"I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed. And that is is why I succeed." (Michael Jordan, 1998)
This is one of Michael Jordan's best known quotes and many coaches reference it. I go further today as many young athletes already don't know much about Jordan - amazing how history seems to count for little in the online world of 'now'. But that's for another day. Back to Jordan. When I ask those athletes who know who I'm talking about, "what was Jordan's three-point shooting percentage?", many (older athletes too), suggest around 70% to 85%. Jordan's career number for three-point shooting was 32.7%! But it was the critical shots he took that reflected the trust his team had in him. Before making the comment at the start of this blog, he also said, "I've missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games.... 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed." (BTW, he made 25)
But back to our day-to-day coaching. This all comes back to practice. First, training the way you want to play including the difficult or high stakes situation. There are few competition situations that cannot be simulated in training. More importantly, however, is that next phase of learning to compete. Regular and frequent competition, even early in the athlete's career, has two big benefits. First, it's what athlete's want to do! They train to play, not the other way round. Second, not all competitions are of the same importance. While I have never coached to lose, I'm aware that my athletes need to experience the mental and physical challenges that will eventually turn up, amplified in the big competitions.
This can be done by competition target setting or putting players into challenging situations. And many coaches do this. But we often forget to follow up by spending time with athletes to reflect on what happened. How did they cope? What were they thinking? Did the practice routines work? If they did, we need to reinforce them and make them stronger. If they didn't, we need to go back into the practice, set up the situation and find out what works. Thinking for success is a critical partner to the physical, technical and tactical preparation for success.
(photo source: NS Butler, Getty Images)
Jordan's words quoted in Nike Culture : The Sign of the Swoosh (1998), by Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson, p. 49