By Peter Pollock, Basketball Queensland Coach Development Manager
Coaching can be a tough task sometimes! It’s a competitive environment that requires a lot of time and resources into preparing your team and your players. Whether it be for a contest over the course of a season, selection trials, cutting players, goal setting, season planning, planning team sessions, evaluating players, planning individual sessions, reviewing games, tagging videos, analysing statistics, player meetings, team meetings, and more!
Games can get tight and tense! Decisions or actions made by players, coaches and referees can have a major bearing on the outcome of a game. The larger the importance of a game, the more magnified those decisions or actions seem to be! Given the investment in time and energy, you and your team have put in, sometimes it can be easy to lose perspective and see a referee’s call as an absolute factor in the outcome of the game and perhaps your season. We see it all too often and am willing to admit I have been on that slippery path more than once.
Here are a few factors to consider if you find yourself going down that path as a coach:
Firstly, take a step back and review what is important in evaluating your success as a coach and what your goal is for the season. Is it just about winning? Quite often you will simply not have the most talented or experienced players in your team. Is it just about improvement? The win-loss column would help you in determining your improvement, but by no means is it the defining measure. Winning is more the macro reflection of all the micro improvements. Is yours a S.M.A.R.T goal? (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely).
Specific – If your expectations are vague, based on the macro (win/loss) and not the micro (improvement in skills, teamwork & decision making), then you are more likely to look at a referee’s decisions as the defining moments affecting your success.
Measured – If you have measured your performances over the season you are more likely to recognise that turnovers or some other aspect of the game is more of a problem than a referee’s call.
Achievable – If your expectation is beyond what is achievable then you are more likely to see factors that are outside your control.
Relevant – If your goals are not relevant to your own skills as a coach you may need to learn more about the game so that you realize why the game result does not hinge on a referee’s call.
Timely – If all your micro goals have an “achieved by date”, then you would understand that you have done everything you could, to help your team be successful and that a referee’s call does not carry much weight.
Secondly, take the time to reflect on how many errors you and each one of your players have committed, not only through game but through the whole season. Ask your self how many times you have not made yourself and your players accountable for those missed shots, those turnovers, those missed boxouts, those poor shots that lead to runouts and layups, those missed substitutions or timeouts and then stack them up against the one or two calls in a game that referees are usually held accountable for in a game. Now ask yourself, “Is that fair?” and “Which process can influence the outcome of a game the most?” I am guessing a couple of calls might cost you 4 to 6 points on the scoreboard but missed boxouts, turnovers or letting your best player foul out because of a missed substitution or not holding him accountable for his poor defensive technique will cost you a whole lot more on the scoreboard.
After these considerations, if you can see the game from a different perspective you will realize that you and your players have far more control over the outcome of the game then a referee’s call. As a result, you will be a calmer, in the zone, game time and bigtime performer, as a coach. From this perspective, you are far more likely to have a conversation with the referee in the manner, at the right time and place. Your conversations will build relationships. It could be, nurturing and being supportive of a green shirt or a young referee at their first state championship or the calming nod from an experience QBL referee when your emotions take over on a call.
Master your craft, to avoid the slippery path and try not to fall over! When you do fall, learn from it! Look inwards at the things you can control, there is much more room for improvement when you do! And you might just win some more games in the process!