Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Don’t Become a Delegator When It Comes to Learning

"We give [the players] a lot of responsibility. We never call plays. The first pass dictates things and sort of teaches them how to play. Our defense is the same way. I don't tell them who they're guarding. They've got to figure things out on their own."

That’s Joe Scott, Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the U. S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO describing his Princeton System of basketball. Scott’s players know their success rides on their ability to learn the system and execute under pressure. They accept that responsibility. Possibly because of that mindset, they are having the best year in the history of the Academy as I write this.

Independent thinking is a hallmark of success, especially in open skill competitions like basketball or tennis. If you find yourself looking to a coach all the time to explain why something went wrong, or to tell you where to be or where to hit a shot, perhaps you need to take responsibility for learning these things on your own. A coach, no matter how good, cannot learn these things for you. Learning is not a team sport. Even in sports like basketball where the coach is on the sidelines barking out instructions, the players must know what to do, recognize changing conditions, and adapt their actions accordingly. No coach can do that for a player.

For this reason, among others, I disagree with people who say coaching should be allowed during tennis matches. In fact I’d ban it in Davis Cup, college and high school competition just like it’s banned everywhere else. I’m highly skeptical of the value of coaching during game situations, and am aware of the danger of players becoming dependent on coaches, to the detriment of the players.

A coach can help prepare players for competition, but ultimately players play. Players who understand and accept that get the most out of athletic competition.

No comments: