Finding the courage to be patient
Posted by Dean Holden at August 29th, 2013
by Steve Nash Youth Basketball Coaches Blog, 2 August 2013
Those five words – “the courage to be patient” – give a picture of the great potential of youth basketball and at the same time highlight the problems that exist in the reality of an ultra-competitive youth sports environment. More specifically, having the “courage to be patient” seems to involve doing four very difficult things, and the failure to do any one of these four things may explain the disconnect between potential and reality.
But before discussing these four components and looking at exactly what “the courage to be patient” implies for coaching, it’s important to first identify the three most common statements that are raised whenever the concepts of development and winning are mingled:
- Development is More Important than Winning. This statement has been made so often in the past several years it has almost become cliché, and it’s hard to find a qualified coach anywhere who would argue with it. That said, this message should still be repeated if only to provide a constant counter-point to the pressure to win that seems to exist in almost every game, at every age, in every youth sport. Unfortunately, acknowledging this truth is very different than implementing it in trainings and games every day. Many more coaches and clubs repeat this statement in advertising and promotional material far more than they practice it on the field.
- At Some Age, Learning to Win is Important. This is another statement that few people would disagree with; the question becomes, “when does winning become more important?” The three common stages of athletic development (training to train, training to compete, and training to win) provide one measurement. There is much debate about where the boundaries are in each stage, and the precise demarcation point is relatively unimportant. In fact, these boundaries may actually differ slightly for individual players and teams depending on their own maturity and technical development.
- Proper Player Development, in the Long-Term, Will Lead to Winning. This is the final statement in the winning and development triumvirate. It neatly sums up the goals, (at least the most commonly stated ones), of nearly every youth coach: (i) develop players; and (ii) have competitive success.
The problem with the above three statements is that, while few would argue with any of them, even fewer actually implement them; in other words, these ideas are very rarely realized. For a small minority of people, this failure is because of an overwhelming need to chase trophies, at any cost, and the short-term ego boost associated with winning them. However, for most people, the failure to implement these statements is more because of a failure to have “the courage to be patient.” As alluded to above, having “the courage to be patient” means doing four very difficult things:
1) Resisting External Pressure. This entails the ability to resist pressure from parents, players, competitors and peers for immediate results. Failure to resist this pressure can be seen when coaches neglect to spend sufficient time training technical skills because of over-emphasis on team shape, set pieces or other tactical areas. Emphasis on tactical points and set pieces may result in potential short-term success at low levels but is almost a guaranty of long-term failure at high levels. This failure can even be seen in a coach’s tension or nerves on the sideline when his or her team has possession of the ball.
2) Controlling Internal Desire. This means controlling the internal pressure we all feel to have quick success to bolster confidence or validate methods. Failure to control this pressure can be seen when coaches train with one style of play, and then play a totally different way in games in order to win. Changing styles of play from training to games sends mixed messages to players about the “right way” to play and undermines confidence in playing proper basketball. This failure can also often be seen in the coach’s demeanor.
3) Being a Great Teacher. Being a great teacher means having both the ability to teach players the increasingly subtle and sophisticated cues, concepts and ideas to play at higher levels, as well as the ability to inspire players to believe they can achieve great things and to work hard in pursuit of ambitious goals. Poor coaches / teachers are often times those that refuse to study how to teach concepts and skills in different and better ways, to “steal” training ideas from other coaches, or to continually educate themselves about the learning and development process. A low ceiling for a coach will usually in turn set a low ceiling for the players. Similarly, failure to inspire players to be ambitious and goal-oriented sets a limit on the player’s long-term performance.
4) Maintaining Faith. This means having confidence in your teaching ability and in the value of a long-term athlete development philosophy, over time and in all circumstances. Changing philosophies, styles and beliefs when the inevitable adversity of short-term setbacks hits will undercut even the best teachers. One of the biggest signs of a coach with this confident patience is a consistent determination from his / her players to solve pressure with thought and skill in adverse situations.