Question Everything; Especially Yourself

While I love reading and learning from other coaches I need to remember to question the things they teach. This was made evident to me when I was reading John Wooden's book "Wooden on Leadership."

In chapter 13 Seek Significant Change, Coach Wooden talks about being critical about his program so he could find improvements for his team. One of those things he found to be hurting the team was taking a democratic and egalitarian approach to the distribution of playing time amongst the team.

He wanted to give everyone a chance to play and sometimes that meant playing players who didn't provide the best chance to play the right way and/or win the game. Recognizing this, Coach Wooden decided that he would shorten the rotation to 7 primary players.

This way, he would be able to play his best players more, thereby giving the team the best shot at winning.

As I read this, I couldn't help but see the wisdom here. The more playing time your best players get, the better the results will be, presumably. Being a sophomore basketball coach I have always felt like I should be a little more egalitarian in my coaching as well. These kids are all paying to play on the team, they are all developing at different paces, and I want to provide them game playing opportunities to continue that development.

As I read Coach Wooden's book, however, I started to make plans to shorten my rotation to my top 7 or 8 players to give us the best shot at winning.

I brought this up with a friend and he had an interesting insight about it. He said he doesn't like tying himself down to a number of players in the rotation. Sometimes you have 8 or 9 guys who can play and help the team. Other times, you may only have 6 or 7 quality players. So why confine yourself to a set number of rotation players? Play whoever can help your team at the appropriate times.

If John Wooden were here to defend himself, he may push back on that and defend his 7 man rotation philosophy. Or he may recognize the wisdom of my friend, and maybe even admit that he did it the same way and the 7 man rotation he settled on was because of the personnel he had at the time.

The point I've taken from this little experience is that you need to think for yourself and question the philosophies and decisions of other coaches before buying in fully to their ideas. What if their philosophy will work for them but not for you and your team? Your players are completely different from Coach Wooden's players.

Know your personnel and adjust to that rather than just adopting new philosophies that may or may not work for your team. Overlay other philosophies over your own unique circumstances and judge which things you should adopt and which things should be tossed aside.

Even more than questioning others' ideas, we need to be questioning ourselves. Am I on the right track with my ideas? Criticize and poke holes in your own philosophy to find areas of weakness that need to be shored up. Without a critical eye toward oneself, you'll miss out on opportunities that otherwise wouldn't be visible by keeping the status quo.

This questioning requires the humility to admit when you are wrong and need to make a change. It also requires the courage and confidence to stick to your philosophy when the new idea doesn't make sense for your circumstances. It is a balancing act that requires great mental effort and input from a few trusted sources.

Your team has placed their trust in you, so question yourself and everything you hear. Your team is looking to you to make the best judgments possible. Get to know your people so you know when to make changes and when to stand pat.