Key Takeaways:

  • Yin & Yang in Basketball
  • Performance Gaps

Had a game the other night where our team had accumulated nearly 20 turnovers by the fourth quarter. Yet, we were still down by one possession.

The good news, we still had a chance to win the game. Bad news, we had resulted in so many empty possessions our offense had generated very little rhythm to finish. In the end, the scoreboard did not reflect in our favor without having scored the final 4-and-half minutes of the remaining time in the game.

The interdependence of yin and yang is based on the principle that whenever a thing reaches an extreme, it reverts toward its opposite.

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Basketball is becoming more sabermetric with the increasing prioritization of analytics. And throughout all that data many coaches rely upon the law of averages for scouting purposes. There is a subconscious dependency on the existence of balance in the world and from a philosophical standpoint, this is similar to the practice of yin-and-yang.

As it pertains to our program, we will have another opportunity to play that same opponent later this week. Over twenty turnovers in a 32-minute regulation game are extreme and cause hair loss. Optimistically, our objective is no more than eight within a game. Realistically, our anticipation is to have learned from our mistakes to improve our decision-making for the upcoming rematch. With balance restored and a likely increase in our offensive efficiency, we should hope to flip that scoreboard to a more favorable outcome.

Performance Gap

Had a coach in college that often referred to the performance gap as game slippage. This performance gap can be caused for a number of reasons – e.g. anxiety, or unpredictable play. A transfer from practice to games create the gaps between what players know to do and what actually occurs in the game. A coaching staff’s effort during practices – largely controllable environments – aim to shrink the gap during game competition. The aforementioned slippage could be based on a lack of performance to a comparable level seen during practice. This is why many believe intensifying practices can reduce the pressure to perform during the game.

How many ‘Practice’ players have we coached? For whatever reason, there can be a disconnect between productivity in practice and output when the lights are on. Is it internalized pressure from the individual, or are there external elements disrupting a transfer from one situation to the other. A Taoist/Daoist concept of “ziran” mentioned during the “3rd Quarter” of Basketball and Philosophy co-exist with performance gaps by understanding an objective at hand while remaining free from anxiety to accomplish.

Ziran implies a sort of planned randomness that allows action to unfold spontaneously pure and chaotically ordered.

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The literal translation for ziran is “self-so.” Or for any end of pregame speeches for many of us, let the results take care of itself.

The best games to coach are when we are least needed. When personnel on/off the court understand expectations and have the comfort/confidence to execute. Rarely does this happen because one of two things usually occurs: (1) coaches (we) struggle to stay hands-off during a game, or (2) the game does not go according to plan, and adjustments are deemed necessary from the bench. How often does our information intervention during the game widen the performance gap? Or again, the changes seem necessary because practice players struggle to find the freedom to let their natural inhibitions take over during game situations.

This how our rotations are formed. The most dependable players earn the most minutes. It could also be written, the players who shrink the gap most often between what they know and what they do, play the most during games. Performing with confidence while understanding the concepts has to be free from thought allowing instincts to take over for unexpected possessions, but still cerebral enough to make good decisions consistently. This is the challenge for coaches: if we don’t address mistakes they likely will persist, but if addressed it could create analysis paralysis. Coaches are responsible for fostering an environment that enables confidence to improvise effectively within the organized chaos of a game. Confidence allows athletes to manage coaching without changing their identity as a competitor.

Like life, basketball is messy and unpredictable. It has its way with you, no matter how hard you try to control it. The trick is to experience each moment with a clear mind and open heart. When you do that, the game – and life – will take care of itself.

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