The title originates in a buddhist proverb, and today it was prominent in my thoughts during open gym. As JV coach, I am looking for players that will help me win this season, but as servant of the larger entity that is Winter Springs Basketball, I am interested in players that have the ability to grow, physically and mentally.
Physical development relates to body type and mechanics, relative stage of puberty, comparison with parents including likelihood of genetic pre-disposition to cankles, and a general willingness to show up and work hard. Not exactly needle in a hay stack stuff.
Mental growth is a bit more nebulous, and for me, at least, far more interesting. Looks and flattery may and often deceive in this realm, but a pupil with a limited capacity for mental growth is not ready for the teacher.
Assessing mental growth capacity is observational and interactive. Today, I focused my observation on a fringe player. His play irritated other players on the floor, but he made little or no adjustment to their critique. When he made a mistake, he was reluctant to accept fault, and was disproportionately quick to call out the mistakes of others. This player was unwilling or incapable of seeing his contribution or lack thereof to the game, or adjust or improve.
A second new player, was very talkative with players and coaches, but the more he talked, the more he seemed to have excuses in greater supply than answers.
Interaction with the players on complements the observations. The great and oft-boisterous Ray Ridenour is fond of using sarcasm around a new player to gauge his level of alertness. Personally, I prefer to breach the formalities of “yes sir” and “no sir” which I believe are form over substance barriers to listening and learning.
I spoke with a second player today, who by contrast had a strong game on the floor. In talking, however, he displayed a preference for excuses over ownership of mistakes. This was unsettling to my sense of this pupil’s readiness.
Earlier this evening, I had two positive text message exchanges with my veteran players. Both players accepted praise without ego and criticism without insecurity. Their responses indicated an understanding of the critique, and led to a verbalized re-affirmation of their intent to improve. They are ready, and I am here.
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