For the past 5 years, I have watched you grow into a team of strong, fearless, and fearsome individuals. The coaches have pushed you as far as we possibly could and are happy with what we as a team were able to accomplish. I am not only talking about the tournament wins, those were nice; but what I am talking about are the lessons learned by both players and coaches on and off the court.
Before coaching this team, I wanted nothing more than to be a head coach of a high school team. But that opportunity never presented itself to me, which made me grow frustrated and bitter. I would later learn that my bitterness was unwarranted.
The fact of the matter is, I was never ready to become a head coach — it was neither my calling nor purpose at that point. God had other plans…
If you want God to laugh, tell him what you plan to do.
I needed to grow both personally and professionally. I had deficiencies that I needed to address in order to give any team its due diligence. Little did I know, coaching grassroots sports would be the vehicle for fixing and addressing those deficiencies. So, I am going to share with you the 10 things I learned from your team.
- Team, as well as, individual failure is the most important part of team building. Winning cures a lot, failure shows truth. Failure shows people’s true intentions. Our best games came as a result of one or more of you guys having experienced failure either as a team, or as an individual. When we each have learned to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and convert experiences of failure into a learning experience, when we achieved true success. Winning cures a lot, failure shows truth.
- The team will only be as successful as their parents will allow. Each of your parents should be thanked tremendously for what they were able to let us accomplish. We have had parents provide rides, supply food, substitute for coaches when they were unable to attend games or practices, provide assistance, supply uniforms, etc. Throughout this journey, I have spoken to many youth coaches who wished that they had the type of support that your parents gave. We, as coaches, constantly hear the same story from other programs: Team comes together, team experiences a little success, team experiences a rough patch, one or more parents have ideas on the direction of the team, parents crucify coach, coach becomes hardened and bitter, team breaks up. Not once did we ever experience this, and it is a testament to the trust that was built within the program between parents and coaches.
- Loyalty is powerful. Some teams we faced have had a conglomerate of talented athletes placed together to make an powerful team. We assembled athletes from our own town and strived to make them the best they can be. Instead of finding free agents or holding tryouts, we worked to develop each player to make her the best player she can be. Right now, all of you are just a snapshot in time. Nobody knows how, and if, your body will change. So, it was an emphasis of the coaches that we equip you with the skills to play every position. I learned that there is power in building a team. I learned that you stick with the ones that stick with you. I learned that believing in people will help them grow to your expectations.
- It is so much better being the underdog. When you are on top, people expect you to win, so there is a target on your back at all times. The best victories were the ones that no one ever saw coming. I learned that people love to cheer for an underdog. It is the reason why it was so much sweeter to go with home-grown talent; no one expects the homegrown talent to win a championship. Everyone on our team was held to the same standard; each girl was just as important as the next – no matter ability level or skill.
- Respect everyone; be in awe of no one. I have coached a lot of different teams in a lot of different sports and I can honestly say that the best coaching moment in my life was when we almost beat the eventual champs in one of the biggest youth basketball tournament in the region. The looks on the opposing coaches’ and parents’ faces when we went into halftime with a six-point lead was something that I will always remember. The way that you guys went after it was a thing of beauty. They were bigger than you, faster than you, and overall stronger than you and you never let down. We lost, but you went down swinging — and that is to be commended. Losing isn’t a bad thing; effort is everything.
- Team chemistry is the number one, most important aspect of success. When people ask me why and how our team is so successful, my number one answer is always the amount of positive team chemistry we have. I am always happy when our team chooses to hang out with each other away from the basketball court. It is awesome to see the conscious effort to be there for each other. Team chemistry is something that coaches can nurture — but it is not something that any coach can totally create, no matter how much he or she may try.
- Success is subjective. If I ask each one of you what will make this team a successful, each one of you will have a different answer. Wins and losses are never really part of the equation. If I have a team full of talented, hardworking individuals, the rest will fall into place. We may, or may not win a title, but we will be able to overcome any type of adversity/adversary that comes our way.
- Learning to take criticism as well as learning how to give it. Who is the best at giving criticism? Me. How did I learn to give effective criticism? You guys. Criticism is only effective when you learn how to give and receive it.
- Coach athletes not to be afraid to failure. You missed a shot, your pass went out of bounds, you dribbled the ball off of your shoe, and we lost the game – is it really the end of the world for us – no. Does mean that we need more practice with ball-handling skills — yes. We live in a world where coaches mold their players talent. Years of doing this to players can be a mistake as it lessens their creativity. Skills that could have been perfected through playground ball as a youth are banned from organized sports because it does not “fit in to the system” or may cause a turnover. If a kid wants to throw the ball behind their back, don’t stop him. Teach him how, when, and where to properly use it.
- Only get upset with an athlete’s lack of effort. Missed shots means that players need to shoot more in practice. Turnovers mean that players are not on the same page and their chemistry is off. Both of those things need to coached in order for the team to be at the top of its game. Getting upset over those things is not the best way to go about it. Effort, on the other hand — the desire to work; to improve your skill set — is something that can be directly controlled by the players. Throughout the game, mistakes will be made. How I, as a coach, react to those mistakes will make all the difference.