'Building a Wall'
I'll always remember walking off the court in the league tournament championship game.
I'll never forget the feeling of disappointment that came from losing to a team for the third consecutive time. Bigger than that disappointment was the frustration that was vent up inside of me. If frustration is best defined as 'unmet expectation,' I wasn't about to accept a close loss to the #1 team simply because I had high expectations for my team. As I walked into that locker room I knew that if we could change our defensive mindset, this team had a chance to make a run in the National Tournament.
I remember telling each guy in that locker room that we were so close but I also told them that we were running out of time. From here on out, a loss would mean our season was over, so we had to find a way to come together and be a tough team on the defensive end. We had to be able to count on each other in big moments. We had to start making tough plays like taking charges and coming up with loose balls. I told them to take two days off to rest physically and prepare for the three most important practices of the year.
It wasn't just the players that needed to change. The way we practiced had to change also. We decided as a staff to simplify things. After all, in order to play fearless, a player's mind must be free of thought. We dumbed down our terminology and even the finer teaching points. We had one concept for our guys to focus on defensively--to "build a wall." This served as a picture for the heart and a point for their minds. Every time we transitioned to defense, we wanted them thinking about one thing and one thing only. We wanted unity in thought, motive and purpose. Regardless of time or score, we would be a unified group "building a wall".
I remember after our first 6 AM practice telling our guys that I really liked our bracket. The truth was, I had no clue what the bracket looked like. I just knew that our defense was getting better. After the second practice of much improved defensive mindset, I told them that our bracket looked even better! Those practices were so much fun as we watched our guys take charges and fight for loose balls all over the place! The third practice ended the same way. We could feel the change in our mindset as we watched the team gel together on the defensive end.
They were building a wall. And as they were building this wall, the bracket was turning in our favor!