Lessons Learned from Losing

David CoachingIt was twenty five years ago and now I can appreciate the valuable lessons from coaching a losing season.

  • The only game we won was a forfeit. Unexpected things happen even when you have a plan.
  • One of my starters consistently bowled 250+. Yes, I said bowl. (He was not all that good at basketball but a great bowler). My point guard was a 5’4, 125 lb. freshman had to compete against other juniors and seniors that outweighed him by 50 lbs. Another could dunk but fouled out often. All the x’s and o’s don’t work unless you have athletes to execute them.
  • Most kids on my team didn’t have parents that attended their games. Many came from broken homes with the exception of the principal’s kid who I had to sit for smoking pot and a horrible attitude. Parental support helps.
  • The more I was tough on them the more they seemed to shut down. I had to find a different way. There are multiple effective ways to meet an objective.
  • Because I love a run-n-gun offense doesn’t mean a team is capable to do the same. You have to work with what people you have and figure out what they can do well.
  • Second half of the season we learned how to play tough defense and walked the ball up the floor, throwing other teams off their game plan. We lost by 10 and 15 points, previously losing to the same teams by 40 and 50 points. Strategy over preference is often best.
  • I rarely sat a kid if he had a great attitude and was in shape. I could find a way to use him. Attitude and effort are two things athletes can control.
  • Pregame meals, tough practices and heavy ropes for late kids built relationships, accountability and trust. Teach things that transition into real-life.
  • Sitting around a dinner table with players was maybe the best part of building team comradery. Eating together helps build family.
  • Sometimes when you are struggling you have to focus on smaller segments of the game in order to keep positive. We focused on winning a quarter, even winning a 5 minute stretch. Celebrate little victories.
  • I never got use to losing. But witnessing some boys become better men made it all worth while. There is more to the game than the scoreboard.
  • I finally visited with each player and learned who they were as individuals. It taught me where they came from and what situations they were facing. Some kids were late because they had to ride a city bus and didn’t have a dependable ride from parents or friends. People’s stories matter.
  • Taking a kid home because he didn’t have a ride was a good thing. Dropping him off down the street from his actual house was odd, until he told me that a white dude in a new truck in my hood is either 5-0 (police approaching) or a drug dealer. He didn’t want either one associated with him, for mine or his safety. Eventually, I built a strong enough bond that he let me in his driveway and I got to meet his mom through the glass. It’s one home I never got inside, but we connected. Good relationships are earned.
  • I was inexperienced enough that I didn’t understand how to utilize a good assistant. Don’t miss what’s right under your nose.
  • I had the best assistant and manager a rookie coach could ask for. People that are good at their jobs are really nice to be around.
  • No amount of outside pressure from administration to win could change the fact that most kids by tenth grade went down the street to a bigger school to finish their sports. Some things are simply out of your control.
  • It was the first time as a player or coach that I had witnessed so much losing on a basketball floor. Winning is more fun than losing.
  • The long season struggle taught me the most about me and people. There is no success without struggle. Persevere.

What are some things you have learned in life from defeat or losing?




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