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11/15/2012 11:50:43 AM -
More Learning

We have a playoff game this weekend. My attitude has sucked because I’ve been under stress lately. Those two things don’t go together. If you’ve ever played sports in either high school or college, think about this for a minute. We’ve all played for coaches that seemed like they were pissed off all the time, but can you ever remember a time where your coach looked like he was depressed? I’m sure we all played for coaches that drank a little to much at one point or another, but as a player, how many times did you come to practice and notice that your coach had a ridiculously low energy level because he was at the bar until 3 in the morning the night before.

Never, right? Or maybe rarely, at best. This is partially because we weren’t sophisticated enough to see the signs of this when we were kids, but it’s also because the thing we looked to our coaches for as players was consistency in their emotional state. Pretty much every coach I ever played for could be guaranteed to act the same way throughout the season. Either a guy was a high-energy fountain of positive vibes, or he was an angry prick who was yelling at everyone all the time. This didn’t change. The high-energy guys rarely came into work and started shitting on everyone—at least not without a good reason—and the angry prick usually didn’t come to practice spreading sunshine and rainbows.

That’s because, as coaches, we’re giving cues to our players with regard to how to act on an emotional level. Not everyone can be smiling and happy all the time—I’m obvious proof of that—but it’s that level of consistency, staying neither too high nor too low, that our kids are looking for from us.

I learned this lesson, strangely enough, from watching a basketball game the other night. I was flipping through the channels and settled on a fairly meaningless early-season game between the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic. The Knicks are off to a good start, and the Magic suck, so this would seemingly have been a good time for the Knicks, on the road on a Tuesday night, to let down their guard and lose one. They didn’t, though. They ended up winning by ten.

There was one moment during the game that I found really interesting from a coach-player standpoint. In the second quarter, Knicks coach Mike Woodson started yelling at his star player, Carmelo Anthony, who’s currently leading the NBA in scoring. Evidently, Anthony wasn’t fighting his way through screens on defense the way Woodson would have liked, so the coach was pretty visibly scolding him, and the cameras were picking up every part of it. You could also tell that Anthony was pissed during the exchange. After a little back and forth, it was one of those deals where the coach was yelling, and the player was staring directly forward and not making any eye contact.

For the next couple of minutes, I kept an eye on Carmelo Anthony to see how he would react. The first thing he did after play resumed was to run over and congratulate one of his teammates after making a nice play. Then, the next time he touched the ball, I was convinced he was going to shoot. That’s what I always used to do when I was pissed off in a basketball game. I would immediately use all that negative energy to drive to the hole. F**k passing at that point. I figured Anthony would do the same thing, but he instead drew a double team, then slipped a really nice pass to someone—I forget who it was—for an open three. Then, on defense, he came down and busted his ass to force Aaron Afflalo to pass when it was obvious he wanted to do something with the ball.

This was just a little series in the second quarter of an absolutely meaningless game against a shit team, but Anthony handled everything the right way—and there’s a lesson to be learned from that. He seemingly didn’t take the shit his coach told him personally. Not only that, he came out and, for the next little while, did exactly what his coach told him to do. Most importantly, his team came out with a win, which, as we all know, can erase a ton of the coach-player bullshit that goes on during games.

The key point here?

A guy went through some obvious adversity (we all know it’s no fun getting yelled at), but he knew he had a choice in terms of how to react. Instead of sulking about the unfairness of it all, some part of him said, “I’m going to listen, I’m going to work hard, and I’m going to keep doing the shit I’m supposed to be doing.” I don’t know if he even consciously thought about this, but that’s what his actions told me.

I think if we can all just do that, we’d be a lot better off in all areas.

Angry Coach

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