I had spent hours planning our first practice of the summer season. The Regional Tournament represents an opportunity for those coaches that aspire to become a National Team coach to demonstrate their competencies, to exhibit their practice for all to see. The heart of the tournament is Talent Identification, both within the ranks of the players and the coaches, and is seen as the culmination of ten-months of regional development. I had worked all year at presenting a climate that the players would embrace, that would serve their curiosity and promote all that was required from a talented basketball athlete. I now had twelve hours of ‘team practice’ to guide the selected prospects to a competitive display of their ability. Winning or losing was not necessarily a concern or a focus of the competition. In fact, the tournament reflected the true essence of competition, that each would present themselves in their very best light as to challenge and make good their opponent.
My planning had taken on a development identity, that of teamwork, basketball play and individual contributions to the whole. I wanted us to feel inspired by our selection, to recognise what was required from each of us and to be excited by the opportunity. I started with a inspirational video, one that reflected effort, hard work and commitment to the goal. We then explored why each of us were present and what it was we wanted from our Regional Tournament experience. We finished with a challenge, I took away their personal space and asked them to work together to achieve a goal, not unlike the game of basketball itself. The ‘cling film wrap’ is a great team building exercise, one that challenges you to be part of something bigger than just you. The response was less than I had wished for but it was a start.
As we moved in to our familiar space we quickly agreed its structure. I asked the players what they would call each element of the basketball court in relation to the floor markings and we agreed where the ‘wing’, ‘short corner’, ‘nail’ and remaining spaces were. With this we began our physical practice. The start was good, however, the level of ability was a great deal lower than in previous years. The remainder of the session was a gradual climb down from my elevated aspirations. I had seen so much in my planning, we were to achieve great heights and really come together as a regional squad. In my early reflections I was disappointed with my practice and with our performance overall. The question was, is this about me or the players? Is the fact that I feel ready to coach at the next level and now wish to demonstrate this to Basketball clouding my judgement? Had I become coach-centric?
The root of this current dilemma is once more about the learning spaces we create as coaches and the transfer of knowledge. In short, did I question effectively? Did I establish a climate that served the nine players that I shared time and ideas with? I am not sure that I was my very best coach-self, I certainly set out to be, my planning was boxed off and I knew what we were working towards. However, the basketball knowledge that we shared appeared to be less than anticipated, the effort, willingness and ability to elevate their play seemed just outside of their reach. Or did it? I wonder how they felt about their performance? They scored themselves a six out of ten for overall effort and achievement. The question remained, what was my score?
I now have two weeks before I see them again, before we re-identify ourselves as the Regional Squad, and I hope for a far greater outcome, for an advancement in our practice, one that is reflective of a Regional team. I hope that we can demonstrate the skills and attributes required of an aspiring National Team player. In order for this to be the case I must be better and recognise where the improvements in my practice need to be. Tying my thinking to my practice, or rather, aligning how I wish to coach to my actual practice in order to be seen as an effective coach.