Mike Krzyzewski with Jamie K. Spatola. The Gold Standard: Building a World Class Team. New York. Business Plus, 2009. 256 pp. $25.99
Some of the books on my book pile have sat there for a while. Others I’ve read or skimmed, but I hope to return to them again. A few of them, though, are books like Coach K’s, “The Gold Standard” that I return to regularly. Like most coaches, I have a supply of books, clinic notes, and videos from Coach K, but this book is special and it relates well beyond basketball into business and life. I suspect that many of you involved in basketball may have already read it, but I’m going to recommend it again! While the book follows Krzyzewski’s three-year plan to lead the USA Basketball team to the gold medal platform in Beijing, Coach K weaves his philosophy of building a winning team. And one message that comes through loud and clear, but goes against our “make it happen, NOW” society is that it takes time. Time captured in moments – some small, some planned, and some spontaneous, but building a winner, always takes time.
BASKETBALL – Rebuilding the Dream Team
A team is a collection of individuals and blending those individuals, each with their own experiences, style of play, and way of thinking is the challenge for any coach. Krzyzewski, though, had to mold this team in the midst of national scrutiny and pressure to not only return the gold medal to the US, but rebuild the image of a sport founded and developed in our country. That didn’t happen just because the twelve NBA superstars selected to the team were wearing uniforms with the same name. As Coach K recounts his experiences, he encourages each of us to grasp the moments of time required to set championship standards for any team. I’ve summarized his moments in these Book Notes for The Gold Standard. As my team’s season reaches its conclusion, the one aspect of time outlined by Krzyzewski that caught my eye first is the need to take time to build quality and trusting relationships within the team.
A team by its very nature is a tapestry of relationships with each being vital to the effectiveness of the team. The quality of relationships often determines success on the scoreboard, but more importantly sets the tone for every member of the team to grow and change through their team experience. Coach K and his NBA stars could have taken a laid back approach and simply shown up, but they went far beyond that. They focused on their relationships to inspire the seeds of greatness. Each of us in our team experiences have the same opportunity.
LIFE – Take time for relationships.
As much as I hope to encourage, entertain, and challenge those of you who’ve been reading 3 Point Wisdom, you may see some patterns in what I write. Like many of you, I need to hear some of the same messages over and over. This is one of them. Coach K talks about taking the time to build relationships. In fact, he writes that it’s one of the most important factors in coaching, yet too often as a coach, I find myself getting more caught up in the numbers, or the practice plan, or upcoming opponents and forget to take the time to focus on relating to players.
As a parent, I’ve seen the other side of this as well with the coaches my kids have been involved with. It’s rare to find coaches who take the time to truly get to know my kids as people and to understand their perspectives, fears, and goals. Even some of the finest people I know, many of whom volunteer or coach for nominal pay, neglect the importance of developing relationships with players. Too often, this vital part of coaching is pushed aside by game strategy and physical skill development or just the logistics of running a team, but it leaves me with the same question – “Why are you coaching?” Yes, you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some, so why not focus on impacting lives? Taking the time for meaningful talk with a young person can produce long-lasting results. It’s too great of an opportunity to pass up!
FAITH – Time for relationships with other believers.
Off the court, outside of my wife and kids, meaningful relationships have always been a challenge for me and I find myself falling into the trap Satan sets for us. His mission is to confuse us and separate us from God. On the one hand, my heart longs to focus on my relationship with God and at times, even to the point of separating myself from other people. I often reason, how can I relate to other people if I am not in step with God? And that’s when I fall into the trap. I get confused about what this life is all about. God expects me to focus on my relationship with Him, but He also desires that I interact with others, especially other Christians.
“Encourage one another daily … so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV)
It may be to influence others, but more often than not, it’s to allow God to influence me through them. That’s why relationships are important. Satan’s lie is to tell me that it’s all about me. That’s the trap – just like so many coaches fall into the trap of neglecting relationships for the sake of wins and losses. Taking the time to focus on relationships is not easy. It takes time, sacrifice, energy, and a willingness to minister and be to be ministered to, but for each of us it’s well worth it!