This is part of the wisdom the great coach Bobby Knight provided to Trine University graduates last month. Knight certainly isn't a perfect human being, but he never claimed to be. All he wanted to do was be a great basketball coach. And he was (is), perhaps the greatest college coach.
His form of "tough love" coaching is unfortunately dying. When several years ago I was going through a state required coaching course for HS basketball coaching, Bob Knight was used as the example of 'what not to do'. REALLY?, is all I could think about while watching the required video of "positive coaching". But except for a short intervention to the course director that night (an old basketball coach who I knew well) that could only be described as 'snarky in the extreme' I kept my mouth shut and answer the questions asked as the state education board expected me to.
My particular taste in coaching style in tennis and in basketball was more teacher/instructor, than motivator. My approach to emphasis skill development, and execution. My mantra in basketball was speed, intensity and execution. Hard to win if you are slow, sleepy and sloppy. But in practices my goal was to raise intensity through competition, develop drills that worked skill at game speed, and established expectations of perfection. In that sense I tried to be more like John Wooden (or at least the mythology around Wooden) than Knight. I never received a technical (though I came up to the edge a few times) and I expected my players to conduct themselves with composure at all times. Coach Larranaga at GMU says it is all about attitude, commitment, and class; and he has run his program along those lines with the result that in my mind he not only runs one of the best D1 basketball programs in NCAA, but is perhaps GMU's most valuable public face. Coach L's program and his points of emphasis in his practices (which I have had the great opportunity to witness multiple times during my years at GMU) had a major influence on me. Set high expectations, and in turn treat players with respect and as vital contributors to the team. As one general wisdom says, treat people as if they matter, and they will.
But like all coaches, I would at times yell and of course hold players accountable for mental errors (physical errors are part of all sports and it is stupid for coaches to complain about them). But I tried to learn from the great coaches and try to focus on knowledge of how to compete, rather than complaining that my players are not trying hard enough (the ESPN announcer disease -- 'the losing team just didn't want it enough'; really?!). Competitive athletes want to win every time they step on the court; when that goes away they stop being competitive athletes. But not every competitive athlete works smart to put themselves in a position to win. This is where coaches by making adjustments can put their team (player) in a better position to win.
Coaches and players have to understand that there is no such thing as luck, what there is, is preparation. All luck is, is when preparation meets opportunity. And when it comes to stressing this point, nobody was (is) better than Bob Knight. As he always stressed, it is not the will to win that matters, but the willingness to prepare to win that matters most. And Knight, like all the great coaches, knows that his message to his players transcends sport, and emphasizes life lessons.
So his message to the graduates included such important points as:
-- observe; watch and listen to learn and you don't necessarily learn from talking;
-- don't ever be satisfied; satisfaction is the first step toward failure;
-- you win in sport (and life) by eliminating the things that cause you to lose;
-- preparation is the key to victory.
And, just remember, when you kick a tiger in the ass, you better have a plan for when that tiger turns around.