discuss where it was that we were at. Having spoken to a parent I was made aware that we had achieved our three goals (remain competitive, finish in the top three and hold teams to 65 points). The question now (with seven games to go and a slim chance of winning it all) was what did we want to do next?
The players gave me their answer and I followed it up with another questions, what does it look like? In short, they had reset their direction, they wanted more and that was fine by me. However, they had to own that ‘want’, they had to do the necessary in order to put themselves in a position to achieve their new goal. We would have to work harder, we would have to focus more, commit to each other, to strengthen our team resolve and ultimately, we were going to have to be our very best in each moment of practice. The players nodded in agreement, I wasn’t sure they knew what it was they had committed to, what it was they had said they wanted.
Monday night practice meant we shared our learning space with our second U16 squad, and it appeared, like us, that tonight they had achieved full attendance. The sports hall was packed, the atmosphere was chaotic and I quickly became frustrated with our approach. It wasn’t championship like, it wasn’t refocused and repurposed, it wasn’t close to our best. By the end of the session I felt as though we had gone the wrong way, we didn’t execute, we didn’t demonstrate an ability to move the ball effectively and we didn’t show that we were basketball mature, in other words, we did’t look as though we could overcome the top two teams.
My parting message to the players was simple, ask yourself if you gave each other everything, did we contribute to the collective, and if not, where can we improve? I asked the players to respond on our WhatsApp group, to reflect on the session and to share their thoughts with each other. It is two-days post practice and as yet I have only received two reflections. I will not however prompt them or remind them, our growth and our ability to achieve our new goal will rest on their maturity, on an emergent leader that is willing to hold them to account. We often speak of ‘teachable’ moments, this is a ‘learning’ moment, a chance for social learning to emerge, for somebody to take charge of our new goal.
Having reflected on my practice, I can say with all honesty that I am not overly impressed with my contribution to Monday’s session. I didn’t question enough, I wasn’t as present as I wanted to be, although I am not sure why. I think I feel a little like Sonny, I know I want to get up, to be better, to create a real learning environment where the players lead and direct. I wish to see them interact, share ideas and then execute at a high ‘click’, yet here I lay, looking up as it were, trying to regain consciousness of my practice and return to my feet ready to continue the development fight.