What do you do when you have no other options? In the 1993 NCAA Men’s Championship, Chris Webber from Michigan thought his only option was to call a timeout that his team didn’t have – technical foul, game over, North Carolina wins. .
With 2.1 seconds left in overtime of the 1992 NCAA East Regional Final, Duke’s Christian Laettner catches a long inbound pass, fakes one way, turns and drains a desperation jumper to beat Kentucky. Another desperate situation, but a different outcome. Or what about the desperate team that compromises its integrity by intentionally sending the wrong player, a 91% shooter, to the free throw line to shoot winning free throws with 2 seconds left in the game? Yes, it happened to our Wisconsin women’s team in a game with a Big Ten opponent! Desperation, the moment when it feels like our options are limited, often leads to bad decisions; yet without it, some of us will never raise our game to the next level.
BASKETBALL – Use Desperation.
Help players learn how to make good decisions when they’re hurried, or angry, or prideful, or not caring and hopefully they won’t have to make many desperate decisions. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But that’s not how it happens and it’s one of the great things about basketball. Jesus once said, “In this world, you will have trouble . . .” and as a coach, I often say “In this game, you will have trouble . . .” While many times bad decisions are made in desperation, desperate times often help us raise the level of play, re-focus effort, and turn things around. Here are four quick reminders to help players make better decisions:
1. Anticipate – adversity is going to come and you need to expect it.
2. Communicate – talk and listen to get everybody on the same page.
3. Simulate – as much as you can, design drills to create desperate situations and instruct players on how to handle these moments.
4. Replicate – as soon as possible after a game situation, re-create the incident in practice and make adjustments to how it played out in the game.
I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not always an easy thing to address desperate moments. Practice limitations by rule or by facility availability can make it difficult, but teaching players how to handle desperation can lead to victories on the court and off! Here’s a quick checklist of DESPERATE Situations in Practice. Celebrate when your team pulls off the Duke play, instruct when they pull “a Webber,” and step in with integrity when tempted to compromise – remember, desperation can lead to better things!
LIFE – Invest now so you can deal with desperation.
Pick a card, any card – Finances? Parenting? Relationships? Car? House? Let’s take that one – owning a home. In this house, you will have trouble and unfortunately, with the housing market as it is, you can’t just dump it – believe me, Kara and I tried! Actually, we love our house and even though we tried to sell it in order to move to different coaching positions, we’ve been blessed with it, for better or worse. We’ve learned, though, that we have to make a lot of good decisions along the way to maintain the value of our house. If we put things off, if we cut corners, or if we ignore issues related to repairs and improvements, we won’t be able to use the investment the way we hope in a time of desperation. Desperation presents a variety of issues to deal with!
FAITH – Aren’t we all a little desperate?
Again, we really shouldn’t be surprised when desperation comes our way. Jesus told us that would happen (John 16:33) – but, He also told us “to take heart, I have overcome the world!” What a comfort to know that even in our most desperate moments, when we’ve made mistakes in business or in a marriage, Jesus has already endured all of the trials we will know. And to top it off, He overcame them. Each of us can find comfort in that, even when we are at our lowest point of desperation. We can find the same comfort even at our death just as the thief on the cross did in Luke 23:
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
So, anticipate that desperate times will come. Communicate with the One in heaven who truly cares. Simulate & Replicate repeatedly the act of turning your feelings of desperation over to Him.