An assist in basketball is a coveted statistic. Players, coaches, and fans look to the assist as a selfless act of helping a teammate score. John Stockton, the NBA career assist leader, is revered for his ability to make plays – but if the assist is so coveted a statistic, doesn’t its counterpart, the turnover, tell us just as much? Yet, many times we excuse turnovers or rationalize them. Consider that Magic Johnson’s high turnovers were often rationalized by fans as they loved his creativity and flair for the dramatic and that coaches advocating an up-tempo style can be heard telling their point guard who fires the ball over the head of a sprinting teammate, “Good look!” Let’s face it. It’s still a turnover and it’s still a possession lost. Today, 3 Point Wisdom takes a closer look at who’s responsible for turnovers and how it applies to our daily lives.
BASKETBALL – Whose turnover is it?
It’s interesting that while John Stockton was dishing out over 15,000 assists, his teammate, Karl Malone, was racking up the NBA record of 4,524 turnovers! With Malone’s physical style of play, a number of his turnovers were most likely illegal screens and charges, but I’m sure a few of them were passes that Stockton misconnected on. You see, turnovers related to passing are often given to the wrong player and it’s often the decision of the statistician working the game. As a coach, turnovers are one of the stats I look at first and usually the accuracy of who was credited with the turnover is debated by our staff. Frequently, the passer is the unrecognized culprit!
To limit passing turnovers, it’s important to understand the possible causes and as a coach, address those things you can control. Possibilities include the passer’s technique, decision-making, mis-reading the defense, environmental pressures, performance pressures, and lastly, the play of your opponent. Not all of it is under your control, but some of it is. For example, completing a backdoor pass as outlined in a previous article, Going Through the Backdoor, requires the passer to see helpside defenders and not lead the receiver into a difficult situation. So many times I hear comments like “Great pass!” when even though the pass got through, the receiver could do nothing with the ball but turn it over. Whose fault is the turnover? If you’re concerned with that kind of turnover, you have to address it.
LIFE – What’s your assist to turnover ratio?
I’m spending my summer working with a collegiate baseball franchise and I work closely with a staff of operation interns looking to break into the world of sport management. On a nightly basis, after work plans are the hot topic among this twenty-something group and usually involves where the night’s drinking activities will be and I routinely turn down their invitations to join in.
Recently, one of them decided to ask me more about it. Without preaching too much, I told him that early in my coaching career, my having a few drinks in a restaurant after a game became gossip fodder for the high school athletes I was coaching. I made a decision at that point to steer clear of any misinterpreted messages I may be sending. At that time, it was about underage drinking, but with college students and young professionals, it has become an important message of moderation and responsibility. Our cultures, be it family, corporate, sports, college, or even church, place many expectations on us that can lead to our own personal turnovers. I want young people to see from me that you don’t have to submit to cultural expectations about alcohol (see Good Decision Foes: Alcohol). If just one of them thinks about my example or my opinion, it will be a positive statistic just like an assist; and in the same way, if I condone their actions or ignore it and they make a mistake, aren’t I somewhat responsible for that turnover? Even though I’m not responsible for the actions of others, I realize my assist to turnover ratio leaves a vital impression and I’m tired of negative cultural influences!
FAITH – God wants us to take responsibility for our turnovers.
Each of us is responsible for our own actions, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, our own faith. And Paul reminds us that we should do all we can to leave a positive influence on others:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)
You see, God knows that, even though somebody else stumbles, your action, or inaction, may have contributed to that stumble. 1 Peter 4:1-6 shows us that even the small decision to go to a party or to condone excessive drinking is often outside of God’s will. That’s a place you don’t want to be! And, you don’t get a pass for being young. You’re still expected to be a positive influence:
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
So, to my young friends, clean up the turnovers, whether they’re yours or not! And to people of my generation, always remember that the ones coming behind you are watching.
Dig deeper! My thoughts on this subject were clarified by two interesting articles: Beer & The Pulpit and Where in the Bible Does It Say Pastors Can’t Drink Beer? (Just substitute Christian Coach for Pastor and you’ll understand where I’m coming from!)