Good Decision Foes: Ego

Lakers 2013What’s with these guys?  It seems that we can’t get away from the story of “Will the Lakers be Able to Figure it Out?”  Can they put ego aside like LeBron, D-Wade, and Bosh in Miami or Garnett, Pierce, and Allen in Boston, or even like MJ and Scottie with the Bulls?  The story is wrapped around ego, or  how a player views himself, and it’s not just in the NBA.  Walk into any grade school or high school gym, or into a college game of any level or gender, and you’ll observe a multitude of decisions affected by ego.

BASKETBALL – How should we properly handle ego?

Basketball players of all levels are influenced by the “ESPN Effect”- slow motion replays, instant analysis, top ten lists, and plays of the day.  Ego (our sense of self or the way we view our ability or status in the game) is heavily influenced by outside forces.  Unchecked ego can lead to poor basketball decisions such as players forcing passes, taking ill-advised shots, or gambling on defense.  It also affects coaches and makes them unwilling to adjust their approach or willing to abandon their philosophy to prove their worth.

Basketball requires a level of confidence.  One element of practice and individual skill development is to build a player’s confidence in his ability to perform, but confidence can often teeter on a fine line between an inflated ego and a frustrated and bruised ego.  On the same team, a coach often has to deal with both – not an easy task!  Since the NBA deals with the ESPN Effect more than anyone, it may be helpful to look at how NBA coaches deal with ego as outlined by Dr. Travis Heath, a psychologist working with the NBA, in his post The Art of NBA Ego Management.  While the demands of the NBA are beyond most of us, it can be helpful to consider how those at the top level handle egos.

For the rest of us, players or coaches, it’s helpful to consider the forces that shape our ego.  It takes self-analysis or certainly individual discussions between coaches and players.   Players that use the perspectives of those who are not intimately involved with practice, workouts, and team activities often developed distorted egos.  While there’s not much we can do about poor decisions related to ego during a game, the issues have to be addressed on a regular basis in practice and team or individual meetings.

LIFE – What shapes your ego?

For most of us, ego is a common issue in the workplace.  How you handle your own ego,and the egos of supervisors or co-workers often determines your effectiveness and satisfaction in your job.  Society will tell us that it’s all about the paycheck or about advancement.  In that case, any of us can fall victim to our ego.  Too often we fall into the belief that you have to push aside others to find success.  Many find ways to exploit their ideas or their efforts to promote themselves, and often times, inflated egos prevent us from having an attitude of learning and accountability.  Consider carefully how you view yourself in your work and how you allow others to influence your perception of your own abilities.  Before making decisions, check your ego!

FAITH – Whose view is most important?

Scripture warns us to keep our egos in check.  Paul writes in Romans 12:3:

3 . . .Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment . . .

but scripture also encourages us to not use other people’s views to determine how we feel about ourselves.  God’s standards and God’s views truly are what should shape our ego and we can all agree with the popular statement, “God didn’t make no junk!”    When David was anointed to be the next King of Israel, God told Samuel (1 Sam. 16:7):

7 . . . “ The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Ultimately, God’s view determines our worth, not the views of ourselves or those around us.  Since He was willing to sacrifice His son on the cross, we can be assured that His confidence in us is high.  It’s up to us to not let an inflated or bruised ego lead us into bad decisions.


Good Decision Foes: Anger

Frank MartinTechnical fouls, flagrant fouls, physical confrontations, and players simply losing their focus have become so common in basketball that many accept them as part of the game. Just as in life, if we can control this enemy inside, we can learn to use the energy it creates and minimize the effects it has on our decision-making!  (It’s probably not fair to characterize South Carolina’s Frank Martin as an angry coach, but I love the picture!)

BASKETBALL – Does anger help you play better?

GarnettAnger is considered a secondary emotion, meaning it’s a cover for other emotions. It may feel real, but it often masks deeper feelings of fear, frustration, insecurity, or doubt.

While it may seem that anger will give you or your team an edge, since the rush of adrenaline can improve your speed, strength, or pain tolerance, it can also become a crutch or an excuse for inefficient play.  Repeated mishandling of anger can also disrupt team unity and cooperation, create negative self-talk, erode confidence, and affect the decisions made during a game

Anger is not something you can avoid in basketball.   While learning stress-relief techniques like taking deep breaths, removing yourself from the situation by walking away or even asking for a substitute, or using a calming “cue” word like focus or calm, it’s most helpful to prepare off the court for those times on the court when the heat of competition intensifies.

Relax – Focus on why you play or coach the game, reevaluate your expectations for yourself, and admit the damage anger has caused.

Identify – A journal can be a helpful way to track events that lead to anger and the poor decisions that may result.  Analyze the source of anger and learn to connect your anger to the deeper emotions that lie underneath.

