• Jack Fleming

False Badges of Honour in Coaching

There are a lot of things we tend to brag about as coaches, whether deliberately or not - that are not worth bragging about. The common things that are from generations of coach behaviour, which we may or may not be aware of.


I find myself stuck in these traps often - especially when the power of the group takes over.


1. Ripping Shreds off a Player or Team

We often hear the coach standing in front of his coaching colleagues, explaining how she or he let their team have it - saying all sorts of demeaning things to their group.


While maybe you felt like it at the time - and their standard was not to scratch, was it worth it? Furthermore by talking about it to others as a badge of honour, we are enabling that behaviour to young and upcoming coaches.


Do we make mistakes? Yes. Do we get lost in our emotions? Yes.


Is Tom Izzo still an amazing coach? Yes.


But maybe next time we could consider, talking about alternative options that might have a longer lasting impact on behaviour change of our team. Maybe if we do so, we return and apologise to that group of team members for our emotional response.


How will we best create transformational change for the better of young people, while maintaining high standards.


2. Getting no sleep

In every culture of ambition and a competitive environment, our biggest fear can be that we're seen as lazy or not doing the work. Grinding. Putting in the hours. Well it's one of mine anyway.


I see that image of Erik Spoelstra in front of that old desktop in the Miami Heat video room, and often think that we should be up til 2am and and back at it at 6 so we can tell everybody how great we are.


We look weary eyed, blood and shot and purple bags around eyes. Woo hoo. Now the possibility of making mental errors or responding emotionally are even higher. Decision making ability goes down.


Consolidation of memory and learnings are reduced, so all that work we are putting in is going out the other end. Yet that's supposed to be great thing?


What are your strict boundaries or rules that you have in your life?


7 and a half hours in bed is my prime amount. I do my best work in the morning, therefore the earlier bed time suits me best. I have no shame in that, not staying up until 1-2 in the morning.


What's your prime time? You are not a super human, running or 4-5 hours a night is not getting you places. Yes there are grind periods, no question.


Simon Turner from MVMT Sports asked us to list 3 things we can do to recover our energy or emotions after a game or practice. What are yours? Here are mine:

  1. Review - get my thoughts out on paper, journal. Then flush the mind before bed.

  2. Walk - 10 to 15 minutes in the sunlight.

  3. Call somebody - get your thoughts out of your head, let somebody reflect them back or offer a more balanced view.


3. Seeing the Imperfections in Every Coach

As I sit up in the stands watching our U18's Australian Junior Championships last week, there is often a tendency as coaches to sit around and discuss the 'mistakes' on the bench on the other side.



It's extremely easy to to be critical when you have no context of the chemistry and interactions within the group 24/7, or inside the mind of the Head Coach. Especially with a bunch of coaches are sitting together with their Head Coach hats on.


The armchair experts who happy to stick the boots in, but never get into the arena themselves or are so bitter from their own past experience they think it will boost their own ego.


You thought they should've switched everything?


Maybe they have never practiced that.


You think they should've played Johnny more?


Maybe he's been an asshole off the floor and is toxic to his team mates.


They are turning the ball over too much?


Welcome to basketball.


Sometimes your team just stinks, and as coaches we make plenty of mistakes too.

You never know what can happen under the hammer, and like players we never coach the perfect game.


Perhaps how we frame our statements matter.


"I would like to see them play through the high post more, however that's just my personal preference if I was coaching."


"While they have turned it over a bit, I'm really enjoying the pace that they're playing at. It has won them the last two games."


It's okay to have an opinion and engage in discussion - but maybe we should aim to do it more from a place of curiosity rather than criticism.


When was the last time we searched for the good in our coaching colleagues, and openly commented positively about it?


Final Thoughts


We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We are in it for the right reasons.


But is our behaviour, and our conversations reflecting that?


We get what we celebrate.


Hopefully we can continue to be aware and mindful of celebrating what matters in coaching.



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