Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
Last time, I wrote about holding your player accountable and was able to show how I used a moment to not only teach my son, but an opposing player, about on court behavior. When you are coaching your child, you tend to use them as your example more often than not.
Coaching my middle son’s team was more of a challenge in that they were a team of solid players, but we didn’t consistently have kids that could take over games as our speed and athleticism were not very good when they were young. Because of this, we struggled defensively to guard the ball and spent much of our time helping our teammates which would lead to a breakdown. I refused to play a zone defense as my objective was not to win, but to develop and I felt reinforcing the principles of a man-to-man defense was the best way to do that. In the end, the struggles and learning by improving their defensive positioning and technique would help them when they reached high school and used different defensive schemes.
There was a team we struggled to beat that had a very good player who happened to be the coach’s son. When games were close, their offense was to run a pick and roll so he could score. I understand this approach and if I was getting paid or playing for a State Championship or an NCAA playoff berth, well, I would have done the same thing. But this was youth basketball for our school team. My focus was on the development of ALL the players more than it was the win. If I would have switched to a zone or a gimmick defense like a box and one, we could have shut him down and greatly improved our chances for a win. But, when you are charged with the development of people, you must keep things in perspective. In this case, winning a 6th grade tournament was not as important to me as the players growing and understanding how to work together as a team.
Our team was doing well and worked hard to slow the player down and because of our team working together on defense, we were able to slow the player down and maintain a lead. What I failed to mention as I set this up, is that the player, who was extremely talented, had a tendency to let his emotions get the best of him when things didn’t go his way. The coach had a similar personality. The kid was a heck of a player and a very friendly kid away from the court, but his competitive nature would get the best of him and his actions on the court would sometimes detract from his play.
As it was a tightly contested game, the opposing coach was working hard on the referees and his frustration was mounting as his best player was losing control and his team could not quite close the distance. Listening to this added to my own stress as the game was winding down and we were nursing a small lead. I was hoping the referees might step in and address the complaining, but they chose not to, which led to the next teaching moment. My son had a foul called on him and he looked at the referee and threw his hands up in the air which looked to be in frustration. Now my son, at that time in his life, never complained and was very in control. I jumped up and proceeded to rip my son in front of the entire gym for complaining to the referee and trying to show him up. I went as far as to call a timeout, so that I could even more dramatically make my point. I reinforced that good players don’t behave that way. That he must be above such things and to be a person of character and respect.
To fully make my point, I benched him for the rest of the game. I kneeled next to him on the bench and apologized for what I did and explained that I had to make a point to the other team about their behavior. I asked if he understood. He said yes. But I’m sure it didn’t make it any easier. Yes, we lost the game.
The referee pulled me aside and said, “Coach, I don’t think he was trying to show me up. He was simply frustrated with himself for fouling.” I looked at him and said, “I agree, but I needed to make a point to that team.” He looked at me, smiled and walked off.
The next week, we faced the same team, at their home tournament in the championship game. Before the game, the coach walked up to me and said “I heard what you were saying to your son. I have the same issue with my son. Would you mind talking with him?” Holy cow!!!! I couldn’t believe it. So, I talked to the kid. About how good of a player he is and how his frustration and complaining takes away from not only what he does on the court, but how he responds to challenges. We talked about whether he does the same thing off the court, and he admitted his behavior is the same at home or in the classroom. He struggles when things don't go his way. We talked about what he could do differently and how that could change his relationship with others. Specifically, his relationship with himself and how he views his own success.
The kid went on to have a great career and always would come and find me at any tournament or game we would see him, throughout his high school career. Oh, and by the way, we won that tournament game.
At the time, I felt these approaches were the right way to handle things. I saw a problem and while I could not directly fix the problem as I didn’t have the authority (not my player or parent) I felt I did have the chance to influence the situation. So, while it wasn’t in my Circle of Control, it was in my Circle of Influence. In hindsight, I realize that my intention of doing good resulted in someone having to bear the brunt of my fury and suffer through public embarrassment. In most situations like this, right or wrong, you seem to lash out at those you are closest to. Loved ones, friends, your best player, or your trusted employee.
My mentor was giving me advice one day and suggested that when we are giving advice, we should always ask ourselves “are my words Helpful or Harmful?” In this example, I thought I was being helpful, justifying to myself the goodness of my intentions. But in the end, if you are tearing down without building up, then for that individual it is harmful, even if they understand. Building up others and not tearing them down is how you build Beyond Today.
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Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.
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