Take Ownership  – Understand what makes you you.  Do not look for others to blame.  Own it,  verbalize it, and deal with it.

LIFE – Why not learn to deal with anger?

I hope I’m hitting really close to home on this one, because for me, I am.  As I look at relationships in my life, it becomes painfully obvious that anger has led to many poor decisions in how I relate to my wife, to my children, and to those with whom I work.  For those of you old enough to remember one of the best afterschool rerun TV shows ever created, The Dick Van Dyke Show, it seems so obvious that Dick should avoid the footstool every day, but instead he falls over it day after day.  Why doesn’t he just move it?   Alan E. Nelson asks the same question in his book My Own Worst Enemy Why not deal with the behaviors in our lives, like anger, instead of falling over them again and again?  We can use the same process – Relax, Identify, and Take Ownership.

When it comes to issues such as anger in my family, I find great ideas from Focus on the Family.  Check out their series When Your Anger Gets the Best of You.

FAITH – Be angry, but don’t sin!

The Bible has a lot to say about anger and of course, Solomon has more wisdom for us (Prov. 29:11)

11 A foolish person lets his anger run wild.
But a wise person keeps himself under control. (NIRV)

He doesn’t say – a foolish person never gets angry.  But he does say, a wise person keeps it under control.  Just as Jesus did.  He certainly had many things with which to be angry.  In his sandals, I think I would have had the same feelings I have as a coach when I repeat the same things over and over, but players don’t respond and change.  But Jesus dealt with his anger, and even expressed the anger when it was justified.  Paul sums it up for us as well (Eph 4:26):

26 In your anger do not sin . . .



Good Decision Foes: Haste

D'AntoniI recently listened to a fascinating message by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church outside of Chicago called Wiser in Our Decisions.  Bill listed some “arch-enemies” of making good decisions and once again, it plays out each day on the basketball court. In this series of posts, we’ll take a look at Bill’s big three, along with a few other factors that are often the Foes of Good Decisions – Haste, Anger, Ego, Apathy, Desperation, and Alcohol.

BASKETBALL -There’s a difference between playing fast and playing in a hurry!


HASTE – When players are in a hurry, mistakes are more frequent.  Players hurry when they feel pressure from the defense, from the game, from the score, and who knows what else!  John Wooden‘s coaching proverb “Be quick, but don’t hurry” is the perfect guide.  We teach players to attack aggressively, but if they can’t read the defense and their teammates, they’re rushing.  We want players to play as quickly as they can to pressure the defense, but only at a pace that allows them to make good decisions.

It’s been fascinating to watch the saga of Mike D’Antoni taking over the Lakers in the 2012-2013 season.  His philosophy of “7 Seconds of Less” offense with Denver, Phoenix and New York has transformed basketball.  Coaches like me have implemented aspects of his approach and I often find myself echoing the concept, “Shoot it before you turn it over!”  But, there’s a fine line between developing quick-thinking players who can take advantage of any situation and creating hurried, rushed, and frustrated players.  The LA frustration level, right now, is registering on the Richter Scale.

I’ll continue to stress decision-making in my coaching, but will still stress playing an aggressive, attacking style as long as we limit turnovers and take good shots!  Check out Practice Ideas for Hasty Decisions.   The parallels in life are quite obvious and I would be failing as a transformational coach if I didn’t find ways to help players grow in this area.

LIFE – Always in a rush!

Bill Hybels hit on all of my weak spots with his list.  How many bad decisions do I make when I rush?  I push the speed limit and get pulled over.  I make a purchase of something I don’t really need and can’t afford because “this sale won’t last long.”  I rush the kids out the door to get to school and inevitably, we forget something!  And as a result of all those rushed and hurried decisions, the bigger mistakes continue to mount like budget concerns, emotional outbursts, and missed opportunities.

FAITH – Don’t miss your way.

Is it possible that we can be rushed and hurried in our faith journey, as well?   How often do I rush my prayer time?  It seems so easy to claim,  “If God’s not going to answer my request or concern, right now, I’ll just rush to an alternative.  I’ll take care of it myself!  I’ll do it my way!”  How often do I hurry in and out of church without taking the time to digest what took place?  How often do I miss the opportunity to listen – to God?  To trusted friends like my wife?  How often do I turn my back on listening to another person who I may be in a position to show love and concern because I’m in a hurry?

Coach Wooden’s proverb sounds a lot like Solomon’s (Proverbs 19:2):

Desire without knowledge is not good,
    and one who moves too hurriedly misses the way.

Make better decisions in basketball, your life, and in your faith.  Don’t let HASTE be an enemy.  Act quickly when needed, but don’t hurry!