We ended last week talking about what it means to have clear values for your program - principles that you want everyone in your program or organization to embody every day. But, before that we have to understand what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself. Holding yourself to a high standard requires you to be accountable for your individual contribution to the team concept.
Our program made it quite simple - listen to criticism, admit your shortcomings and then find a solution. No one wants to hear your excuses and if you provide them we'll just move on to the next person. But it all starts with you. The likelihood of listening to someone else critique you when you can't even be honest with yourself is, well... slim. But this is something that we even practiced. We worked on our reactions and our coaching staff would go at guys' mistakes when emotions were high in practice and games. In non-conference games, we wouldn't call timeouts when teams went on runs - gotta figure it out. We all built a thick skin from these experiences with the underlying knowledge that everything that was said or done in our program was to make us better and not attacks for personal gain.
If you're starting to wonder how this correlates to winning games (or finding success in your particular field) it's simple. Everyday we showed up, our main focus was the content - in our case, basketball. We had few to no distractions. Our foundation of our core values was so strong that we almost never had to coach behavior or effort. Every person - players, coaches, managers, even the sports psych interns all came every day prepared and completely focused on basketball. We got much more accomplished in our third year than our first two because we very rarely ran for punishment, spent little time on coaching effort and never particularly fought about excuses or a lack of accountability. And you read that correctly - it took two years to build.
Our biggest test, to see who we really were, came late in our third season. Sitting at 14-5, we went cold. We lost 4 in a row and were feeling it - losing to teams we shouldn't have lost to, losing a heartbreaker by a point, losing at home. All uncharacteristic of us...And so our next game was on a weekday on the road against a really good conference opponent. We had few resources, so we didn't take a bus and tip was early, 5:30. We decided that the coaching staff would meet the guys there, and I got a call as I arrived at the gym. Our starting point guard forgot his jersey and had to double back to campus for it. The guys showed up with 16 minutes left before tip off. They didn't get out for warm ups until about 8 minutes left. The guy who forgot his jersey comes in, apologizes and takes full responsibility - it was on him. He knew it...we all did. But, he started with himself. Admitted the mess up and we moved on. He didn't flinch when he found out he wasn't starting. The next guy stepped up for what was, at the time, the most important game of the year.
Every reason to drop another. Every excuse to throw our hands up and say there's no chance. Everything is against us. But, we buckled down. When times got tough, we leaned in, instead of lashed out. Guys were accountable, listened to criticism and we blew the doors off. We got back to who we were - Held them to 38% from the floor and we had 24 assists on 29 made field goals. And that game, we set the record for most wins in a season in program history. A clear cut understanding of our core values is how we got here. Listen, admit your shortcomings and find a solution. It starts with your individual contribution to the team. Accountability executed. Accountability brought to life every single day...and it yielded the desired results.