Don’t Put Them In A Box…
they are already there, you need to help them out.
I am responsible for one of the all-time dumbest “coaching” moves. Yes, “coaching” is in quotes because it wasn’t real coaching, it was a young, over-eager coach thinking he was coaching, pretending like he knew what he was doing, and following some script based on what he thought a real coach would do in that moment. If Pinocchio wanted to be a real boy, I was the Pinocchio of coaching at the time, and I hoped that my actions would make me a real coach.
We had a freshman point guard who had only recently arrived to start not only her college basketball career, but her next step in her education, and an entirely new phase in her life. Just like many college freshmen, she was nervous and unsure of herself, trying to figure out where she fit in on our team, and wrestling with the questions that start to stir up inside of us when we attempt to take on new challenges.
I had worked with her some during pre-season workouts, so I knew that she was a good player, and I was excited about the maturity she had displayed during our conversations in the recruiting process. She was going to be our backup point guard, and we had already started working with her to define her unique role in our system. She had a chance to be a good player and really grow with us during her college career.
On picture day, our kids got all dressed up in their new uniforms, and because we were coaching a women’s team, they did their makeup and fixed their hair so that it was perfect for the picture. There was a lot of energy and excitement in the gym. We hadn’t really practiced as a team very much up to that point, so this was one of the first times we had all been together in an official, “the season is really here” capacity.
Katie, our freshman point guard, was one of the last to take her picture. She hung around behind everyone else, because, come to find out, she was embarrassed to have her picture made in front of people, so she tried to wait until everyone else was gone. That particular year, we were doing video shots of our players, so we had asked them to do something fancy, like spin the ball on their finger, or dribble between their legs. Katie spent the whole time looking and feeling awkward, as I stood to the side stewing about her actions.
You see, this is not how a point guard was supposed to behave. She was SUPPOSED to be a leader, and SUPPOSED to be outgoing and confident, and if she was going to be a point guard and meet our expectations she should have been in the front of the line, setting the tone, being the example for everyone else. Nevermind the fact that she came in with a huge freshman class to a well established team and that she was easily embarrassed while taking pictures, while dealing with many other things. And I, being a great coach and motivator, brought her into my office after the pictures were over and told her as much. Not exactly like that, but pretty close. Because that’s what coaches do, right? Now, she didn’t understand, and she tried to explain herself to me (nervous, uncomfortable, embarrassed, new…excuses!) but that’s just because she is the player and I’m the coach. So to help her understand, I just stated my point again, more forcefully, and told her to think about trying to do what I’d said.
The kid quit at the end of the year and didin’t play basketball again.
Really and truly, I don’t believe that I was the sole reason, or maybe any reason that she quit, she had other ambitions for her life. BUT, I didn’t help her have a great experience for her time with us, and I certainly didn’t help with her overall development. Because I put her in a box. I viewed her as a point guard, that should exhibit certain behaviors, say certain things, portray herself a certain way. I boxed her in. I decided, based on very limited interaction, that she WAS a certain way, and that she NEEDED to be a certain different way. Despite the things that I had known about her after recruiting her and working her out, I boxed her in based on a 20 minute situation. I decided who she wasn’t, in other words. She wasn’t a point guard, or a leader, because of A, B, and C.
The truth is, Katie was already in a box. And that wasn’t a bad thing, necessarily, just her reality. Katie was dealing with her own things, and working out her own stuff, and more relevant, she had a view of herself that contributed to her embarrassment, lack of self-confidence, and desire to portray a certain image to others. Rather than continuing to find boxes that she fit into, and ways that she needed to be different, as a true coach, I should have been helping her figure out ways to get out of the box that she was already in.
Our conversations, and my focus, should have centered on speaking truth to her, about who she was and who she was capable of being. I should have focused on her strengths, helping her see them, and highlighting them so that she could see what was great about her. I should have, once a relationship was established and she invited me in, THEN challenged her (but lovingly, not from a place of me wanting to help the team) to push herself beyond those self imposed limits that were holding her back.
I should have been helping her out of her box, not putting her in mine.
Many people are already in a box of their own design. I encourage you not to add to it by judging them and putting them in yours too. Help them find a way out of theirs.