Updated: Feb 14
For many basketball coaches, success is measured solely by the wins and losses on the court. And if this is your team’s only definition of success, fulfillment may prove to be very hard to maintain. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important for a team to always give their best effort and game plan for victory. However, it will leave a very thin line for “success” if our definition simply stops there. Instead, it’s important for coaches to dig deeper as they define success with their athletes and teams.
While there could a million different lists for calculating success, there are four key pillars that must be present to define success for any team or organization.
1. Seek Continued Improvement For our athletes and coaches, we constantly talk about the idea of becoming “Better Every Day.” It’s this relentless pursuit of the best version of yourself that allows you to find success that is deeper and more impactful than lights on any scoreboard. It’s the idea that we have to stop comparing ourselves to others, and start competing with ourselves on a daily basis.
Two great books that I would recommend as you seek continued improvement are “What Drives Winning Teams” by Brett Ledbetter and “You Win in the Locker Room First" by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Each will help keep the scoreboard from being your only focus and provide timely reminders on what truly matters when it comes to success.
2. Keep A Magnifying Glass Handy Simply put, you must be willing to do the small stuff to get the big victory. Sam Allen, an incredible basketball mind and good friend of mine, puts it this way – “To be successful, you must be willing to master the boring.”
(Side note, Sam’s an incredible follow on Twitter. You can follow him at @CoachSamAllen)
While it’s important to know the big picture and what must be accomplished on a large scale to find success, coaches (and players) shouldn’t neglect the opportunity to analyze their little things on a daily basis. From a team perspective, this could include things like 5-10 minutes of daily film study, spending the first 10-15 minutes of practice focused only on specific fundamentals, or not moving on to the next drill until the current one is being accomplished with excellence.
On a personal level, keeping a magnifying glass handy would be to wake up early enough to plan out your day, set aside time to read, intentionally journal, etc.
It’s daily, effective tasks such a these that will lead to larger successes, both as a team and in one’s personal life.
3. If It’s Important, Measure It!
Pop quiz time.
Do your players know the three things you value most on offense and defense? How do you measure those things in practices and in games?
For the last several years, I’ve asked those questions to coaches and athletes across the US, and it’s amazing to me how many of them struggled to answer them! If we’re truly going to define success in other ways than the final score, we must give our teams clear expectations of what wins on every possession look like.
Let me give you an example. One program I coached defined success on a defensive possession with these things:
1) No uncontested 3’s
2) No catch and shoot shots
3) No paint shots
4) One shot per possession.
Not only do our coaches and players all know those four things, we also track them each possession throughout the game. As a coach, we can’t list 17 different things that are important, and just because you and your players know what you expect, that doesn’t mean it’ll automatically happen. Coaches must live out those beliefs by tracking them and analyzing the results on a daily basis.
4. Learn Through Losing
Ouch. This one is definitely the toughest. Obviously, no one likes to lose. But what separates true champions from others is their ability to learn through their losses. Olympic track and field champion Wilma Rudolph said it this way:
“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”
We are all a collection of our own habits, and this self-evaluation of our failures is what will lead to more successful and consistent habits. It’s a necessity to take our eyes off a single moment or game to define one’s success, and instead, focus on the journey to developing the best version of ourselves.
That’s a true definition of success.