Resilience and Acceptance

It seems as though the opposite of “careless” must be “careful.” That the best technique to circumvent avoidable errors is to try harder, to invest more care into what you’re doing. And, so we see examples of coaches and parents informing young athletes to “try harder” as the immediate response to errors at training and in games. This may be helpful for a while, but then, it’s not effort but systems or processes that matter.

Recently, one of our coaches talked about his coaching days from years ago.

“I remember my coaching staff and I created a game-play sheet for our senior rugby teams. The first sheet of 200 set plays was 96% perfect. Which is fine, until you realise that this meant that eight game-plays had a fundamental flaw that rendered the moves ineffective. Those errors ruined the experience for the players and caused losses in one way or another, giving the opposition an advantage.

In the next season, we created the 200 game-plays and worked really hard to avoid mistakes. Our effort paid off in a 50% decrease in errors. However we were down to 2%. Alas, that’s still four gamebreakers.

Then I got smart, and I changed the system. Instead of having my assistant coaches work really hard to avoid mistakes, we involved the players in creating a system of plays that worked for the players themselves. We found the players approach to game-plays changed – in that the plays were more fun to implement rather than trying to be perfect. If errors occurred, the players knew how to respond quickly and intuitively because they owned it.”

What would be the outcome if we were to change our way of coaching young players or how we conduct ourselves as parents with our children on the court? What if we could change our “set plays” to build freedom, fun and resilience in the way we approach the game. We could have more fun as parents as these young people should see that the adults are treating junior sport as fun and NOT the NBA!! Parents, don’t’ overlook or ignore the enjoyment and processes by being too focused on winning and/or perfection. Instead we – us as coaches and you as parents TOGETHER can be role models and build resilience in our children by displaying behavior conduit with building a better system of play that’s fun and encouraging to engage in. If it matters enough to “be careful”, it matters enough to build a system around it and have fun doing it.

I’ve been surprised, not merely at how young athletes adjust to adversity, challenge and game losses, but that they do it so rapidly. Two minutes after the game, they’re laughing with their friends and having fun – being kids. It’s the adults still holding onto the pain of a loss or a few bad calls. The human capacity for acceptance is enormous if you allow it. It’s very important to understand that this is about choice. It IS possible for our players, coaches, sideline parents and supporters to “move on” to the next game. Those who didn’t win will work on trying to find new plays to achieve success in the next game. Those who achieve small victories will try to figure out how to score additional baskets next time. Others will try to take advantage of their existing team assets next time.

I find that the resilience of young people is dramatic, not merely in reaction to not successfully completing a basketball play or basket – but in general. In response to mistakes, disappointment or unfair circumstances like a call from a referee, resilience is the intrinsic belief that you can muster the learning, the behaviour, the strength and the growth to overcome setbacks. As coaches and parents, we should try to be more like our kids; and if our kids are not as resilient as this, maybe it’s because they are reflecting the behaviours they observe in us.

There’s a need to regain the fun in our lives and we can all agree that basketball is FUN. Joy and resilience – needed to make calm and rational choices. Let’s change our “plays” and avoid overreacting but instead try to establish smart priorities. We CAN bring balance back into our lives and in short, put an end to walking around angry, scared or blaming others. There is another way and again it’s about choice and our own personal growth. We too together, like our kids, can learn how to remove the “set plays” of negative behavior and instead respond intuitively with our “own plays” because WE own it. This would then follow through to our children adopting this same change of removing negative “un-owned” set plays to instead building and developing freedom, fun and resilience in the way in which a game is approached.