Note: This article is part of a series on How to Fail in Basketball and Life.
How to Fail in Basketball and in Life:
If you are an unaware person, then anything I say about unawareness will always seem to you like it applies to someone else and not you, so I last night I asked my wife, “I’m writing a piece on self-deception for Basketballogy; what is the best way for me to illustrate unawareness?”
She smiled and said, “Point them to a clip from American Idol.”
Brilliant. Here is a clip that illustrates unawareness better than any words I can come up with.
To me, this clip does an excellent job of showing me how I appear to others when I allow myself to be unaware.
One of the things that gets me about this clip is how long the singer watches Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell laugh at him before he stops singing. I would like to think that I would stop much sooner than that. However, even at that point, this singer is still not fully aware of his true position with these American Idol judges, because he suggests that he sing country music instead.
By the way, I do not condone these judges laughing at this poor guy. I am merely using this clip to help illustrate a point.
I know a volunteer youth coach who is a great guy, but he’s also the basketball equivalent of that singer. He is unaware of the most rudimentary elements of game he coaches, and honestly feels no real need to learn more.
What amazes me even more is he actually feels he knows more than many NBA coaches! He talks to me all the time about how certain coaches need to be fired, and his critiques of them are all about who should have been in the game at key moments — like coaching is just a matter of deciding what talent should be on the floor.
Moreover, he’s proud of the fact that he has never even seen a box score, and claims he doesn’t need them because he can see what is happening himself. “Besides,” he says, “The only statistic that matters is the final score.”
That sounds sensible… until you realize that he just said that he doesn’t want to know how things are going until it is too late to do anything about it.
Perhaps some people really are happier unaware, but I know I’m not one of them. I like to have feedback — be it positive or negative — and I like it as early, often, accurately and honestly as I can get it.
That said, I can’t write about unawareness without thinking about my first season as a basketball coach.
I was in my mid-20s, on crutches and sulking. I had just been told by a doctor that it would take surgery and more than a year before I would be able to play basketball again. To my great shock, I was approached out of the blue and asked if I would coach high school age boys, and the season started that week. Terrified, I instantly turned him down, explaining that I play on intuition more than knowledge, and since I had no real knowledge, there was no way I could teach young players.
Lucky for me, they were truly desperate for a coach (someone had unexpectedly resigned) and they persisted until I felt guilty enough to accept it. I say lucky for me, because I have found coaching tremendously fulfilling.
At any rate, given that the topic of this article is “unawareness,” you can probably guess how I look back on that year.
I remember one game in particular. It was near the end of the game and we had just scored and were down 1 point, and our opponent called time out.
I cannot remember what I said in that timeout, but I clearly remember the HORROR I felt as the game resumed and I realized I had REALLY blown it. I was unaware that there were just 8 seconds left in the game, (I know, I know), and our opponents were in the process of spreading the floor and running out the clock without trying to get it across half court.
Fortunately for us, one of my players stole the ball and hit a short jumper at the buzzer and we won. (By the way, that player is now a high school basketball coach in Montana.)
Allowing yourself to be unaware is setting yourself up to fail.
I honestly love playing and coaching basketball so much that the game is still fun to me even when I lose.
For me, losing has little to do with how much I enjoy the game of basketball. What I don’t like is losing and not feeling confident that I really know why or how we lost. How did we just get beat? When I lose and don’t feel I clearly understand why, I feel like I’ve just let my team down because I can’t help us prevent it from happening again, and that makes me feel sick.
Perhaps that is why I find myself always studying the game of basketball, even if I’m just casually watching games on television, or young kids playing in a gym.
And maybe that is why I am silently disappointed when I see coaches running exactly what they ran when they were players. Really? Even if they were coached by Phil Jackson, haven’t they grown any since then? Isn’t there something they can see to improve on?
Similarly, I’m impressed when I see a coach jettison a familiar system and explore something totally new to them — like the Read and React Offense — because they can see the wisdom in it and aren’t afraid of the challenge and learning curve.
Please don’t misunderstand: I am not saying you shouldn’t go with what you know, I’m saying you should challenge what you think you know and look for ways to improve on it.
People are different and not everyone likes change, but I feel that if you are a coach, then you owe it to your players and their parents to not just be a teacher of the game, but a student of it as well. And hopefully, over time, your passion and your example will rub off and you can pass a love of the game and a love of learning on to your players as well.
Because unawareness is the first form of self-deception, and as such, is a killer of success.
Move on to Part 2c: Denial: It ain’t just a river in Egypt!