Stay focused. A win is just a win. I know I’m in danger of getting stuck in tautology here, but put the emphasis on “a.”
Don’t get caught early in the season thinking any win is bigger than it is. It’s just a win.
Why do I mention this now? Because we’ve already seen some quality upsets in college basketball this season. Over the years I have watched programs grab a great result early in non-conference or conference play and then steadily, slowly go nowhere from there.
So, my point is not to be a buzz kill, but to be a helpful reminder.
Enjoy the win by all means, but there are more important things to focus on than this result.
Stay Focused Until You Get There
There is obvious value in getting the result, especially in terms of team confidence and rankings, but as a coach the ability to clearly evaluate performance is much more important.
What if you win but played poorly or just OK
Best case, the team’s confidence grows but you as the coach are analytical and clinical about the level of play. Without undoing the benefits that naturally accrue from winning you hone in on the teaching that will correct deficiencies.
As a staff no complacency sets in.
The outcome only allows you a cushion in the standings; there is no cushion in your approach or standards.
In my second season with the Carolina Courage we won our first two games without playing well. At all. But after enduring a hard first season simply getting results improved the team’s confidence and morale. As a staff we were clear eyed about where we really were with performance. We spent more time on film, on teaching, on preparation.
We took advantage of the positive morale with our group and increased demand on the team in very specific ways.
By the third game we beat Atlanta with a Tiffany Roberts goal in legitimate fashion at home. It felt great. We were just starting, but we were now on the right track.
If you are simply relying on luck then beware the reversion to the mean phenomenon. The first two wins of the season may have just been this, the law of averages, but by the third we knew we could get this done if we recognized, a win is just a win.
We had much higher aspirations so we had to stay focused on the quality of the performance.
What if you win and played well
If you win and played at a level consistent with where you should be at this point, now as a coach you have an opportunity to ratchet up demand. The team’s confidence should be high. Teams know when they have performed well.
They can handle it as you show them the positives and the areas for improvement with film and in training.
This is the opportunity to tangibly show them that there is another level to get to.
In other words, this is just a start.
If you win, play well and get too caught in the moment then you might find your next result is not as positive. Even if it’s a victory. You’ll be stuck on a false peak, thinking you’ve achieved something only to see there are higher summits ahead.
Better to know that you are only partway up the mountain with each performance then to get too wrapped up in any one.
A great coach I know used to tell her team. “If you think you’re there, you ain’t.”
Watch your team for complacency setting in after a strong victory or series of them. Athletes or teams can think they’ve got things handled. Quality results seldom follow and excellent performances are even rarer. Complacency is an under-feared phenomenon.
All your opponents are working to get better. If you are having success you become the target. They want to beat you. The competition, the challenge, it naturally gets harder the better you are.
This is no time to become complacent. You need to get better at specific tangible performance indicators.
My college coach Anson Dorrance framed his successful program around the concept that we are on an “ever ascending path higher.”
So keep in mind coach, a win is just a win.
But winning does not necessarily mean being a victor in every game. It’s not winning every game at any cost. We have to remind ourselves that it’s not just a single game that we are trying to win. It is a season and a series of seasons in which the team wins more games than it loses and each team member plays up to his potential. If you are continually developing your skills and refining your approach, then winning will be the final result.–Bill Walsh, HBR