Even though he coached a different sport, I have always studied anything I can find that was written by Bill Walsh. After reading his book “Finding the Winning Edge,” I concluded that his label as a genius did come from his knowledge and ability, but was also attributed to a thorough planning, meticulous preparation, an incredible attention to detail– and all of it is in writing.
Here are some notes from his “Staying on Course” section about dealing with an extended losing streak. In my first year as a varsity head coach, we lost our first six games in a row before ending up 10-10 on the season. I don’t wish that on you, but almost every basketball coach must deal with that at some point, so hopefully you can file these thoughts if that rainy day comes.
Restraint must be exercised in blaming a single player or a group of players for the losses.
Continue to emphasize the development of the players’s individual skills–regardless of whether the team is losing or winning games. Such development will translate to improvement on the field which will eventually pay dividends in the winning column.
Maintain your level of professional ethics.
Do everything possible not to personalize your team’s losses. Exhibit an inner toughness emanating from three of the most effective survival tools-composure, patience, and common sense.
Hold regular discussions with members of your coaching staff on the potential impact of continued losing on human nature. Using examples of previous situations involving disruption in turmoil, you should review about individuals can turn against each other. These matter should be discussed both in staff meetings and on an individual basis. To a point, these discussions help prevent coaches from falling prey to losing their nerve.
Maintain team standards. Every rule and practice that was in place before the losing streak began should continue to be followed. The atmosphere in meetings and on the field should be retained. The atmosphere should not become tougher or more intense, nor should it become more lax or loose.
All teaching efforts and presentations should remain the same. Expectations from the players should remain unchanged.
Be careful not to label any concept or idea that you’re implementing as the ” thing that is going to get this team back on track.” If you’re proposed plan doesn’t work and you fall into a practice of instituting a gimmick each week in an attempt to reverse the team’s losing ways, the players can begin to lose faith in your abilities to identify the team’s problems and correct them. This admonition includes the old saying, ” we’re going to get back to fundamentals and concentrate on basics,” as being the singular answer to the team’s dilemma.
Don’t isolate yourself. Regardless of how poorly the team does, you must be highly visible doing your job and assisting others in doing theirs.
The focus must be on properly executing the next game plan not on your opponent, the team’s chances of winning, etc.
The detail oriented. Pay attention to every detail including teaching techniques, carrying out a sinus, maintaining established organizational procedures, etc.
Avoid continually threatening or chastising your players. Eventually your players may tune out such verbal assaults.
Keep in mind that as the losses mount, the individual relationships between you and the players become critical. These relationships will be the key to holding the squad together. You must, however, your role as the top executive.
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