Daily Short-hOPT: The Fine Line

“What you allow is what will continue.” – Unknown

Several years ago, as a young and inexperienced head coach, I took a team down to play in a tournament in the Lexington area. At 25 years old, I was only a handful of years older than the kids I was coaching. This particular group of young men included some really solid ballplayers mixed with an equal amount of tempers and fiery attitudes. One young man in particular possessed an extremely advanced skill set. He was naturally talented. He could hit for power, he pitched well, and was an outstanding defender. However, he was generally unable to control his emotions when things didn’t go his way. He sulked off the filed if he struck out, he’d punch things in the dugout afer a bad inning, or hang his head in the field after an error. These things came to a bit of a head in the tournament I mentioned earlier. When this young man was rung upfor strike three on what he felt was a ball, he slung his bat, helicoptor style, off the side of our dugout as he walked off the field. I was able to corral him before the umpires stepped in and tossed him, but I probably should have let them. I did him zero favors by protecting him. Further, a divison one college scout was there to watch this young man. As this incident unfolded, we watched as he closed his book, gathered his belongings, and walked away. He had seen enough.

Fast forward to last night. The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team was played Ole Miss in a SEC matchup. For those of you familiar with the sport or conference, you’re surely familiar with Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson. During a tight ballgame in crunch time, Henderson drove across the lane and fired up a shot while attempting to draw contact from a UK defender. He did not draw a foul, and his shot was errant. A subsequent foul was then called on Ole Miss. As the clock stopped for the foul, and as Henderson’s momentum stopped from the shot attempt, Henderson exclaimed in front of his team’s bench, “Oh my ******* God!” The outburst was childish at best, but the worst part was this: standing directly behind Henderson, WELL within earshot was his head coach…who said and did nothing.

There is a fine line between being a ferocious competitior and just being a selfish turd. Yes, as coaches, we all want those scrappy gym rats, the guys who dive on the hardwood after loose balls. We want the players who never walk away from a game with a clean uniform. We want the leaders who are willing to say what others are afraid to say. We want emotion. We want investment. We want these things, sure, but what we need is the scrappy gym rat with the dirty uniform that can lead in tough circumstances. We need players who play with emotion but know how to keep an emotional overflow in check. We need players to buy in and believe. And, we need to learn the difference between team guy and me guy. Case in point: prior to Henderson’s outburst, a teammate made a terrific basket while being fouled. While Henderson did initially congratulate a teammate on a job well done, he then separated himself, paraded along the baseline while beating his chest. His chest? He literally did nothing of substance on this particular play.

The bottom line is this: as players, you have a responsibility to your team. This means you put forth maximum effort every day and make sacrifices for the greater good. As coaches, we need to remember that sometimes talent just isn’t worth the headache. This means that sometimes we need to cut ties when that “fiery competitor” can’t learn to put team ahead of self.

Easier said than done, right?

Have an awesome Wednesday,
-A.

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