It can be two or twenty-two games, losing streaks all create a similar effect – questions.
- Where are we playing poorly?
- What can we adjust?
- How have we been practicing?
- How are our rotations?
- Who has played well for us, who needs a shorter leash on the floor?
- Why doesn’t practice transfer to the games?
- Do we amplify consequences for discipline? Or does emphasis eventually stick?
- How is the locker room? What are we reinforcing as a staff?
And as a committed contributor, I sit here opening up our season on a 7-game #LosingStreak. Forgive the sarcasm, this is how I cope. Hopefully, there is something here that can help you avoid similar situations.
Priorities & Process
The circumstances are losses, consecutive losses. And coaches are left asking questions between what will it take to win and how far the team has to go to achieve it. In the midst of a 3-game losing streak, Mick Cronin – Head Coach of UCLA Men’s Basketball, had this to say following a tough loss at home against a Cal-State Fullerton (4-10) team:
Winners vs Losers… “🎤 drop”
— Coach Stewart (@CoachHStewart) December 30, 2019
Coach Cronin followed up this press-conference by temporarily (presumably) removing practice jerseys from the locker rooms forcing players to compete in tank tops and personal shorts. Next game to open up Pac-12 league play, the Bruins go on the road and defeat the considerable favorite Washington Huskies.
So, what changed? Losing and losing consecutively exposes the vulnerabilities of a program/team. Simply removing practice jerseys from the team didn’t enhance UCLA’s ability to defend or identify efficient shot-selections. It did, however, provide a wake-up call to the players that their priorities weren’t in alignment with what the coaching staff perceives as winning basketball. For coaches, the questions we have after losses aren’t necessarily why are we losing, as opposed to how can we work to change it. Coach Cronin found a way to reinvigorate a sense of urgency for the points of emphasis they envision most conducive towards program success.
Our 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙘𝙚𝙨𝙨 isn’t changing.
— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) December 2, 2019
On our end, we have yet to identify how to fix it. The questions continue to arise the longer the streak persists – do we to stay the course ‘trusting the process,‘ or shift gears and shake things up to find the right path? Time will tell how the season develops, however the process can get altered at times with things like injuries or attrition. Adjustments may be made, but the ingredients it takes to win remain the same – defend well-enough to string stops and score enough to keep the opponents out of transition for easier scoring opportunities. Everything in between is the discipline it takes to execute – communication, spacing, positioning, decision-making, collective effort, shot selection, resolve, scheme retention, and application – for 32/40 minutes. The discipline to execute will have to come from the daily process to improve upon any of those aspects. We tell our guys allowing frustration to take over will only prolong our ability to get where we want to go; we have to be strong enough mentally to move forward.
Message to the Team
Our athletic director brought in an article recently revolving around ‘ODAT‘ – One Day At a Time – catering to the Boston Red Sox fans. As a lifelong Cincinnati sports fan, my sympathy for New England professional sports fans is marginal, nonetheless, the message still has value.
There is nothing our team can do to change the past and focusing on the future simply creates undue stress, when right now is the only time that matters. Our daily habits are the only thing that can change the fate of our future outcomes. Looking beyond the label of a perceived “drill” and competing to execute at a standard that prepares you for a game. Having collective energy that instills connectivity defensively through communication, or with ball-movement on offense. Our only control is optimizing the time we have in the moment to try and improve. And as a coaching staff that is our only goal, putting the personnel out there that consistently strives for a similar output and coach those up indicating that objective is important to them. Talent aside which is often the elephant in the room, as coaches we are responsible for the cumulative development of invested student-athletes. And the message to our team is persistence – keep moving forward!
Message to the Coaches
Whoever needs to hear it – myself included – keep going! The commitment to improvement starts with you, and those that are willing to invest in improvement will reap the benefits. Understandably, it can be hard to be consistently positive during a tough stretch. Rely upon your assistants and leadership personnel to infuse confidence in team development. It is never as bad as you think it is, just as the times that are going well, can change rather instantaneously. Just keep working to find small improvements and look to build!