“You have to have some amnesia”

Posted by jlubans on May 21, 2019

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Caption: OSUs Aleah Goodman shoots over Duke’s Jade Williams.

It’s been almost two decades since I spent a season with a university’s women’s basketball team.
When I see sports media press releases, I usually scan and forget. A recent one was different.
Why? Well for one thing it included some seemingly candid and direct language.
It sounded authentic and sincere in spite of a touch of the inevitable, biz speak: “We need to commit to a culture of excellence. We have to buy into it.”
Most of the release was refreshingly frank and personal. Perhaps because we are dealing with confident youth, some of those candid words may have slipped out, but then those words stand alongside some straightforward language from the coach.
Interestingly, this coach was recently warned by her boss, the Athletic Director, about being too tough on her players – there’d been a bit of a players revolt during the last couple years. .
She’s kept the job, so I value her honest outspokenness in this interview.
Last year (2018/19) was not a good year, indeed the coach termed the 15 wins and 15 losses season, “very disappointing”.
I saw the team play at Oregon State University in December 2018; the Corvallis stadium was full and noisy – the Beavers have a huge following in Oregon - unlike the sedate and sparse crowds at some women’s basketball venues.
The Beavers won it, 71-57, because, a. they have very good players, b. excellent coaching and c. enthuastic fans.
Duke played pretty much like they did for the rest of the season, at times sloppy and inconsistent.
The press release is about largely one player, Jade Williams
The coach offers this: “(Jade) came to Duke tough. She can handle being coached. She wants to be coached. She will speak up. She wants to be the best player she can be. She’s sharp as a tack. She’s not sensitive.”
Remember that the coach was recently admonished for how some players were treated. I have to wonder if the criticism still rankles the coach.
Jade’s a player who understands being “coached” - which implicitly includes yelling - and knows not to take it personally. “She’s not sensitive” – in other words, Jade’s not a delicate flower, and may respond well to constructive criticism.
Another women’s coach (very successful in her field) told me she had to forewarn new recruits well ahead of the season about the yelling.
Most had never experienced it.
In their high school careers, each was a standout star. Each a potential prima donna.
So, getting yelled at can be more than off putting; a few will want to leave a program. Several schools court each of these players; all will promise a supportive “family environment”. It’s implicit, if the player selects their school, they’ll get special treatment.
Unfortunately, at this competitive college level with each team aspiring to win the national title, the coaching is intense, with raised voices and at times harsh feedback.
Williams seems to be catching on as to where she must grow to realize her potential on this team: “I need to play more mature… There’s no time to think about myself. Make a mistake but you have to move to the next play. You have to have some amnesia.”
And, the coach is looking to her to become a more vocal team leader. After all, this next season she will be veteran in her third season and expected to provide leadership for incoming new players.
According to Williams, “Leadership isn’t hard. Everyone can be a leader. I’m mostly lead-by-example but I can be more vocal.”
The coach stresses that she needs “to work on her delivery (to make sure the message is getting across)”
I hope Ms. Williams will get better and better – she’s giving herself some valuable advice and getting some of equal value from her coach.
Can she take it in, absorb it and apply it?
We’ll see. I’m optimistic.

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Fables for Leaders with zippy commentary are a click away:


And, My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

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