Last week I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Jay Bilas at Coaching U Live in Orlando. One of my jobs working Coaching U was to pick up the speakers for the event from the airport. I am so thankful for my half-hour trips in the rental car with Jay. He is a wonderfully witty and intelligent man. It was a great opportunity for me to learn from a brilliant mind. Say what you will, as Jay is a polarizing personality - you either love him or hate him - just read his tweets, I was duly impressed with his knowledge and passion for the game of basketball.
The first story he shared with me on the way from the airport to the University of Central Florida campus was about the man that was sitting next to him on the plane (he also shared this with those that attended Coaching U, so I apologize to those that have heard this already). The man was a NASA employee traveling to Orlando to watch the last Space Shuttle landing. In the conversation, the man stated that he was in charge of thousands of NASA employees, all with various and different duties, to get a rocket launched into space. With the interest in space exploration waning, the man stated it has been difficult to fight a downward spiral in morale. Thus creating a need from the employees to feel needed, wanted, and that their job was important.
To combat this, the man instituted an approach of total concentration on the overall mission. The Space Shuttle wouldn't have the ability to get off the ground without the millions of tiny parts. Each part plays an important role in the success of the entire project. The phrase that was instituted into the NASA culture was, "Be responsible to the element; accountable to the mission." A very powerful approach!
We as coaches have players with various and a wide array of skills and abilities. We talk about "role players" (a term I don't like as EVERY player is a role player, they just play different roles) and how we can incorporate them into the team fold and get them to "buy in". I think we can also all reflect on times when we have had to fight our teams' low morale at times. This was a fantastic lesson in teamwork and a frame of mind that we need to pass on to our players. EVERY piece is important to the overall success of the team.
Jay also shared with me a story he didn't incorporate into his presentation. He is a big fan of Inside the Actors Studio. Jay was watching an episode where the guest star was asked by a student at the Actors Studio school, "If I want to be an actor, should I live in New York or LA?" The guest then asked in return, "Let me ask you this: Do you want to be an actor or a famous actor?" Jay said the guest went on to explain that you can act anywhere; there are opportunities in just about any community. It doesn't matter the venue, you still have to be well versed and study your craft.
I think the lesson is obvious and has a direct correlation to our profession. Do you want to coach? Are you in the profession to help people? To make them better? OR are you in it for fame, fortune and glory? If you truly want to coach, there are a lot of opportunities that aren't seen on ESPN. Don't tell me that Don Meyer isn't a great coach just because his teams weren't on CBS every Saturday.
This is not to say that all the coaches we regularly see on TV or in the news are in it for the wrong reasons: themselves. There were plenty of NBA coaches scribbling notes at Coaching U just as fast and furious as the high school coaches in attendance. The point is that if we put the goal of fame before the goal of making others better, there is something fundamentally wrong and we really haven't done our job. Conversely, if we put the betterment of ourselves, our players, and the game as a whole first, we have ultimately met what I believe is our job description. And who knows? The opportunity may present itself to play our games on TV... if that's what you're in to.