I found the Xavier vs Cincinnati incident very disturbing but not so much because of the fight itself. What disturbed me the most was how this fight started and how it was commented on and treated afterwards by some involved.
This was not a fight borne out of heat-of-battle conflict, it was not a case of a fight emerging from physical contact occuring during the course of a play. It was pre-calculated and easy to see coming. This was a fight along the lines of the 1972 Ohio State vs Minnesota brawl instigated on a pre-mediatated cheap shot by Corky Taylor during a dead-ball.
The fight merely served to shine a glaring light on the real issues that need to be dealt with. The real issue is the actions by those charged with leading college athletics are not always living up to their stated goals and words, leaving players ill equipped to deal with pressures and expectations of being the faces and talent of college athletics. A college athletics landscape that has moved beyond being about spirited competition and school pride to being a high revenue sports entertainment empire. This belief is evidenced by the following points:
- This is Tu Holloway’s fourth in year in the Xavier basketball program and Mark Lyon’s third. It is sad that during this period at Xavier they have learned so well the many life skills that NCAA and college administrators and coaches espouse that some 20 to 30 minutes after an embarassing incident, after they have had the opportunity to calm down, be talked to by their coaches, teamates and administrators they emerge to a press conference and talk about this being what you get, about being disrespected and zipping people up. Those comments reveal a total lack of perspective and remorse. Those comments prove what Mick Cronin spoke so eloquently about during his post-game press conference a lack of appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity they are provided. It also speaks to a disturbing sense of entitlement very well written about in this blog post by Mike Procopio http://www.hoopconsultants.com/2011/12/my-thoughts-on-ate-xavier-cincinnati-brawl/
The cause of the fight is equally disturbing and has many culpable parties but here a few thought particularly disappointed me.
- Lyons and Holloway running their mouths to the Cincinnati sideline throughout the game without intervention by Xavier coaches and the game officials.
- Xaviers starters still be on the floor with the game decided, emotions high and running their mouths. Come on Coach Mack don’t tell me you were oblivious to the fact your players were trying to show up the other team and that it was getting potential explosive.
- The adminstrators of college athletics at these universities and conferences for their decisions on the suspensions after the fact. In my opinion the announced punishments feed into the belief that revenue sports are more important than the mission and integrity of the college and do very little to teach a meaningful lesson to any involved. However, it does remind us that protecting the future revenue streams by maintaining top basketball talent on the floor is very important to the colleges and conferences.
What I believe needs to be done long-term would need more space than this blog but I believe it starts with meeting the daily defining moments as outlined in this earlier blog post https://1010sport.com/2011/11/09/defining-moment/ .
Learning is a choice, made by the learner not the teacher. Therefore, a teacher should focus on what motivates others to learn; identify what sparks a learners curiosity rather than focusing on telling them what you already know.
It is easy to get the highly motivated player, the player who wants the same things you want to learn what you are teaching; but what about the majority of the players you coach who aren’t this way how do you get them to learn?
Great coaches like great salespeople understand people don’t buy based on what you know; they buy based on what it can do for them. Coaching success requires getting players to align their individual interests with the vision you have set for the team and the players role on it.
Today’s player needs to believe before they will follow. This may be different from when todays coaches were players; they might have followed a coach before they believed. This shift is why generally today in coaching threats don’t work for long, and punishment doesn’t lead to buy-in. A relationship based on trust, transperency, open communications, and void of hidden agendas is vital to coaching success. This type of relationship enables a coach to identify what motivates an individual player and allows a player to learn how, not told, to be successful within the framework of a team.
Coaches and players need to stop making asssumptions about what the other is thinking and wants. A coach needs to move out of dictating and demanding and move into the realm of dialoguing and discussing. Please hear me I am not saying a coach relinquish their voice in determining and upholding the standards, philosophy, and values of their team. What I am saying that a coach needs to understand the success of the values, philosophy, standards they set is depenendent on those charged with carrying them out. It is dependent players learning and fully buying into the vision and plan. The quickest and most effective path to that end is to help players discover the benefit of adhering to it; and this requires a true relationship with players. You can’t hold a player to a standard that they haven’t agreed to be held to.
Two final thoughts:
- No matter how talented a coach is and no matter how gifted a player or a team might be a coach can never push them into achieving their full potential. The sad truth is that some players and some teams never achieve their full potential because they never discover what would motivate them to align their interests with what is needed to be the best they can be.
- The best way to ensure someone believes is to let their buy-in be their decision. The best way for a coach to do this is to engage in effective question and listening with their players. If you have questions on how to go about this let me know and I would be happy to discuss this approach with you.
Sport has the potential to develop character as well as reveal it.
A major focus of amateur sport should be on developing character rather than preventing it from being revealed. Adhering to this focus requires us to re-evaluate our perspective on success in sport. I believe too often we allow the attainment of percieved worldly success; wins, championships, postional titles to hide the process used in their achievement. The ends justifying the means seems too easy and contrite. I believe the viewpoint of too many in sport is the end is all that matters as long as we can keep the means hidden.
Please hear me, I am not saying there is anything wrong with pursuing and setting as goals wins, championships and titles. I am saying we need to constantly evaluate and take personal accountabilty of the path we choose to take in pursuing those goals.
It is time to recapture the right perspective on sport, where how you live daily on the journey is more important than reaching the destination. To refocus our perspective. To understand and live out that it is acceptable and may be long-term beneficial to come up short trying to attain the public symbols of success; if we are meeting the standards of character on the journey we are still successful. A purpose of sports is to be a vehicle to teach life lessons, to use sport as a tool and metaphor to develop character and reinforce healthy societal values. Unfortunately, too many of us have to come to view and place the value of sport in obtaining wins, championships, and positional titles and fame.
Redefining the perspective on success in sport is not going to be easy. It is going to take courage. It is going to take a willingness to change; a willingness by people to risk losing some revenue and/or some positional status. But most importantly it is going to take personal accountability. It is going to take all of us involved in sport in any fashion at any level, to be courageous enough to daily do the right things. To be courageous enough to speak up; to stand against the wrong pressures; to walk away from the temptations and trappings; to risk our own positions or career paths to do the right thing.
Doing the right thing is not someone else responsiblity. It is not at a level above us. It is not something we have to wait for permission to do; and it may not be popular to all involved at the time. But it is what we all need to do. Understand none of us willl ever be perfect we will all make mistakes on our journeys, but we need to and can be a part of creating a sports system that helps us work through our errors rather than feeding a system that trys to cover them up.