Fall in love with the process and the results will come.
Our U14s season finished last week and whilst on paper they may not have the best record nor does it look like they have had a successful season, in reality, they have succeeded in every category and more that we asked them to all those months ago.
We inherited a very well organised u13s team who knew the basics of how to play basketball and we decided very quickly that we wanted to expand on that — there would be no running of sets nor would we allow our best player to go out and score 50 every single game; we wanted all of them to continue their development and become greater players and people because of it.
After a few short weeks together in which we completely went back to basics and really focused on improving their individual skills and their reading of the game we had our first competitive game against one of the best, if not the best, club in the country, Manchester Magic. The result was a huge 100–28 in favour of the Magic however, that does not tell the whole story. Our boys competed hard throughout the game, did everything we asked of them, attempted to play basketball in the style that we wished of them and not one of them sulked when they looked at the final score.
Fast forward 4 months and a variety of mixed results later we found ourselves at the Amaechi Centre preparing to take on the team that had so heavily beaten us at the start of the year. This time the result was 88–53 in favour of the Magic, a loss, but an improvement. Manchester had to fight for every single point and, whilst the game did get away from us, the boys showed fight and determination to continue to play and the development was there to see for everyone.
Towards the end of the season we again had a number of mixed results, beating some teams that we had beaten before but also losing to teams that we had beaten before. However, every single game our boys got better and we could see it. They were finishing with the correct hand, they were being unselfish and passing the ball ahead, they were diving on the floor to grab loose balls, playing for each other and bringing out the best in each other every single time they stepped on the floor. Finally, most importantly, they were having fun and enjoying playing together with their best friends.
Our final game of the year was against a very tough Birmingham side who we had lost to by 30 before Christmas. The boys knew that they were in for a tough challenge as soon as we arrived however they put everything from practice into the game. They were selfless, they played for one another, they pulled each other up and fought for each other on every single possession. Through putting everything we taught them into practice they came away from that game with a 1 point victory, something that neither myself nor Dan had seen coming.
Regardless of the result that day I would have been incredibly proud of every single one of them. They've taught me that it is not about winning or losing, it’s about getting better and embracing the struggle. Every single one of them has improved dramatically over the year. They can now all finish with the correct hand, they are reading the game better than a lot of kids their age and most importantly they are embracing the struggle and using their frustrations to get better. They understand that struggling now means they will be successful in the future and they are working so hard to get better. I am so incredibly proud of them and the effort and commitment they are putting in. That is what basketball, and sport in general, is about. It isn't about winning, nor is it about looking good in front of other people, it’s about embracing your weaknesses and working your hardest to turn those into a strength. Our kids have done that and more this year and so many people could learn a thing or two from a small group of 14 year olds who just want to play basketball. I am so privileged to be able to coach such a remarkable group of young men.
The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.