Revisting Blind Spots

As our team struggles through a rough start to our season, we are having difficulty establishing some of our core principles with a new group. For some reason, it has been difficult to help our players be more aware of what is happening to them on the court. It drew me back to a topic we discussed in the past and thought it was worth taking a second look!

My only chance to see Magic Johnson play in person was from the upper deck of the Summit in Houston against the Rockets in 1985.  It turned out to be a perfect view of his ability to see things that no one else could see! Check out this NBA video:

Observers would say that Magic seemed to have eyes in the back of his head, but like any player he had some flaws or blind spots – those weaknesses or habits that were difficult to see in himself.  The good news is that while even the great players have blind spots, if you’re willing to stick with it, most of us can do something about our blind spots.  In fact, living in a world in which so many changes occur in rapid fashion, we have to learn to deal with our blind spots.  Thankfully, God gives us wisdom for just that!

BASKETBALL – What’s your blind spot?

Few of Johnson’s observers report flaws in his game, but it can be pointed out that Johnson’s perimeter shot was inconsistent and his impatience with teammates could often get the best of him.  More widely reported, though, were his blind spots off the court as his self-admitted promiscuity led to his battle with the HIV virus.  To his credit, he’s used the consequences of his blind spot to be a major voice in educating society about responsible life-styles.

I confess that I have so many blind spots as a coach, I need corrective lenses to evaluate myself!  One of my blind spots, something I fail to see, is my tendency to lose my patience when teaching a new offense or set play.  I think I’m getting better.  I take questions and I re-explain, but when players make the same errors over and over, I tend to get short.  I lose my patience.  On the flip side, I encounter players every year who have similar blind spots – not using their weak hand, hugging their man on the weak side, over-dribbling in the paint, and rushing on the FT line.   No matter how many times an issue is addressed, some players repeat the same mistakes.  They seem incapable of seeing and correcting a weakness they may have.  In our system, we teach an unselfish style of offense based on doing whatever you can to help your teammates score.  By doing that, we hope to utilize the unique strengths of all of our players.  Each year, we have a player or two who really struggles with seeing that his style of play is selfish.  Helping players through that is one of my favorite rewards in coaching!

LIFE – We each have our own blind spots.

Think you’re immune to blind spots?   Psychologists have studied our tendency toward blind spots as shown by this fun test:

Judith Glaser helps CEOs of major companies consider the strategies involved in competitive markets.  In her article “Blind Spots – A Wake-Up call to Reality” she shows us that there are seven common blind spots:

  1. Denial of Reality Feeling so strong about our own beliefs that we deny the beliefs of others, or deny facts right in front of our eyes.
  2. Control Seeing ourselves as being more responsible for things than we actually are, or having more control over things and events than we truly do.
  3. Made-Up Memories Making decisions based on memories that did not happen. Often we confuse our imaginations, or our dreams, with reality.
  4. Reality Distortions Distorting reality to conform to preconceptions.
  5. Know it All Thinking that we know more than what we really do. (We simply don’t know what we don’t know.)
  6. Listening Only to Validate What We Know –  Failure to listen to others.
  7. Undervaluing What We Do Know Listening too much to others, and allowing others’ beliefs to talk us out of our beliefs.

So, I guess there’s more to these blind spots that we may have thought!  What are yours?  Do  things in your life prevent you from seeing reality?  For many of us, coming to grips with these blind spots is the only way we can learn to see and deal with reality. Check that list again.

FAITH – God has a way to help you with your blind spots.

Earlier in my coaching career, one of my blind spots involved letting coaching become an idol in my life.  At times, I was so wrapped up in my identity as a coach that it took priority over my marriage, my growing family, and my faith walk. Even though I felt called to coaching as a ministry, it became an idol in my life.  One of the things missing in my life while I was moving in the world of Division I coaching was having true, reliable friends who understood the demands of coaching, but also the responsibilities of being a Christian husband and father.  I went several years without having any colleagues with similar circumstances and my blind spot was not seeing how important that was for my accountability as a Christian.  That’s why God tells us that we don’t need to go it alone.  He is with us and through his word He reveals our blind spots, but he also encourages us to share our burdens:

 Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively.  If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him. (Eccl. 4:9-10 GN)

Coaches and teammates can help a player see his blind spots.  A trusted college advisor can help students see weaknesses and a loving spouse can help a father overcome mistakes.  That’s how God created us – so, who helps you with your blind spots?


