It’s back. The squeaks of the sneaks, the snapping of twine, the smell of the leather, the start of the grind. Sorry to wax poetic on you, but I can’t hide my excitement for a new basketball season to begin.

Preseason conditioning, clinics, tryouts, meetings with staff, players, and parents are all coming to an end and it is finally time to set the roster, lace them up, and start the journey.

The difference in the journey from one coach to the next lies within the hand they have been dealt for this season and how they choose to play it.

Most coaches do not get the opportunity to recruit players and instead must depend on developing players. Even the ones who can recruit still have a host of challenges and puzzles to solve with each new season. This is the lifeblood of the majority of coaches. Taking a different group of young players each season and molding it into a team. It is my second favorite thing about being a high school coach (behind only the relationship building component inherent in the job) because it is such a different challenge each year.

We have had a great deal of ‘conventional’ success in the won/loss column over the past 3 years with hard working, talented players who have bought into the Read & React, our defensive philosophy, and our program culture. We have had some ups and downs along the way, but in the process of going 71-15 during those 3 seasons, there have been a lot of ups.

This year we embark on a different kind of journey. We graduated our Top 6 players from last season and this year’s team will feature almost exclusively players with no Varsity playing experience.

People have asked me personally since last season ended if this is my time to move on. If those college job offers are starting to look more appetizing. If I was considering just focusing on Better Basketball and leaving the seemingly inconsequential job of coaching a high school basketball team behind me.

I can understand why they ask. Those outside the rope rarely get it. Those who have not been on this particular journey have a much different perspective. Those who haven’t experienced the overwhelming satisfaction of building a season full of relationships with players and coaches, making game plans, creating practice plans, working with a feeder program, attending clinics, making adjustments, scouting opponents, and watching a group of individuals from varying backgrounds become a family can’t be expected to understand the powerful draw to continue on.

But the truth is…I have never been more excited about an upcoming season. This is not to say I am more excited than I was last year or that I like this group more than those in the past. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say this same thing every year. I am equally excited about the season regardless of what outsiders, pundits, and casual fans think our record should be. That works both ways – we don’t feel pressure to win 25 games when people think we are talented and we don’t worry about years when those same people think we may win 5.

Every group and every season brings about new challenges. Our first 4 years we were building a program and creating a culture through a great deal of trial and error. Then, three years ago we were installing the Read & React for the first time, two seasons ago we had some chemistry and accountability issues that had to be monitored constantly, last season depth was a concern.

What has stayed constant throughout it all is that we have great kids who respect the game and want to do well. They want to play hard, play for each other and have fun. That is not by accident. We believe that those are the kids who make a program successful and we start talking about it with them in Kindergarten at Summer Camp. They are not faceless pawns in some chess match. They are young adults who I have watched grow up, I love, and I am proud to call family.

The kids who make it through our program are the ones who love to be there. Who get what it means to be part of something special, and who enjoy celebrating the ups and getting closer as a team through the downs. Who are genuinely happy for their teammates when they perform well, regardless of their role on the team.

We don’t define our success solely by our won/loss record. There is so much more to it than that. We do team service projects, raise money for Coaches vs Cancer, support other activities in our school, strive to achieve in the classroom, cultivate lasting relationships, and constantly talk about raising the bar.

“Raise the Bar” is our theme for this season.

It is a constant reminder to us all to be focused on the process and to enjoy the journey regardless of outcomes we may or may not have control over.

Some examples of raising the bar:

You see, this year’s group of players and coaches could easily allow itself to be saddled with low expectations or make excuses about why we won’t win as many games, but we aren’t focused on those things. We are focused on the daily process of improvement, lifting each other up, and enjoying every moment of the journey.

This way of thinking is far more rewarding than getting caught up in the rat race, and it is both healthy and liberating to know that your success, as defined by you, is under your control.

Do you view yourself as a process driven coach/player or an outcome driven coach/player? Are you more concerned with the daily journey or the goals you have set? Let us know what you think in the comments below:

2 Responses

  1. Having never been asked that question in those terms before I can honestly think and say, I personally am a “process” driven coach. I always want things done a certain way, believing that the process will produce the results desired. While I’m sure our culture has over-valued winning over most everything (who was it that said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”?), I’ve always felt the way you win, the way you approach the game, how you react to events, wins, losses, treat your opponents, teammates, officials, etc… has always been far more important in the overall development of the athlete as a person and participant than the won-loss record. Although in the minority in this regard in the overall culture, I do believe the vast majority of high school coaches (although not all) have their priorities set appropriately.

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