Monday, October 12, 2009

"Good teams can lose, but they recover and bounce back."

Perhaps, in our day-to-day battles, we can pick up a thing or two in the success story that is the Ateneo Blue Eagles 2009 basketball campaign.  Reposting a part of Fr. Niebres' homily at the mass before the bonfire - a great read.

Now that we have won the championship, we can look back to the embarrassing and painful loss to UE in Game 2 and see that it was a grace in that it taught our team and, I hope all of us, many lessons.
I hope Coach Norman won’t mind my telling what I recall of the story of lessons learned. He can correct my memory where it is inaccurate.
In the dugout Sunday after the loss, Coach Norman began by confronting the players
With what they did not do. “We are a defense team. Did we play defense?” “Our offense is premised on an inside game, inside first, from inside to outside. Did we do that?”
With what they did – “Look, you took this outside shot, look at the shot clock, still 15 seconds. No need to do that. I do not mean that you should not take the shot if you are free. But that is not our first option.”
He said, we all made mistakes, your coaches acknowledge their mistakes. You have to acknowledge your mistakes too. Not to blame others, but to face yourself.
Lesson 1, my favorite leadership guru, Heifetz, says that moving forward begins with: “Acknowledge your share of the mess .”.
Then Coach Norman shifted. He asked: “How many games did we win? 15. It is not easy to win 15 games.” Meaning, this defeat is not abnormal, it happens to good teams. Good teams can lose, but they recover and bounce back.
Then: Look around you, this circle is what counts and what should count for you. When you leave this room, you will hear a lot of negative comments. Ignore them, listen only to your circle here.
Finally: Tomorrow we prepare for Thursday’s game.
Lesson 2: Reframe the problem. A good leader moves on to reframe the problem – moving towards positive steps to a solution.
When I joined them Monday late afternoon, I was much impressed that Coach Norman had been spending a lot of time talking one on one with the players.
Then in the group session, he started: “How many games do we still have to play? One. Just one. If we win, we will silence all negative comments. If we lose, you can throw out your 15 game wins, you can throw out your winning statistics against UE. Only one thing counts, Thursday’s game.”
Lesson 3: Focus on the one key thing to be done – WIN GAME 3.
Then with the coaches he went through the tapes and play by play showed what went wrong and what had to be done. They translated the overall exhortation and focus into detailed deliverables. “See – UE ran this pick and role play 17 times, you tried to steal the ball and fell behind your man and he swept by you for the layup. Stay in front of your man. Stay in front of your man.
Lesson 4: Translate the exhortations and motivation into behavior, into detailed deliverables.
From then on, practice was on execution, execution, execution.
Last Thursday you saw the results – suffocating defense, dominant inside game, decisive victory. It was not an accident, not suwerte. Hindi sa sinuwerte ang UE noong linggo at sinuwerte tayo noong huwebes. It was the fruit of hard work, coming from lessons learned, leadership and unity coming from a defeat.
Underlying it all is a deep trust between coach and players and among the players themselves. “Listen to your coach. We your coaches work very hard to study the games and to design how you can win.”

Full text here.