|The Write Space and Time|
Oct. 14, 2012 -- How good is it when the worst thing you can think of to say about your team is that sometimes they try too hard?
We're in week two of our progression toward "real" practice. Week one was four days of intense defensive focus. This week is total commitment to offensive core concepts. Monday, we'll let the horses run and see where we are.
And while I can't really know exactly where that is, I do know it's in a really good place.
Our August foreign tour gave us a unique jumpstart on the season. It gave us a chance to introduce what this thing is supposed to look like, which made working backward on the parts of it so much more sensible. Because of our time together in August, pre-season training took an atypical form and individual workouts were squashed into four weeks instead of their usual six, yet I think we accomplished more in September than maybe we ever have.
Coach Wooden had this thing figured out a long time ago: teach them the whole, work on the parts, and then glue it all back together again. It's so much easier to hit the target when you have a clue as to what it looks like.
Australia was amazing for our team on a million different levels -- it was healing, it was refreshing, it was cathartic, it was revealing. It stretched us and it melded us. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, plus, it gave us no place to hide our warts. Twelve days of together has a way of lifting the curtain and letting the light in. Like a couple of starry-eyed newlyweds who got a glimpse of domesticity and then decided to go on with the wild ride of the wedding anyway, we made the every day vow. For better or worse, this season is a journey we wouldn't want to go on with anybody but each other. And that's really the point at which anything of significance begins.
Here's what I learned about our team from the land down under:
1. Everybody wants to earn the right to play.
Anybody who has ever played the game always WANTS to play, but not everybody who wants to play wants to put in the work, make the adjustments, and respond in the right ways to earn the RIGHT to play. In an all-jumbled-up sort of way, I just described competition. Ovid said it's the thing that makes a horse race. Our guys are jockeying. What a beautiful thing.
2. They are willing to be uncomfortable.
Guys who are terrified of heights, climbed a 440-feet tall bridge in Sydney. Guys who literally squeal at the sight of reptiles held snakes in Cairns. Our team tasted emu and crocodile, we learned about opera and Aboriginals, and that's just the uncomfortable we got comfortable with off the court. I'm happy to report that the trend continued inside the lines.
3. We are family.
Everybody says it. Some put it on t-shirts; others plaster it on their media guide. We talk about it a lot ourselves. But sometimes when life happens, it hands you an unrequested litmus test, and you get to find out if family is just a platitude or if it really is your DNA. If it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. Even when it's lousy. Even when it's tragic. We share the scars that prove it.
4. Our new guys are learners.
That's the trait I'd love to be able to measure on an entrance exam. It's the 50 million dollar question. Will a good player learn? If she will, she has a chance to be great. Will a great player learn? If she does, she can become an All-American. And yet you never know. Until they get here anyway. All three of my newbie's soak up stuff like sponges. We batted a thousand with this recruiting class.
5. We're better than we think we are.
Seriously. And that simply has to change. Nobody has ever outplayed his or her own personal belief system. Our guys lean so toward humility that sometimes they focus more on all the things they think they can't do than they do on all the things they can. I wish they could see how good they are in my mind.
Post-Australia workouts have had autonomy about them. Guys are zeroing in on skill development, with an emphatic focus on being good at things that happen a lot. And we're getting there step by little baby step.
I can't wait to see who we become.