“The Coach Cost Us the Game!”

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“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.” -Brene Brown

On Sunday, my nephew’s team lost in the New York State Basketball Tournament.

My father attended the game and sent me quarterly updates via group text. As his team lost their halftime lead, my Dad started to question the coach’s decision to take my nephew out of the game, because he felt that his absence on the court was costing the team the game.

Later, he sent me a text blaming the loss on the coach’s decision to not play my nephew late in the game, and the poor execution of the other players on the team, but he assured me that if I was their coach, it would never have happened!

While I greatly appreciate my father’s belief in my coaching abilities, and his support of my nephew and his abilities as a player, I could not help but think about how many parents or fans have probably said similar things about me.

Reflecting back on our last game of the year, I know I made some mistakes that were costly. Parents and fans were probably thinking, “What in the heck is this guy doing?”

Many of our players also made mistakes that were costly. Parents and fans criticized those players as well.

Often, blame can start to get thrown around, especially after an emotional loss in the last game of the season. I know that, as parents, we feel sorry when our sons and daughters have to endure hard losses. It is natural to feel disappointed, to want to protect them, and to try and shift the blame to the coach or other players on the team.

However, the problem is that when we start to blame the coach and other players, we are not helping our athletes learn and grow from the experience.

Now I am NOT encouraging parents (or other family members and fans) to spend time breaking down all of the mistakes that their sons or daughters make.

Rather, I am cautioning them to avoid blaming others on the team, as it does not support the mission of personal development.

Instead of passing the blame, we need to start praising the effort and attitude of our sons and daughters, and offer support by listening to their worries and concerns about their own performance.

If they start to complain or blame others, then encourage them to accept the things they cannot control and to take steps to change the things that they can control moving forward.

I am quick to reflect on previous games and the mistakes I made in an attempt to improve my coaching, because I learned long ago that it was not helpful for me or my team to blame the players and their mistakes. Placing blame is not a step forward, but a step backward. When we spend time and energy passing blame, we are missing out on the opportunity to grow.

The overwhelming majority of players are going to be critical of their performance, and when they do blame teammates and coaches, it is often an attempt to hide their own insecurities.

If we start teaching our athletes to accept responsibility for what they can control instead of blaming others, they will start to work harder, have a better attitude, and treat their teammates with more respect.

Discourage wasting energy on the things they CANNOT change. Praise their effort, attitude, and sportsmanship, and finally, encourage accepting responsibility for the things they can change.

4 Questions to Take Responsibility

  1. What did they do well?

  2. What did they learn from the loss?

  3. What areas for growth do they have as a player and teammate?

  4. What actionable steps can they take during the next practice to help improve those areas?

4 Steps to Take Responsibility

  1. Do more individual work outside of practice to improve their skills.

  2. Encourage their teammates more during practice and games.

  3. Study their sport by reviewing film, and attending clinics and camps.

  4. Perform daily mental training exercises to build mental toughness and a positive mindset.

Call to Action

I have seen fans waste so much energy criticizing and blaming coaches and players instead of supporting and encouraging their team.

Remember that sportsmanship does not stop when players and fans leave the court.

Sportsmanship is respecting the game, referees, coaches, teammates, and competitors.

When we point the finger at others, we are failing to acknowledge their effort, and the reality that they make mistakes, just like everyone else.