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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

PLAYING TO A STANDARD

The following comes from the book "Toughness" by Jay Bilas.  It is an absolutely great read with important concepts for improving individual and collective toughness.  Jay does a great job of incorporating his experiences from his playing and coaching days at Duke along with what he has learned from other programs in his television job.  It is certainly a must read for coaches but I also feel it is a must read for players as well.  We will purchase copies for our team this spring and make it mandatory reading for our Aggies.

Those that read our blog on a consistent basis know of our belief in being process oriented over result oriented.  Duke's Mike Krzyzewski believes the same and Bilas shares some of Coach K's thoughts in that regard here:

Krzyzewski doesn't allow the final result to mask the important lessons, positive and negative, of the game or practice.  "I don't care if you hit the last shot to win it; it doesn't erase the plays before it."  Krzyzewski said, "You still need to evaluate exactly how things are and not be fooled by the final result.  You can't let wins and losses totally define the quality of performance and your progress, or whether you have met your standards.

Successful players and teams don't just appraise themselves by records or statistics, but by a standard of excellence that goes beyond a final score.  Self-evaluation takes honesty, and the the toughest teams and players do not con themselves.  When I was playing for Coach K, he was often hard on us after a win than after a loss.  He would identify areas of concern for our team and for individuals as "slippage' from our standards, and he was quick to point out that a lesser performance might have beaten our last opponent, but it would not beat the best teams coming up in the future.

We weren't just playing against an opponent' we were playing to a standard.  Coach K expected us to give championship effort in every minute of every game, and in every drill in every practice.  Even if we were ahead by thirty points and just mopping up, there was no such tings as "garbage time" for Coach K.  Every minute of playing time was earned, and it was to be valued.  And if we were down, Coach K expected his players to fight to the last possession and play through the buzzer to the highest standard.

Even though we would never play the perfect game, we strove to play perfectly, and give perfect effort.

I have never heard Coach K say, "A win is a win."  He simply doesn't look at it that way.  If we played poorly in a win, he was upset by the standard of play, and it could feel like we had lost the game.  The environment around practice after such a performance was just like a loss.  And in a very real way, it was: It was a lost opportunity.  As a team and individuals, we moved on to the next thing, but we examined exactly where we were, where our deficiencies were, and took measures to correct our mistakes and improve as individuals and as a team.

It is difficult not to be blinded by the bright lights of victory.  But tough teams and tough people aren't fooled by winning, rather are still able to clearly evaluate areas of improvement, and never lose sight of their standards.  It is much easier to take a hard, objective look at yourself after a loss than after a win.  Winning masks a lot of problems and allows a lot of people to cheat themselves.  In order to effectively address potential problems or issues, you need to confront them early.  You need to do so while winning, and not wait for a crisis.  Winning or having success can make you feel satisfied and complacent.