Updated: May 19, 2022
I wrote this one in February, but thought it was good one to roll with. I added to it last week - I appreciate all who read it!
As we move along and the winter season is coming to a close at all levels, this is a good time to look back and reflect. How did your season go? Did you live up to expectation? Did you produce the way you thought? Did you learn from each experience or are you staying stagnant?
I've seen a lot of complaints - from parents and players - about coaching and reffing specifically. But, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate what we're doing to make our situations better. The fact is, not every coach is great, not every referee is great and both jobs are incredibly difficult. But, you, the player, are where you are and currently that may be a situation with a not so great coach and a not so great ref. But, if you are using the situation correctly it can yield a lot of positives on your path.
Quite often, we find ourselves frustrated and get into the vicious habit of complaining - this coach plays favorites, this ref stinks and blah blah blah. But ask yourself this - what are you accomplishing by complaining about a coach or a ref? Complain away. If you're right about their flaws, you're in the same spot. If you're wrong, you probably guessed it, you're still in the same spot. So, what exactly is the point? It's not about being right or wrong about them, or pointing out flaws - that accomplishes nothing. Instead, focus your effort on doing what your coach asks as hard as you can, even if you don't agree, and see what happens.
If you are a parent actively pointing out the flaws of the coach, you're giving your child an excuse out of many of life's strongest tools like accountability, toughness, resilience and most importantly, leadership. Our athletes look at their parents for answers on how to handle situations, and often parents misconstrue that with being the next best basketball tactician. "You need to move here"; "You need to do this"; "You pass too much"; "You need to shoot more". It's the same way professional coaches get criticized by people sitting on the couch - it makes no sense. But, the last thing our kids need at home is a coach or a ref. If our youth are subject to poor coaching, are we teaching them skills needed to find growth in those situations? or are we just pointing the finger and saying this is a lost hope? I learned a little too late in my career that it's important to learn what to do, but it's equally as important to learn what not to do. When I started learning from the negatives, just like the positives, I narrowed my focus and defined my coaching and life philosophy clearly.
Coaches will make decisions, and the players don't have to agree - but if their disagreement is being reinforced at home, it will cause the demise of the entire team and teach our athletes bad habits (transfer portal?). But, if our youth come home to someone who is telling them to listen to their coach and go do whatever they ask as hard as they can, or stick to it, or to put in more work on their game then we're teaching our kids those skills mentioned earlier - resilience, toughness and leadership. Ultimately, kids need to come home to caregivers who support them no matter what, that no situation in basketball or any sport is going to alter the love we have for them and that the key to improvement has never been in the hands of a referee or a coach. They don't need to come home to a coach or a ref, they need a guide who will put them on the path of relentless work ethic to achieve results.
I had a great talk with a coaching friend of mine recently and what he said blew my mind. This coach is super knowledgeable and a high level championship winning coach and his son is a hooper. As we were talking about his boy, he told me that they rarely even talk basketball. I brought up situations about his son and basketball and he had no idea about them. He told me that he cares more about his son being a good person with high character, rather than the next best basketball player, that his boy doesn't need a coach at home. The chips will fall where they may, but this perspective is something we can all learn from. Teach the kids character, not basketball. Teach them resilience, not excuses. Teach them leadership, not crumbling in unfavorable situations. It's not just sport. It's life.