When Your Game Smells

Have you or your team gone through a stretch where something is just off?  Maybe it’s the early season and players have not gelled or possibly your team is dealing with injuries or adjusting to a new style or players in new roles, but getting your game to where you want it to be can be a struggle.  As a player, have you hit a stretch where shots aren’t falling or you’re turning the ball over?  Sometimes, it just smells – like something’s rotten.  Ever been there?  How about in your life or in your relationship to God?  Do you ever feel that something is just off?  And more importantly, when it is, what do you do about it?


As our coaching staff walked off the court the other night after dropping our second conference game in two tries, our head coach said “I think I could handle it better if we were playing really well and just came up short, but we are so close without even playing well!”  Something is just not right.  We’re playing hard, we’re scoring above 80, and we are even or ahead in almost every statistic, yet we’ve lost on turnover margin, loose balls, and allowing paint touches.  It just doesn’t pass the smell test.  We need to snap out of it and dig ourselves out of a hole, which is not easy, but is definitely doable.  I’m not referring to a complete losing culture as discussed in The Stink of Losing in which an entire system needs to be overhauled, I just want to address that smell before it grows into a stink that can’t be eliminated.

Our plan to deal with the smell right now?

Stay the Course – In our scramble to prepare for upcoming opponents, our focus has become a little distracted.  It is far too easy to get caught up in what our scouting reports say, rather than focus on our overall plan for our team.  Game prep is important, but not at the expense of instilling our philosophy, especially with young players.  We have one senior who plays!

Focus on What We Can Control – Our effort and attitude are the most important things we can daily control.  I sense our team may be a little inconsistent with both, especially when it comes to defending and taking care of the ball in both games and practices.  Things would look, and smell, a lot differently if we did a better job with both.  We control our approach.  We control our willingness to focus.

Recommit to Core Values – It seems redundant, but we also must remind our staff and our team of the principles of play that we value most.  On defense, we have our set of Falcon Five which focuses on our five main objectives on defense, regardless of our opponents’ attack and personnel – we deny the paint, contest every shot, rebound the first shot, stop the ball, and prevent the corner 3.  And on offense, we strive for tempo, spacing, and sharing the ball.  Most of the smell we sense stems from losing sight of those values.

Celebrate the Good – And even if things don’t smell right, we are doing a lot of things well.  We have talented shooters who often bail out some of our bad decisions, a group that plays extremely hard, and incredible depth on our bench.  These will all pay off and can go a long way toward removing the smell.  We also have tremendous young men who have great chemistry and are a pleasure to be with each day at practice.  It is vital that we recognize the good and use it to get us back on track.  When things don’t smell right, it becomes so easy to ignore the good.

LIFE – Don’t Ignore Your Sense of Smell

I once had a friend who tragically after an extended illness, lost his sense of smell.  He literally could not smell anything.  Imagine experiencing that physically, but also symbolically in your life.

I can’t always put my finger on the cause, but I know I’ve gone through some times in my life when things just didn’t feel or smell right.  I know it has happened in relationships with friends or family, in some job situations, and certainly in my finances, but just like our approach on the court, I can’t ignore the smell.  The bad smell can serve as a wake-up call to get things on track.  If you can sense it, don’t ignore it.

FAITH – When Life Smells

I have often been moved and inspired by a relatively unknown prophet in the Bible named Habakkuk.  In fact, there is very little biographical information about him and his name appears once in his short little book, yet when I look at scripture I find him to be a voice that often reflects my own thoughts.  He openly questioned God about why He doesn’t do more about the injustices of this world (Habakukk 1),  but he also sets a beautiful example of how to handle life when something doesn’t smell right:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV)

I love those verses!  Habakkuk could say, “Everything in my life smells (dying crops, rotten fruit, dead animals), but I can be grateful, because the Lord is my Savior.  While there are certainly steps we can take to alleviate the smells in our life, the best thing we can do is to be thankful and trusting of the one who made us.  Want to find the good?  Even when life smells a little off, God still loves you.  He is with us and He has not abandoned us.

Our team’s play doesn’t quite smell right, but we have a hard-working tremendous group of young men.  We will find our way and God will be with us, win or lose.  Nothing like today to change the smell!