Pour Yourself Into A Teammate



Last week I wrote about the RUC attitudes we are instilling in our basketball team, with the U being unselfishness.  It’s not an easy attitude to develop, but recently I came upon a terrific story about former NBA all-star Chauncey Billups that demonstrates the power of unselfishness between teammates, while at the same time I uncovered a similar example from some reading I had been doing about the Church Reformation of the Middle Ages.  This week the Protestant Church celebrates the 500th anniversary of the movement that has directly impacted our Christian faith.  I spent time digging deeper into some of the ideas and history that have greatly impacted my own personal journey.  Martin Luther has a similar story to Chauncey Billups about the unselfishness of teammates, so let’s take a closer look at how their examples can help each of us. Continue reading


2017 NBA Playoffs: The Attitude of Monks

I listened to a recent Hardwood Hustle podcast on analytics during which Steve Shea from Shot Tracker discussed his study on whether teams with balanced scorers were more successful than teams with one or two dominant scorers.  I thought I knew the obvious answer, mostly because it lines up more with my “ball view” of unselfish team basketball, but did a double take as Shea mentioned that the teams with superstar scorers often win more than teams with total balance.  I’m going to ponder that for a while – after all a coach can always keep learning new ideas – but as I watched the Spurs dispatch the James Harden-led Rockets, I remain skeptical and once again, I have to give Pop (San Antonio Head Coach Gregg Popovich) his props.  The man can coach and he certainly knows how to build a culture of team unselfishness.  It’s an attitude similar to Christian monks and has relevance for each of us.

BASKETBALL – Team Culture

San Antonio lost veteran leader Tony Parker in Game 2 and then lost MVP candidate and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard near the end of a tight Game 5, but found a way to collectively persevere against the Rockets to win in overtime and then completely ran away with Game 6 to win the series. Houston had “do-everything” Harden who did nothing, while San Antonio had reserves, aging veterans, and a unified team approach that methodically dismantled the full throttle offense of the Rockets.  The Spurs overcame losing Parker and Leonard with unheralded Dejounte Murray and Jonathon Simmons posting off-the-chart plus-minus stats, a slow-footed Paul Gasol protecting the rim against Houston’s relentless drives, and the aging Manu Ginobli taking over in crunch time of Game 5 – all made possible by Pop’s team culture (Fox Business outlined four aspects of Pop’s culture).  While he takes heat for resting players in February, his bench players solidify their roles.  While he’s considered crotchety with the media, his players learn from his example of caring for them and showing interest in their lives.  And while the Spurs strictly adhere to the discipline of his system or face his wrath, Pop listens to and invites their observations and input. (Read more in The Business Insider and take a look at Pop speaking at a clinic on The Spurs Philosophy).

For most of us, the image of a monk conjures up images of a solitary, lonesome figure living a highly sacrificial and penitential life.  But the Spurs players are like monks in that not only are they disciplined, but they know their roles because Pop has simplified it.  The monk’s life is simple – depend on God.  For the Spurs, their simplified rules are to work hard to care for and support each other, placing the focus on their teammates rather than on themselves.  While they hold each other accountable, they don’t expect teammates to carry their load or do things they cannot do.  The Spurs keep it simple and because they care about each other and know that their coach cares about them, they do all they can to help and support each other.  They know it’s not about “me.”  It’s about the team.

LIFE – Marriage Expectations

I actually read the idea of having a monk’s attitude in a devotion from Gary Thomas about marriage.  How much better would my marriage be if I didn’t place unrealistic expectations on my wife to meet all of my needs? Wait a minute, isn’t that what marriage is all about – meeting each other’s needs and expectations?  In strong marriages spouses know exactly what each other needs even without them saying anything, right?  Uh, no, it’s not.  While the goal of the Spurs is admirable, it’s not completely possible.  No one can meet expectations – none of us.  In basketball, in marriage, and in this life each of us fails.  The only one who can truly meet all of my needs and truly love me is God.  And, that’s not a knock on my wife.  It’s simply a reminder that I shouldn’t place unrealistic expectations and my burdens on her.   But what I can do is accept God’s perfect love for me and allow it to help me serve her and support her as best as I humanly can.  Rather than resent her when she doesn’t respond as I would want, I can be overwhelmed by every act of love she expresses.  A monk’s attitude in marriage expects nothing, depends on God for everything, and is sincerely grateful for whatever a spouse chooses to share. And as a result, one is free to focus on the other person rather than one’s self.  Just imagine how that can improve a marriage!

FAITH – A Monk’s Attitude

I continue to see God working in my life through what I learn through basketball.  If my life, as a coach, teammate, husband, and father needs to be validated by others, I will be continually disappointed.  Some may say that is pessimistic, but why would I expect others to do things we as mere humans are incapable of doing?  We cannot rely on and expect that other people will validate our purpose and existence,  Last year I shared a bit about Robert McGee’s classic book, The Search for Significance, as we considered Damian Lillard and the Search for Respect.  A major takeaway that has stuck with me is the concept that we should never put complete faith and expectations in other people because they will only let us down.  And when we do, we give all the power to other people – spouses, teammates, and colleagues – to direct our outlook in life.  Why would we do that?  Only God can meet those expectations:

Don’t put your confidence in powerful people;
    there is no help for you there.  (Psalm 146:3 NLT)

I don’t want to run off to a monastery and I don’t want to teach players to live solitary lives, but I do think we could all use a little more monk in our attitudes – depend on God to meet your needs and lighten up our expectations for others by getting the focus off ourselves and putting the focus into showing appreciation for God’s love for us by how we treat each others.  It’s starts with me, but it can’t be about me.