30 second time outs

Friday, June 06, 2008

Flush It!

The most impressive aspect of the Lakers' rise back to the upper echelon of NBA teams, to me, is the manner in which Phil Jackson has allowed the team to develop. What was once a young, erratic and mistake prone team is now back among the leagues elite. Along with Kobe Bryant becoming a better leader and teammate, Jackson's patience and commitment to his players gave the players the confidence to begin to approach their potential.

Phil is often criticized for being hesitant to call timeouts or substitute when players struggle, but that has proved to be a strength. He trusts his players to make decisions and allows them to play through some difficult times by trying to self-correct their own behavior and performance. This gives players some freedom to play without the fear that a mistake will result in a substitute being sent to the scorers table or that an irate coach will call a timeout to read the player the riot act. The Positive Coaching Alliance concept that "Mistakes are OK" if we treat them as opportunities to learn is clearly one that Coach Jackson embraces within his coaching philosophy.

The use of a "Mistake Ritual", as suggested by PCA Trainers, establishes the ability to put a poor play behind you and move on to the next play. A quick sign or symbol that tells the player the coach recognized the mistake and yet offers them the reassurance that the coaches confidence is unshaken gets the players mind off the error and gets them ready for what's next. PCA recommends "The Flush" to remind players to "flush away their mistakes." I'm guessing that Phil Jackson has adopted the use of the phrase and philosophy, even if we don't see him making the flushing motion after bad passes, missed assignments, or ill-advised shots. Following Game 1 against the Celtics this came through loud and clear.

During the post-game press conference Kobe Bryant was asked about his subpar, 9/26 shooting performance. He said he had some "great looks", the shots didn't go down, and he had to just "flush it" to get ready for Game 2. This isn't the first time I've heard Kobe say this, just on the largest stage.

When you mess up on a play, you stay focused, put it behind you and look to the future, not the past. The Lakers have been able to flush the tumultuous offseason and find themselves in the NBA Finals. The flush, and the ability to move on to what's next, can apply to anything in your life.

Sports is just life in a game situation, a laboratory for life. If someone has a bad day, does poorly on a test, or loses a job, just stay focused, learn from it, flush it, and move on. Life has no rear view mirror. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.

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