Can you feel the excitement?! With the big day on the horizon, our special Coach Will inspiration series continues as he and the team prepare for the game of the season:
POST THREE. BEST FRIENDS.
Coach Rich had to miss practice but he gave me a message to relay to the team. “Leave it all on the floor for your last game, starting today.” I loved it. It connected our practices to the final game that would decide our fate: Preparation for an event becoming a part of the event itself. Yes! Most of all, it held the promise of getting us to raise the intensity level in practice, which had yet to approach the level of an actual game. I started practice by relaying this message but I felt like they were just hearing words. I thought it was brilliantly simple. They thought it was simple. I was struggling to share the brilliance.
In these moments where I find myself flailing away to articulate something they think they already know, I feel my limitations as a leader, and sometimes I just have to eat it. But I was determined, so we went over what “leaving it on the floor” means...
This discussion basically amounted to Brian shouting, "Try really hard!" and others occasionally chiming in with other cliche's. I finally asked them what the pronoun "it" referred to, in the phrase "leave it on the floor." The best we could do was comparing the phrase to "not leaving any gas in the tank." I ate it. We moved on.
I announced the theme of today’s practice: "Best Friends." I told them that whenever they impress me as basketball players, it’s in a game, and that is a problem. The other team brings out the best in them, but they need to work on bringing out the best in each other. So many of the guys are friends, and they'll reach an unspoken agreement to help make each other look good. I said this wasn't doing each other any favors. The idea was that to be your teammates “best friend” in practice doesn’t mean you go easy on him- it means the exact opposite. Only then will they turn their potential into skill, only then will they improve. I always tell them that the only way to get better is to play people better than they are. They don’t do that enough, so I needed them to start being better, for each other. In practice: best friend means toughest opponent.
This seemed to get through, and there were even some head nods and grunts during my metaphor-heavy diatribe. As I moved them through every drill, it looked to me like they felt they were battling harder-- and they were. But an hour and a half into practice, the intensity level still wasn’t anywhere near where I knew it could be. They seemed all too satisfied, and I just couldn't let them kid themselves. I announced that we were having a one-on-one competition. I said they had five minutes to get some shots up and work on their moves. I told them to use the five minutes wisely, because I was participating in the competition, and I was about to be the best friend they’ve ever had.