Self-Accountability & Chasing Outcomes

Many of you may have watched Wofford vs. Kentucky this past Saturday and saw Fletcher Magee go 0-12 from the 3-pt line en route to a close six point loss for his Wofford team. Two days prior, Magee hit seven 3-pt shots and became the all-time leader for most 3-pointers made in NCAA history.

Magee said this after Wofford’s loss to Kentucky, “I just needed to hit a couple of shots. We had the momentum sometimes and I had a big shot and it ended up not going in, but I’ve got to own up to it and swallow it. I went in there, I prepared like I always prepared. I did everything I’ve always done. I shot them how I always shoot them. They just didn’t go in.”

In a time where his emotions were running wild, he was accountable to himself and his performance. No excuses, no bad-mouthing his coaches, teammates, or the opponent- he simply stated that he wasn’t his best on that day and that he would grow from the experience.

Outside of personal accountability, I thought it was also a great reminder to all of us that no matter what we do to prepare or how hard we work, sometimes we don’t always get a desired result or outcome. Does that mean we shouldn’t prepare as hard? Absolutely not. Does that mean that we shouldn’t care or be disappointed if we don’t get the result we desired? No. However, in our goal-obsessed society, we must remember that putting all of our mental effort into an outcome doesn’t ensure that it will come to life. We have to stop attaching ourselves to outcomes and instead turn our focus to daily commitments and who we are becoming along our journey. Outcomes can help us reflect and give us feedback, but we must remember that an outcome doesn’t always paint the whole picture and it’s certainly not an indicator of who we are.

Tom Izzo 

Anyone on social media has probably seen some sort of opinion on the Tom Izzo “incident” during Michigan State’s first round game against Bradley. To give a quick summary, Izzo approached one of his players at a timeout on the floor, pointing and screaming at him for what appeared to be a lack of effort. Other players nudged Izzo backwards and tried to calm him down. The player came back with his own emotion. It was a heated exchange between Izzo and his player. Shortly after the incident many people took to social media to say that Izzo had gone too far. Others argued that this was him simply holding his player accountable for his actions. They claimed it to be completely appropriate behavior and a part of coaching.

There’s no argument on whether or not Tom Izzo is or isn’t a terrific coach- he is. If I was asked to give a one word answer, “yes or no”, if I had a problem with how he reacted, I would say “no”. Do I think he could have approached the manner in a different way? Probably- but given the circumstances Izzo may have thought this was the best option at that time. I don’t know the context with this player and wasn’t in that particular situation. If I were to challenge something it would be that if we expect players to exercise emotional control, coaches must model that same behavior. However, even with that being said, Izzo has earned the respect of his current and past players and the only people who can truly judge the behavior are the people in the know- very few outside of that locker room are truly in the know. So to me, all of the arguments of whether it was right or wrong is something that the players and the coaches connected to the situation know best. The player accepted responsibility, which tells us a lot.

A bigger topic in all of this is that just because Tom Izzo employs these methods doesn’t mean they’re correct or effective in every situation. People have to understand context. Izzo has built rock solid relationships with his guys and they love him and understand his competitive nature. These are also young men playing on full scholarships. Youth coaches who think they can berate a potential emotionally fragile kid in an environment that is designed to be for fun and development are sorely mistaken. Other methods such as using the bench as a teacher, showing film, or an occasional raising of your voice in a practice setting may be more effective. Outside of that- it’s important to evaluate what type of mistake a player made. If it was a mental or conceptual mistake- try TEACHING and CLEARLY communicating the correction instead of screaming about it. This is an all too common problem in youth sports- screaming and berating conceptual mistakes without correction. In many cases, it’s to cover up the coaches lack of knowledge and ability to actually teach the game. Furthermore, youth coaches who yell and scream all the time because that’s what they perceive coaching to be are doing nothing but turning their players off to them. We need to learn to communicate before resorting to yelling and berating. You can have emotion, but if you’re emotional all the time AND you don’t actually teach and correct- you’re not coaching, you’re not leading, and you’re certainly not helping develop players. So for all of the people who claim that Izzo’s incident is “just coaching and holding someone accountable”- there may be some truth to that, but there is also a whole lot of context that we need and a whole lot more to consider.

Playing w/ a Lead: 

I struggle when I watch teams who get a lead early in the second half of a game start playing the clock instead of playing the game. They stop running their typical offense and go to a complete stall where their movements get slow or stagnant. The possessions generally result in forcing up a bad shot with three to five seconds left in the shot clock. It’s not to say that offenses can’t be patient and that they shouldn’t try to hunt a great shot on each possession, but I will never understand teams who are virtually stopping everything they do offensively just to run time off the clock. I do think in these situations that teams who are generally more deliberate have a slight advantage as they are more comfortable running their offense for twenty seconds on a possession, but nonetheless, I see teams of all different styles fall into this trap. The clock becomes their main focus instead of continuing to attack and add to their lead. In too many cases, the energy is sucked out of the players and the mindset turns from being the aggressors to playing not to lose.