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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Embrace Adversity

Embrace Adversity…

“All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”-Walt Disney

After making it to the Final Four the prior year, we entered last season ranked #2 in Class 4A. We returned a senior-laden team, with seven guys playing their last year of high school basketball. The previous year we lost by 2 after holding a double-digit half-time lead, ending a very trying season. I say to this day that the things we had to endure as a team that year bonded us together. One of our team leaders had to sit out the entire first half of the season for disciplinary issues. (We have two areas of discipline that we focus on with our team. One is the discipline of our standards and the other is the discipline of hard work. The discipline of our standards deal with how our players conduct themselves off the court, and the discipline of hard work deal with how our players practice and play on the court.) We had over ¾ of our games where someone was sitting out due to discipline issues. We new we had the talent, but was not sure we had the discipline to be a great team. It was the adversity that the team faced that made us stronger as we moved down the stretch. We were a team that had an under .500% record (15-17) entering into the final four. I think after a very long trying season, our guys were satisfied with just getting to the final four. We faced one last shot of adversity of holding off a determined team, but we lost the battle.

We gave the guys two weeks off and we were back in the weight room preparing, with one goal in mind. We had a better spring and summer preparation than we did the previous year, and I always shared with the coaching staff that I was waiting to see how we would handle adversity. Again coming into the season, we had players who had to sit out games due to disciplinary issues, which included our two Senior leaders. One Coach asked me, “Is this the adversity you keep talking about?” I told him no because we had overcome as a team that adversity last year. I was looking for something that was going to test the very character of our team. As was the team that made it to the final four the previous year, again, we had a very talented team. It was the same talent that catapulted us to a #2 ranking in the state, which was our biggest challenge. We had scheduled a very difficult schedule for our team, yet I knew that from the difficult schedule, the adversity that we needed would not come from that schedule. During the regular season we went undefeated in our Area Play and we went undefeated at home during the regular season. We lost several games on the road, with key players having to sit out, yes due to disciplinary issues, and we also suffered an embarrassing lost in an out of state Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Other coaches on the coaching staff kept asking is this the adversity that you were looking for, and I still told them, “NO.”

On Senior Night, we were faced with a situation where several of our seniors decided to get haircuts that were not according to the standards that we live by. This was a very big issue because what they did, called for them to miss the game, because a player was not allowed to play with the type haircuts they got for senior night. I can’t begin to tell you the rift that this caused on the coaching staff. The final decision was to let them play, and they practically won that game on their own, with very little coaching. The coaching staff met the next day and ironed out some details and needless to say practice was not pleasant the days following Senior Night. Coaches asked me is this the adversity that I was looking for, and I told them not for the players but it was good for us as coaches. After looking over the situation, had we not allowed those senior guys to play on senior night, we would have lost that team and lost our season. (Not to mention the uproar not dressing the seniors on Senior Night would have caused)

We finished the regular season ranked #4 after being dropped out of the top 10 for several weeks. Entering the season we had 9 goals, and those were to:

1. Go Undefeated At Home
2. Win All Area Games
3. Host The Area Tournament by accomplishing Goal #2
4. Win The Area Tournament
5. Host Sub-Region by accomplishing Goal #4
6. Win Sub-Region Game (If you lose this game, your season is over)
7. Win the Regional Championship
8. Make It To The Final Four by accomplishing Goal #7
9. Win 4A State Championship.

As Area Play began we easily made it pass the first round. In the Championship Game we played one of the worst defensive games we had ever played. The opposing team shot over 50 free throws that game and we lost by one point for the first time on our home court that season. We stood there in our gym forced to watch the opposing team hoist the Area Championship Trophy in our own gym. After that game, I spoke to the team during or post-game talk that we had just faced the adversity that we needed to face as a team. We were unable to check off goals 4 and 5 on the goals sheet. We had to go on the road and win to continue our season. Going on the road and trying to end another team’s season in their gym, was not something we looked forward to doing. I shared with them that all our dreams could come to an end, just like that, if we try to rely on our talent alone to win the State Championship. The adversity that I was looking for was the kind that would challenge their talent level. Something that would make them see that they could not rely solely on their talent, but they had to rely on the discipline of hard work to win. We eventually had to beat this same team in the Regional Championship game to advance to the Final Four.

From that day until the State Championship game the discipline of hard work, and the focus needed to be champions was present. We ultimately won the state championship last season. Had we not had the right type of adversity for this team, I do not think we would have won. We needed that kick in the teeth at that time.

I am not wishing on any team adversity late in the season, but there is no way we can control the winds of adversity. Late-season adversity tests the true inner strength of a coach and the bond of a team. I have seen many teams fail to recover from late-season adversity, but with the right focus and plan of action, recovery is possible, and I do mean recovering to still accomplish your goals.

For a coach that may be reading this blog, I challenge you to embrace adversity throughout your season. I say embrace it because whether you want to deal with it or not, you will face some type of adversity. Maybe it is an injury to a star player, a multi-game losing streak, or losing a player to academic suspension, you will face adversity.

The following are some focal points to assist you when you are faced with adversity. This is not the “gospel” on how to handle adversity, but it gives you a map to navigate through the adversity.

1. Embrace the Adversity (Rosemarie Rossetti once said, ““Adversity precedes growth.” If you embrace the adversity you will embrace the growth of your team)
2. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of the adversity?” (Determine The Purpose of the adversity in scope to the total team. Knowing the purpose of something gives you strength to endure)
3. Don’t Let Them See You Sweat. (When adversity hits, all eyes will be on you, even if you are not ok, the team should never know. Have people in your life, maybe a mentor, or a peer coach, whom you can be vulnerable with)
4. Be Optimistic. (You must have the right attitude)
5. Re-Hash The Season Goals (Re-assure the team that the goals have not changed and the mission is still to complete the objective)
6. Limit-The Focus (Don’t let the problem overshadow the ultimate goals of the team)
7. Stay Consistent (Don’t drastically change how you relate to the team, stay consistent with them)
8. Don’t Quit (Give everything you have to your team to put them in a position to accomplish their goals and be successful)

I hope that this blog has helped you in some way. Every team faces adversity, and I hope that you have gained some kind of insight that will help you embrace the adversity of the up-coming season. Let’s Go!!!!!!

I would like to thank Coach DeForest for the opportunity to contribute to the blog. It is my prayer that I was able to help you on your journey.

Terry Drake is Assistant Coach of Ramsay High School in Birmingham AL. Lead Trainer of Pinnacle Basketball, a Basketball Skill Development Company.



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