Handling Off the Court Mistakes



Every season brings its share of challenges off the court, for ANY team.  Honestly, was it just me or did there seem to be a dramatic rise this year in the number of college football players suspended from playing in their team’s bowl game?  Academic issues, team policies, criminal complaints, and alcohol and drug issues seem to be happening more and more.  All of us in college athletics, coaches and players, have to deal with the effects – either because it affects the bottom line of winning or it allows for transformational growth in young people.  If you’re interested in the latter, keep reading!  And if you’re not, maybe you should reconsider?

BASKETBALL – Responding to Mistakes

Inside Out CoachingI realize I’m not breaking new ground here, but in a continual search for coaching wisdom, I wanted to share a few observations with you about how players often respond to their own mistakes.  Joe Ehrmann’s message of Transformational Coaching impacts me on a daily basis.  For me the days of coaching as a transaction in which players do something, good or bad, for a coach are long gone.  That’s not why I coach.  My objective is to help transform players as they grow through the game.  Mistakes, on the court and off, are opportunities.  It goes deeper than the headline-grabbing mistakes that are spelled out repeatedly in the media, and it occurs in what often appear to be common and what some would call trivial mistakes.  It’s amazing, though, how routinely players respond in one of two ways to their own mistakes.  They either choose the A route or the C route.

The A route happens when players Admit, Adjust, and Accelerate.  For example, a player breaks a rule in the dorms.  He chooses the A route when he immediately admits his mistake and communicates with his coach or campus officials, while ultimately accepting the consequence of his decision.  He then considers the factors that led to his mistake – social pressures, emotions, or others, and adjusts his future decisions.  From there, it’s a simple matter of growing and learning as he accelerates beyond the mistake – not forgetting it or sweeping it aside, but using it to positively grow in character.  I love that and I see examples of it every year!

Steve FischerThe C route seems to be happening more and more when players Complain, Confuse, and Continue.  I’ve seen this happen with the simple act of showing respect for coaches and teammates being on time, prepared, and focused for practice.  It begins when a player complains, often about being singled out – even in private!  It may be about playing time or the demands of practice or classes, but it usually involves some type of “victim” speech.  Complaints lead to the player confusing the issue by blaming other people or attempting to explain away his mistake even to the point of completely changing the focus of the issue.  Sadly, the inevitable conclusion is continuing the behavior.  Nothing changes.  The player keeps making the same mistakes and the cycle continues.  They complain, confuse, and continue.

Again, nothing new here and no solutions from me, other than to encourage you to ask the question of yourself “Do I follow the A route or the C route?” and to remind you that frequently you’ll choose the same route in the rest of your life.

 LIFE – The C’s lead to complacency.

Too often, I find myself slipping into the C route.  It’s far too easy to rationalize my mistakes by complaining about other people or about my circumstances.  Most of us do that.  Rather than admit our faults, we’d rather complain about everything else, which leads to confusing the issue.  My mistake of not confronting a problem in my job is not caused by the values and character of my boss or my co-worker. That just confuses the issue and if I’m not careful, that confusion leads me to throw my hands up and do nothing.  That’s complacency.  Rather than learn and grow through adjustments, we settle for staying in the rut.  By the way, I don’t normally make political statements, but wouldn’t it be nice if our government officials would stop choosing the C route?

FAITH – God’s advice.

God gives us the A route in his Word.  He lays it out simply and clearly.  In all areas of your life, avoid complacency.  Learn from your mistakes:

“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
 since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.” (Proverbs 1:28-33)

The easy, foolish thing to do when we make mistakes is to be complacent, but that’s not God’s way.  Use your mistakes to grow and use God’s Word as your guide.

For those of us in basketball remember as well, how you handle off the court mistakes is usually how you handle mistakes when you’re playing.  Some players may be able to separate the two for a while, but the pressure of games reveals the character of person. Complacency in your life will reveal complacency in your play. Choose the A route!